The fifth annual Bushwick Film Festival takes over the Paperbox from October 5-7 with music videos, documentaries, comedies, dramas, experimental films and more. We talked to co-founder Kweighbaye Kotee, who started the festival with Laree Ross, about what makes Bushwick great and why we need film festivals in the first place.
Are there really so many films by and about Bushwick?
You’d be surprised! We were! The artists have moved to Bushwick in huge waves. Bushwick itself is like a Hollywood movie set. There are so many filmmakers here now too. The other day when Laree and I were putting up film festival posters—yes, we put up our own posters still—we got stopped by at least three Bushwick filmmakers in just one hour. But out of the 25 films (shorts, music videos, animation, docs) that we selected to be screened this year, we only have four Bushwick films where the directors were either from Bushwick and/or the film was shot in Bushwick.
The Williamsburg Film Festival and the Greenpoint Film Festival just passed. Why are there so many North Brooklyn film festivals?
Because they are just so many creative people in North Brooklyn. And we just don’t want to always have to go to Lincoln Film Center or Angelika or the city in general to be able to see indie films. We definitely don’t want to have to fly anywhere to see indie films either! Film is probably the most significant and powerful tool of transformation of our culture and leaving it up to the art houses to decide which films get exhibited is like leaving it up to Hollywood to decide which films get produced. The emergence of [new] film festivals in North Brooklyn, the US and the world for that matter in my opinion shares certain characteristics with the emergence of early independent filmmakers who refused to allow producers or funders to control the content of their films. Film festivals refuse to allow complete control over the exhibition of films. So the more opportunities their are to exhibit films the better! Besides, the history of good filmmaking is a history of filmmaking made outside the system, or at least in conflict with the system. The same goes for film festivals. Some really great gems were discovered at film festivals that would not have made it to the theaters. Now, as for business, we just have to call them up and make sure we don’t have our festivals on the same weekend!! Hahaha.
What distinguishes the Bushwick Film Festival from its neighbors?
The festival is small, simple, and concentrated over one weekend in one venue. It keeps the attention on the films and the filmmakers. Laree and I are very single-minded individuals, and we’ve found it to be pretty amazing what can be accomplished when you focus your attention on only the essence of things. You are more likely to get better results focusing on one thing at a time. So we apply our way of being to the film festival. We feel that the audience, filmmakers and community get so much more out of the weekend this way. I for one get really confused when their are like 100 films to see over 30 days at 100 different locations! I think good films and filmmakers can really get lost in the mix. So we keep it simple. We also know all of our filmmakers, we have watched every single film that we have screened over the course of five years, and we try to highlight them as much as we can on our website and in our newsletters. We wouldn’t be able to serve the filmmakers this way if we didn’t keep it simple.