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Brooklyn Int'l Film Festival Pulls a "Stunt"

Reading what Brooklyn International Film Festival executive director Marco Ursino has to say about "Stunt," the theme of this year's edition (June 4 to 13, 2010) in Brooklyn, New York, I can't help but wonder if he's been fraternizing with his title sponsor, Bushmills Irish Whiskey:

"With Stunt, the festival intends to take a snapshot at some of the hottest issues affecting our times while emphasizing the weight and gravity of being on a critical collision path with history. By acknowledging the fact that like never before our single and organized actions may affect both local and global environments, we invite everybody to get ready to discuss with us local issues of planetary proportions."

I'll have what he's having.

Not that, lord forbid, there's anything wrong with like-worried souls pondering weight, gravity and things that go bump in history's night. On the contrary, how refreshing that a film festival -- and one that's a bridge away from Wall Street -- would mention "issues of planetary proportions" on its program. It's just that we here at Film Festival Traveler seldom see such copy or, for that matter, the pink elephants that helped write it.

Established in 1998, New York's first international competitive film festival isn't all teach-ins and rebirths. One of its stated aims is "to connect filmmakers to distribution companies and expose them to the media," and its roster of past premieres that snagged theatrical releases and/or a retail life is a point of Festival pride. Contemplating the Earth, even at its blog Meridian, only gets a filmmaker so far.

BiFF struts into its 13th year with more than 100 premieres, drawn down from some 2,400 films that regaled its inbox from 92 countries. The Festival takes care of its native sons and daughters; 16 of the films hail from Brooklyn filmmakers, and 12 are set in Brooklyn.

The Opening Night films are Gabi on the Roof in July, a tweak on relationships and callings from Brooklynite Lawrence Michael Levine, and Madoffesque romp Welfare Worker/Der Fürsorger, from Swiss-based Lutz Konermann. Both will be shown at Brooklyn Heights Cinema (70 Henry Street), followed by an after-party at Dumbo gallery, boutique, book store and performance space, The powerHouse Arena (37 Main Street).

If Opening Night's double bill was selected for its "Stunt"-worthy commentary on the way of the contemporary world, so too are two of the Festival's world premieres: Corey Wascinsky's The Minutemen Movie and Sebastian Conley's Blogging Colin Heart's Kay. The former chronicles a group of real life rebels along the U.S/Mexico border who take the matter of undocumented immigrants into their own hands. And in the latter, Park Slope cartoonist Colin Jenson looks humorously back on his failed love with a fellow blogger.

Also Stuntalicious is Queen of the Sun, the new documentary by Taggart Siegel (The Real Dirt on Farmer John). about today's threat to the world's bees. To crib a sobering teaser from the program blurb, "Without bees, Albert Einstein said, 'Man would only have four years of life left.'" Which was sort of the theme of Bee Movie, come to think.

This year, the Festival will also show films at indieScreen (285 Kent Avenue), a recently opened cinema and bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. For example, it will share hosting honors for the annual kidsfilmfest, BiFF's offering for families and children. The Long Island Children's Museum, (11 Davis Avenue) in Garden City, New York, is another kidsfilmfest venue.

Fun and toys are also being dangled before the Festival's vying filmmakers, who stand to gain $50,000 in film services, products and cash come the Closing Awards ceremony.

Get the full fest lowdown at

Brooklyn Int'l Film Festival

June 4 to 13, 2010

285 Kent Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11211

Brooklyn Heights Cinema
70 Henry Street

Brooklyn, NY 11201

powerHouse Arena
37 Main Street

Brooklyn, NY 11201

Long Island Children's Museum
11 Davis Avenue

Garden City, NY 11530 

BiFF: 718-388-4306

BAMcinemaFEST Grows In Brooklyn

BAMcinemaFEST is back for year two at Brooklyn's BAMcinématek, where its slate of New York premieres stands to fuel its rep as a local Cape Canaveral of independent films. The June 9–20, 2010 spectacle is challenging lazy Manhattanites like me to rethink our scout pledge, "I'll never leave the island for culture."

P.T. Barnum paraded 21 elephants across the Brooklyn Bridge, so an hour subway ride shouldn't be such an ordeal.  
Especially not when it comes to attractions like Opening Night, featuring Jay and Mark Duplass's gleefully squirm-causing Cyrus. The siblings behind The Puffy Chair and Baghead wrote and directed this not-always-romantic comedy of family dysfunction starring Marisa Tomei, Jonah Hill, Catherine Keener and self-proclaimed Shrek-look-alike, John C. Reilly. One of 16 New York premieres at the Festival, the screening will be followed by an Opening Night party in the BAMcafé and Dorothy W. Levitt Lobby (30 Lafayette Avenue).

Another fine reason to cross the East River is critic Kent Jones's parlay with Olivier Assayas (Summer Hours, Demonlover, Irma Vep). The French director has cherrypicked two of his favorite movies for the Festival: Maurice Pialat's We Won't Grow Old Together and David Fincher's director's cut of his crime thriller Zodiac, based on the true story of San Francisco's notorious serial killer of the same name. (Zodiac will be screened prior to Assayas's sit-down with Jones.)

Tiny Furniture also carries the stain of real life. The seriocomedy by Lena Dunham tells the semi-autobiographical tale of a recent college grad who returns home while sorting out her future. It won top narrative feature award at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival, among other decorations, and Dunham was tagged as one of Filmmaker Magazine's "25 New Faces of Independent Film" in 2009. One of BAMcinemaFEST's avowed goals is to spotlight emerging voices, per curator Florence Almozini.

However rapturously the film may be greeted during its New York premiere at BAM, its young maker and lead actress is keeping a level head about it. At the Independent Feature Project's annual Script to Screen Conference this March, she acknowledged that the "festival bubble" doesn't reflect reality. Confessing concern that her mini-budgeted film might not have an "afterlife" -- despite its North American acquisition by IFC Films -- she further endeared herself to the crowd with her comment, "It's so important to prove I'm not a big leaky bag of money."

Though I've yet to see Tiny Furniture, I can believe the hype about Dunham's sharp dialogue, and look forward to the schlep on the "N" or the "R." One possibility is the Sunday, June 13 screening under the stars, co-sponsored with the Rooftop Films Summer Series (BAMcinématek parking lot at Fulton Street and Ashland Place).

But it could be a toss up with the 3-D spectacle of Mark Lewis's Cane Toads: The Conquest. Yet another temptation is the closing night showing of G.W. Pabst's silent classic Diary of a Lost Girl, starring Louise Brooks, with live accompaniment by Irish ambient rockers 3epkano.

And how about the Festival's designated "Special Screening," Wake in Fright? Newly restored, the long-lost Ozploitation flick by Ted Kotcheff (The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, First Blood), puts the screws to a young schoolteacher in Australia's menacing Outback. (You may know the film as Outback.)

BAMcinemaFEST inherited its mantle from Sundance at BAM, a three-year collaboration between  BAMcinématek and the Sundance Institute that showcased fiction and non-fiction features and shorts. This year BAMcinématek marks its 11th anniversary in operation as Brooklyn's lone year-round repertory film program.

Repertory programming is also a BAMcinemaFEST highlight, as are American indies, international imports, live music, filmmaker Q&As and parties. During these 12-days in June, I may just need a new Metrocard.

Go to for a deeper dive into the Festival program.

Peter Jay Sharp Building
30 Lafayette Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11217


BAMcinématek parking lot
Fulton Street and Ashland Place

Brooklyn, NY 11217

Provincetown Int'l Film Fest Brings Warm Tides

The year America's oldest art colony turned 100, it reckoned it couldn't start another century without a cinema fete. Thus was born the Provincetown International Film Festival. That was 1999, and now the Provincetown, Massachusetts fest heads into its 12th edition June 16 to 20, 2010.

