The 12 Must-See Films at BAMcinemaFest 2014

05/06/2014 2:30 PM |

BAMcinemaFest 2014, an annual showcase of independent cinema at the Brooklyn Academy of Music

BAM’s annual film festival, now in its sixth year, will screen 27 films over 12 days in June, all of them at least New York premieres (except for the 25th-anniversary screening of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing). Some of them are obvious must-sees, some of them we’ve never heard of, and some of them sound right up our alley—and they’re all now on our radar, as the festival has proven itself as one of the best places in the city to discover new independent films. If you want to go but aren’t sure exactly what to go see, here’s what we’re betting on now and why. (Full disclosure: The L‘s parent company publishes the programs for BAM.)

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The Brooklyn (and New York) Films
Lawrence Michael Levine hasn’t directed a movie since Gabi on the Roof in July in 2011, the winner of the Brooklyn Film Festival that introduced us to many faces that would soon become ubiquitous in indie cinema, from Levine’s own to his then-girlfriend/now-wife Sophia Takal (who later made her own directorial debut with Green). He and she team up again as the stars of Wild Canaries, described as “Brooklyn DIY meets classic screwball mystery.” Yes, please.

The festival will also offer the opportunity to see Desiree Akhavan’s Appropriate Behavior, which made a small splash at this year’s Sundance, about an Iranian-American bisexual figuring out her family and her last relationship. Zach Wigon, who used to write sometimes for this magazine up until 2012, shows up with his feature The Heart Machine, costarring Kate Lyn Sheil, who might literally be in every movie ever made by an indie director since 2009. BAM describes it as “Part love story, part moody paranoid thriller in the vein of The Conversation.” We’ll take it!

The Notable Indies
Mike Cahill made his name a few years ago with Another Earth, starring and cowritten by Brit Marling, who went on to become an indie darling. Cahill’s followup I Origins not only stars Michael Pitt—it’s also set in Brooklyn! And it’s about science.

Joe Swanberg makes a couple of movies a year, but his Happy Christmas has generated more buzz than one of his usual toss-offs. Working again with Anna Kendrick, the prolific indie director also teams up with Lena Dunham, which is maybe why people are talking about this movie? Whatever. Drinking Buddies turned out to be as good as the buzz suggested!

Amir Bar-Lev has been on our radar since My Kid Could Paint That wowed us in 2007. He returns with a look at the Joe Paterno case, eep, in Happy Valley. David Zellner’s Kid-Thing was so subtly strange and gradually unsettling that we still get chills just thinking about it, which makes us especially excited for his latest, Kumiko, Treasure Hunter, which already had us from the premise anyway: it’s about a Tokyo office assistant who thinks Fargo is a true story and goes looking for a hidden briefcase full of money.

Also, we still haven’t gotten around to seeing Tim Sutton’s Pavilion, but our favorite indie distributor, Factory 25, picked it up, and we’ll accept its stamp of approval. Sutton’s latest, Memphis, features a “raw, seemingly autobiographical star turn [by] underground blues singer-poet Willis Earl Beal.”

The Featured Films
BAMcinemaFEST opens with Richard Linklater’s long-awaited Boyhood, if you can’t wait until its proper release in July. The centerpiece is the new film—his first in English—from Bong Joon-Ho, best-known for The Host; Snowpiercer will then receive a theatrical release in late June. The spotlight film is the latest comedy from David “Wet Hot American Summer” Wain, They Came Together, which stars Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd (and Ed Helms and Cobie Smulders and others) and also has a late-June theatrical release. The closing night film is the aforementioned 25th-anniversary screening of Do the Right Thing.

Just Take a Chance
We’re just looking back at the list of movies that played in 2012, and it’s like a what’s-what of interesting indie films of the last two years. Most of them we’ve only heard of recently. Imagine how ahead of the curve you could be!

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart