- Scott Grella
You may have heard that Bushwick is a hotbed of creativity these days. Here is yet another reason why you never need to leave Bushwick, ever: we have our own film festival. After its fifth year, the Bushwick Film Festival has become part of the local creative establishment, bringing together some of New York’s most promising young filmmakers in celebration of what no other Brooklyn neighborhood has to offer. Well, true, the Williamsburg International Film Festival did just happen two weeks ago. And the Greenpoint Film Festival. But, as co-founder Kweighbaye Kotee insists, Bushwick brings its own unique North Brooklyn flavor.
On Friday, in the depths of the Paperbox music and arts complex, a hush fell across the audience as the giant projector at the front of the room started playing the opening credits of Lefty Loosey Righty Tighty, the first feature-length film to play at the Film Festival’s opening night. Realizing it was time to find my seat, I made my way around the sea of tangled folding chairs and legs, past the hole in the wall through which someone was selling tacos and PBR, and finally up to a pile of cushions in the front of the room. Lefty Loosey Righty Tighty, like most of the films this evening, was produced with money raised on Kickstarter and donated by friends. Quality films can and have been made on low budgets. And filmmakers in Bushwick these days don’t need to travel further than their front stoop for the perfect Hollywood set. In Lefty Loosey, a trio of longtime friends search for love and fulfillment in the streets of Brooklyn. They go for jogs in Prospect Park and drink beer somewhere close to the Seventh Avenue station. The audience behind me shifted and spoke in excited whispers every time the camera swept across one of these familiar locales.
When a stunt double isn’t an option, directors are forced to resort to the extraordinary in the ordinary to make stories that are compelling. The alternative is to turn to abstraction, or a minutes-long shot of a traffic light turning from green to red and back to green. There was a healthy combination of both options at the festival this year. On the first evening, films ranged in scope from The Bath, a two-minute short in which a girl tries in vain to get out of a bathtub filled with multicolored pills, to Cork’s Cattlebaron, a drama between a career-climbing businessman and his boss as they share a meal at a steak house in Omaha, Nebraska.
For many of the young directors and producers here this weekend, making it to the Bushwick Film Festival was a major accomplishment. True, there may already be a plethora of indie film events in Brooklyn, but as slots at festivals in Williamsburg and Greenpoint become more competitive, it’s events like this one, makeshift projector-screen and all, where Brooklynites gather looking for the bold and the new.