PFF will once again salute "new achievements in independent film…and the work of acclaimed and emerging directors, producers and actors," as per its website. Not a peep about writers, which is the bailiwick of the Nantucket Film Festival.

Nor will you find boasts about Provincetown's industry heft. "We're not about the business," states PIFF Executive Director Gabrielle Hanna. "The Festival celebrates the art of film, the filmmakers and the people who appreciate their work."

Tagged by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of a "Dozen Distinctive Destinations," the Cape Cod redoubt is expecting 10,000 movie pilgrims at its annual showcase, one of the country's most prestigious.

It's also one of the most intimate, says Hanna. Provincetown's three-mile radius may have something to do with this. "Actors and directors are walking around on the streets, so people have a chance to mingle and talk about film for five days," says Hanna. "It's about the experience," she adds.

Winning indie cachet for the 2010 Festival is writer/director Kevin Smith, who's anointed this year's Filmmaker on the Edge. Ever the poster boy for emerging talent, Smith has nonetheless finessed a canon that includes a Clerks franchise, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Zack and Miri Make a Porno and, most recently, Cop Out. Leave it to cult filmmaker John Waters -- who will serve as tummler in an award presentation and conversation with Smith -- to help reveal the secret potion for preserving creative youth. 

Tilda Swinton, the parchment-skinned iconoclast whose supporting role in Michael Clayton earned her an Academy Award, will take home the Excellence in Acting Award. Fans of her eclectic arthouse and mainstream career can hope against hope to pierce the Swinton mystique as film maven B. Ruby Rich stands Britain's most ethereal thesp to a chat. Swinton's new film, Luca Guadagnino's I Am Love/lo sono l'amore, joins a respectable roster of foreign titles at the Festival.

Fellow Oscar laureates Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman will snare the Faith Hubley Memorial Award during a confab with filmmaker John Cameron Mitchell. Common Threads: Stories From the Quilt and The Celluloid Closet distinguish the directing duo's shared slate, as does Howl, which will open the Festival. A time-scrambled chronicle of poet Allen Ginsberg's notorious obscenity trial, the film marks Epstein and Friedman's first foray into fiction filmmaking.

Mao's Last Dancer graces the Friday Spotlight. Based on the best-selling memoir by Chinese ballet dancer Li Cunxin, the real-life pauper-to-prince fairytale from Bruce Beresford (Paradise Road, Driving Miss Daisy), is apt to steal all but the most cemented hearts.

The Saturday Spotlight will fix on Kings of Pastry, Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker's new documentary about a French chef competition. "I made a mistake with my cookie cutter" may not carry the same gravitas as utterances in the duo's Oscar-nominated The War Room, but for the subjects vying to be among the Meilleurs Ouvriers (Best Craftsmen) de France, the stakes could hardly be higher.

Festival curtains drop with Cyrus. Jay and Mark Duplass (The Puffy Chair) mine the lighter side of neuralgia in this zeitgeisty comedy about a divorced depressive (John Reilly) who falls for the single mom (Marisa Tomei) of an adult son. That would be Cyrus (Jonah Hill), whose maternal ties exceed the suitor's comfort zone.

The more than 50 films to screen at the fest, pared down from twice as many submissions, span a number of east coast premieres, among them: the aforementioned I Am Love and Howl; The Dry Land, an Iraqi war vet story from Ryan Piers Williams; Joshua Granell's horror spoof about snuff filmmaking, All About Evil; and Nowhere Boy, a dramatic retelling of John Lennon's childhood, directed by Sam Taylor Wood.

Nowhere Boy is the Closing Night film for Nantucket, which, like PIFF, is also screening The Tillman Story and Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, documentaries respectively directed by Amir Bar-Lev and the filmmaking team of Ricki Stern and Anne Sturnberg.

A ferry's hop south, NFF (June 17 to 20, 2010) will observe its annual rites during three of Provincetown's dates.  Yet, far from feuding, the two Massachusetts fests report a symbiotic relationship, and even coordinate films and special guests. 

For signature programs at Provincetown, there's Youth & Diversity and the annual A Night at the Drive-In. This year, the world premiere of James Houston's documentary, Let's Talk About Sex, is garnering buzz for the former, while the latter aims to top itself with a 50th anniversary toast to Alfred Hitchcock's slasher great Psycho, chased with exploitation classic Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

Honoring Provincetown's roots as a Portuguese fishing village, PIFF will once again unfurl a sidebar of films from Portugal. Two imports will reach this side of the Atlantic amid special advanced hum: João Canijo's non-fiction Fantastia Lusitana looks backward on the fascist regime of Oliveira Salazar during WWII, when 100,000 people fled Nazi Europe for Lisbon; and April Showers/Águas Mil, a political drama by Ivo M. Ferreira, unearths family secrets harking back to Portugal's 1974 Carnation Revolution that overcame decades of military dictatorship.

Also in keeping with its local community, the Festival has once again culled a slate of gay and lesbian-themed films. Malcolm Ingram follows up on his Small Town Gay Bar with Bear Nation, a romp around the subculture of large, hirsute gay men – the grizzlies alluded to in the title -- that is executive produced by and features Kevin Smith.

And, continuing a time-tumbled tradition, the Festival will feature new works about Provincetown's Wampanoag nation.

Panels, parties and retrospectives complete the revelries -- and that's not counting the live action spectacle of whale watching.

To get the full lowdown on Ptown, head over to

Provincetown International Film Festival
June 16 to 20, 2010
Whalers Wharf Cinema
237 Commercial Street

Provincetown, MA 02657

3rd New York Documentary Film Festival – Festival dei Popoli

The third edition of the New York Documentary Film FestivalFestival dei Popoli (May 26-30, 2010) at Anthology Film Archives (32 Second Ave.) is part of an ongoing project of the Festival dei Popoli.

Based in Florence, Italy, it is the oldest International Documentary Film Festival in Europe. It aims to broaden the audience for its rich collection of archival footage, as well as Italian documentaries in general. Founded in 1959, the Festival dei Popoli is devoted to promoting and studying social documentary cinema. In 50 years, the collection has grown into an unparalleled treasure of documentary films covering the history of non-fiction filmmaking.
The festival will open on May 26 with a tribute to the award-winning Italian filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi with the U.S. Premiere of Below Sea Level. The film is an intimate portrait of a commune of outcasts living in the middle of the desert about 200 miles southeast of Los Angeles. This award-winning documentary received, among others, the Venice Horizons Documentary Prize. The director will be present for the screening.
The five-day event will feature four programs of auteur documentaries, with a total of eighteen films depicting reality and history as filtered through the deeply personal aesthetics of very different directors.

A journey through the creative forces that have left their mark on the face of modern documentary cinema, with 11 short documentaries by legendary filmmakers such as Robert Frank, D. A. Pennebacker, John Schlesinger, Ivars Kraulîtis, Joyce Chopra, Richard Leacock, Joris Ivens, Agnès Varda, Michel Brault, Gilles Groulx, Cecilia Mangini and Sandro Franchina.

They have changed documentary film history in a period of great creative fervor corresponding with the birth of the Festival dei Popoli. The program is part of the retrospective presented in Florence at the last edition of the Festival dei Popoli.

The program on Friday, May 28 is presented by PGA, the Producers Guild of America.

Opening night film May 26, 6.30 pm Below Sea Level by Gianfranco Rosi, 110', Italy 2008, with the director in-person.

Alessandro Rossetto is one of the filmmakers who best captured a panorama of everyday life in Italy through the last fifteen years. The screening on Friday, May 28th will be presented and introduced by PGA, the Producers Guild of America, with the filmmaker in attendance.

In collaboration with New York Women in Film & Television, the festival will present two works of the award-winning Italian filmmaker Enrica Colusso: Life After Life (1995) and ABC Colombia (2006). Erica Colusso will be in attendance at the festival.


3rd New York Documentary Film Festival – Festival dei Popoli
May 26-30, 2010
Anthology Film Archives
32 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10003


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