A couple of years ago, Jonas Mekas, the godhead of New York’s underground film scene and a cofounder of Anthology Film Archives, moved to Greenpoint—it was the signal event of the East Village’s irreversible gentrification, until earlier this year, when the Mars Bar, the legendary dive down the block from Anthology, served its last lukewarm bottled beer to a rent-stabilized daytime drunk.
So it’s incredibly fitting that the first Greenpoint Film Festival, which kicks off tomorrow night, will open with the world premiere of Mekas’s new feature film, the as ever affectingly home-movie-ish My Mars Bar Movie. He offered the film to the fledgling festival, explained festival director Rosa Valado in an email recently, in recognition of the changing cultural geography of New York City.
The Greenpoint Film Festival—which everyone hopes will be the first annual—will take place at Broadway Stages, on West Street. Next year they’ll try an open call for submissions of new work, but this year the GFF’s four days of programming are presented by local film curators, including Mekas himself, who’s given the festival a career-spanning selection of shorts, including his bohemian film journals from the 70s, and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a2003 re-edit of footage he shot in 1950, shortly after arriving in America, in the then predominantly Lithuanian backwater.
Other programs include political documentaries, Our Gang comedies, David Lynch shorts and features (Eraserhead and Inland Empire) and assorted oddities—sometime L contributor Cullen Gallagher presents a “Nature/Noir” program pairing a recent short film-poem with the 1976 feature The Animal, about a couple getting cabin fever during a Vermont winter—alongside new and recent avant-garde films from all over. There’s an emphasis on experimental works, both in programming and in spirit—Valado has a background in the visual arts, and explains that the festival was inspired by her involvement in the neighborhood’s burgeoning arts scene, and the enthusiasm it’s generated among natives and transplants alike.