The Brooklyn Film Society—organizers of the Brooklyn Film Festival, running June 3-12 at indieScreen and the Brooklyn Heights Cinema—have taken it upon themselves "to encourage the rights of all Brooklyn residents to access and experience the power of independent filmmaking." If I'm going to have my civil rights amended, I certainly appreciate this addendum—and am exceedingly sorry for my deprived neighbors, particularly because the BFF have wisely limited the number of films screening during the 10-day festival to 101, culled from over 2,400 submissions. And since many of these are shorts, animations, and experimental fare, a numbers-savvy Brooklynite enjoying some summer downtime could maybe, possibly, see... a lot. Below, some subdivided suggestions.
Directed by Slava Ross
Man-eating dogs run yapping past derelict Communist monuments, but that's the heaviest symbolism on offer; generally, Ross's well-constructed sophomore feature gnaws subtly on your heartstrings. The damaged lives of its characters, interwoven Crashstyle—a manic military man, a young boy stranded in a cabin with his zealous grandpa, a drunk, a teenage hooker, and an icon thief—emerge as the default of existence in this nowhere corner of Siberia: beautifully wooded, bleak as hell.
A Piece of Summer
Directed by Marta Minorowicz
In lieu of summer camps, it looks like, Eastern Europe employs granddads. This short, pretty HD doc gently isolates and muses on that piece of summer which a grandson spends annually with his nature-loving, forest-dwelling gramps. Not a mountain man himself, the grandson shrieks and battles snakes; the grandfather observes, laments, and feeds the kid cookies. The two get along well enough, and a balance reigns; streams tinkle and twinkle. Poland is prettier than I thought.
Everyone in Their Room
Directed by Marco Missano
The Earth is wrecked, and our resident Wall-E is a dude in a diving costume, dragging what appears to be his submarine across an abandoned town. His life is sad; his cat is a robot. More menacing robots come from no particular place to chase The Last Diver around, until he's forced to take drastic/tragic action. This short is intricately live-animated and shot, but its plot, in theme and execution, could be a sequel to The Happening.
The Red Rope
Directed by Vincent Ma
A survival drama in three carefully labeled acts, Ma's short pits a blind woman, tethered to her cabin and daughter by the titular rope, against winter, starvation, and a hirsute stranger (Peter O'Leary) who jokes about rat shit and wants to steal the duo's meager store of mushrooms. Economically told and nicely contained, the film is everywhere overdetermined, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't—more rope, less title cards, and the folly of messing with the hungry and desperate would come through just as clear.
Hysterical Realism/Hysterical Pregnancies
Forget Me Not
Directed by Vladimir De Fontenay
A pretty blonde picks up a little boy as he leaves school and absconds with him to the Staten Island Ferry. Actors Olivia Horton, Max Rosenstein and the camera make 5 minutes last; she chews her lip, he, of course, is effortlessly adorable, and from the sprawling lilac sky to a rusty, forlorn trailer, a sense of overhanging foreboding and gloom is complete.
Directed by Marc Fratello
Another, longer take on working-class gloom and, more literally, of fake pregnancies. With his ampler, half-hour playing time, Fratello relies more on character than mood, and his attention-starved Amber (Marielena Logsdon), eminently forgettable and eerily pathological, with a hostile mom and a box of baby clothes under the bed, strikes true notes, as does a nightmarish mothers' cookie party—all the notes well-pitched, in fact, until the predictable last.
If Only We Could Manage à Trois
Directed by Alexandra Roxo
Five Days Gone
Directed by Anna Kerrigan
After her father's death, Camden (Brooke Bloom) finally meets Alice (Kerrigan), her half-sister, in a bar. She immediately invites the much less enthusiastic Alice, with boyfriend Crane (Sam Rosen), to the family country home, where the sisters and their significant others (Austin Lysy plays Camden's preoccupied, WASP-y husband) can get to know each other. Bloom and Lysy together bear an uncanny resemblance to Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Defoe, and the film, entirely lackluster except in their rapport, could have benefited from some vonTriersian self-awareness, or some talking foxes.
Summer Known Directed by Jan Seemann
This German short quickly strips to its point—or, rather, lures its point into the woods and then bashes it in the head with a rock, all of which is curiously pleasant, even if shot in the same sunkissed Urban Outfitters blur that often functions as shorthand for sensuality and stand-in for meaning. Brevity and a trio of attractive, vaguely European actors, however, give Summer Knows the edge.
Directed by David Michael Friend
The first few shots of this gorgeous short look like Tim Burton's doodles, but the rest redeem themselves mightily, with a puppet-peopled folk tale narrative of a crescent-faced man who brings light to his pointy town.
Directed by Gilles Cuvelier
More casualties than you'd perhaps expect from a French animated tale of love and cooking, but when a much-abused potato finally finds its soulmate (a gangly biker who hits it in a dangerous meet-cute), it won't surrender the boy to his original intended without bloodshed.
Revenge of the Lord
Some Guy Who Kills People
Directed by Jack Perez
A pleasant, predictable feature about a loser-loner, recently discharged from an institution, whose high school torturers are being mysteriously killed... As Ken, the unfortunate in question, Kevin Corrigan is pleasant as always, and Karen Black and Barry Bostwick pop up as his mother and the crazy-like-a-fox town sheriff she's sleeping with, but the biggest mystery remains unsolved: What are they doing in this film?
Directed by Massimiliano Verdesca
A monosyllabic death-metal guitarist with a pious mother and a wacky grandmother, Marcello is understandably disconcerted to find that a wound is forming in his side—followed the by other marks of stigmata, which neither his Satanistband mates nor his groupie girlfriend appreciate. Like Marcello, torn between his religious considerations, this Italian feature's plot vacillates between the standard buildup to the big concert at which all shall be resolved, and instances of honest-to-God, unclassifiable weirdness, more tempting than it by any rights should be. Amen.