Adam Schartoff is a freelance film journalist living in Brooklyn. He’s the founder and programmer of filmwax, a film series based in Brooklyn’s Park Slope. He’s checking in this month with dispatches from BAMcinemaFEST 2011.
Having attended a screening of Sophia Takal’s stunning debut feature film Green a couple of weeks ago, I was eager to attend the screening and Q&A at BAMcinemaFEST 2011. The first thing I noticed was a sold-out room — with every seat filled by local cineaste hipsters. Brooklyn is appreciating the programmers’ work this year.
While I have been mainly concerned with the festival’s documentaries, I must make mention of the narrative slate that has been going on concurrently. The enthusiasm I have for Green I also have for Alex Ross Perry’s The Color Wheel, Todd Rohal’s Catechism Cataclysm, Michael Tully’s Septien and Azazel Jacobs’ Terri. If these films represent the latest generation of filmmakers, then we filmgoers are going to be just fine. Who says the movies are dead?
Back in the documentary world, nonfiction fans in New York City still have a number of good reasons to get to Brooklyn’s Fort Greene over the next few days. Tonight at 6:50 PM is the transfixing The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, directed by Marie Losier. The film is about pair of artists who underwent a series of body-modification surgeries to look alike.
On Saturday, June 25 at 1:30 PM, I’ll be watching Anne Buford’s Elevate, the story of four high school athletes recruited from Senegal each with the dream of superstardom. This is Buford’s debut film and she’ll be at the screening with the film’s subjects.
Elevate will be followed later in the day with Alison Ellwood and Alex Gibney’s love letter to Ken Kesey and The Merry Pranksters, Magic Trip at 9:15 PM. The Kesey family gave Ellwood and Gibney unprecedented access to an archive of film that was taken during those pharmaceutically enhanced cross-country trips. Kesey, author of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion, had originally intended to make a movie, but until Magic Trip the footage had been largely left unused for decades. What results is a highly imaginative and entertaining document.
Lastly, on Sunday, June 26 at 3:30 is Charlie Ahearn’s Jamel Shabazz Street Photoghrapher. Ahearn is perhaps best known for his seminal film about hip hop, Wild Style, made while it was happening, in 1983. Now he’s turned his attention to the photographer Jamel Shabazz, who ignored all the rules of documentary photography by engaging with and posing his subjects. To everyone’s great fortune, we are left with a remarkable archive of stories as told from the streets of 1970s and 80s New York City. The BAMcinemaFEST screening will accompanied by a gallery exhibit of Shabazz’s work as well as a photo essay book signing.
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