BAMcinemaFest, the annual New York City launch for high-profile and emerging American indie films from the festival circuit (it is to Sundance, SXSW, Sarasota and Maryland as the NYFF is to Cannes, Venice and Toronto, maybe?), just released its full feature lineup for this year’s edition. (Special events, shorts and schedule are still to come.)
A number of titles, with a heavy local slant, were announced in late March; the complete slate adds a number of fest-circuit titles (including several with local settings and/or talent), as well as the headliners: The opening night film is Sleepwalk With Me, written and directed by the comic Mike Birbiglia, from his stage show. (IFC will release it theatrically on 8/24.) The closing night film is a free screening of
Rock ‘n’ Roll Exposed: The Photography of Bob Gruen, directed by punk and reggae’s behind-the-camera Zelig, Don Letts. And the “Spotlight Screening” is Beasts of the Southern Wild, the already much-lauded feature debut of Benh Zeitlin (its screening will be timed to its June 27 release via Fox Searchlight, presumably).
This year’s festival runs from June 20-July 1. The rest of the feature slate, with BAM’s descriptions and our links, after the jump:
The Comedy (Rick Alverson) NY Premiere Narrative Drawing comparisons to La Dolce Vita and the work of Lars von Trier, Alverson‟s divisive portrait of a privileged Williamsburg Brooklynite—played by a razor-sharp Tim Heidecker (Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!)—pushes the boundaries of propriety. The result is a darkly affecting satire of our current anesthetized generation. With Eric Wareheim (Tim and Eric), James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem), and Kate Lyn Sheil (Green, BAMcinemaFest 2011).
Compliance (Craig Zobel) NY Premiere Narrative Straight from its controversial Sundance premiere, the unsettling and polarizing sophomore feature by Zobel (The Great World of Sound) is a dark, transfixing psychodrama inspired by true events. The film follows a fast-food employee (The Good Wife‘s Dreama Walker) who is accused of theft and subjected to repeated acts of humiliation by her overworked supervisor (Ann Dowd), all at the behest of an authoritarian phone caller (Jim Healy). A Magnolia Pictures release.
Crazy and Thief (Cory McAbee) NY Premiere Narrative The American Astronaut‘s McAbee casts his seven-year-old daughter Willa (Crazy) and two-year-old son John (Thief) in this homegrown coming-of-age fantasy meets road sidewalk movie. The two children embark on a wide-eyed voyage through the streets of Brooklyn and beyond, embracing star signs, mythologies, and fairy-tale monsters.
Detropia (Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady) NY Premiere Documentary BAMcinemaFest alumni Ewing and Grady (12th & Delaware, 2010) return with this lyrical exploration of the Motor City that follows intrepid Detroiters—young and old, frustrated and idealistic—as they grapple with the ever-changing landscape of America’s fastest-shrinking city.
For Ellen (So Yong Kim) NY Premiere Narrative The latest from Kim (director of Treeless Mountain and the subject of a 2009 BAMcinématek “Next Director” retrospective with partner Bradley Rust Gray) is a hypnotic, glacial portrait of an unstable, semi-delusional musician (Paul Dano) in his last-ditch effort to develop a bond with—and earn custody of—his young daughter. With Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite). A Tribeca Film release.
Francine (Brian M. Cassidy & Melanie Shatzky) NY Premiere Narrative Academy Award winner Melissa Leo (The Fighter) delivers an unnerving performance as a reclusive ex-convict who rejects human connection, finding solace in her intimate bond with animals in documentary duo Cassidy and Shatzky‟s narrative feature debut.
Gayby (Jonathan Lisecki) NY Premiere Narrative Longtime best friends Jenn and Matt, both single and facing diminishing dating returns, decide to fulfill a promise made back in college to conceive a baby together—yet with no turkey baster readily available, they‟re gonna do it the old fashioned way. Lisecki‟s first feature, based on an award-winning short of the same name, tells a resonant New York story about loneliness, aging, and the meaning of family. A Wolfe release.
The Imposter (Bart Layton) NY Premiere Documentary This gripping nonfiction mood piece tells the unbelievable true story of Nicholas Barclay, a child who goes missing from his home in San Antonio, TX and turns up in Spain three years later. Returned to his overjoyed family, Nicholas relays haunting stories of imprisonment and abuse, but no one seems to notice the glaring differences in his appearance and behavior. Bolstered by candid interviews and atmospheric reenactments, The Imposter is a transfixing, layered mystery that becomes increasingly unsettling as it unfolds. An Indomina Group release.
The International Sign for Choking (Zach Weintraub) NY Premiere Narrative A young American artist shacks up in a Buenos Aires guesthouse and ambles his way through the urban landscape in search of an unseen ex-flame, evading work constraints, befriending local skater-musicians, and half-pursuing a fleeting courtship with the literal girl next door (BAMcinemaFest alum Sophia Takal). His second micro-budget feature, writer, director, and star Weintraub (Bummer Summer) crafts an airy, exquisitely composed tone poem of aimless expat life in “La Reina Del Plata.”
Liberal Arts (Josh Radnor) NY Premiere Narrative In this lighthearted comedy, 30-something New Yorker Jesse (writer/director/actor Radnor, How I Met Your Mother) welcomes an invitation to return to his alma mater, hoping for a glimpse of the glory days of his youth. When he meets Zibby (Martha Marcy May Marlene‘s Elizabeth Olsen), an articulate 19-year-old with an infectious free spirit, Jesse is blindsided by their attraction and must decide whether or not to act on his feelings. With Richard Jenkins and Allison Janney. An IFC Films release.
Nobody Walks (Ry Russo-Young) NY Premiere Narrative Russo-Young’s (You Wont Miss Me, BAMcinemaFest 2009) psychosexual comedy, co-written by Lena Dunham, stars Olivia Thirlby as a young artist who moves into the pool house of a young LA couple (Rosemarie DeWitt and John Krasinski) to finish a film project—and sets the relaxed family reeling. A Magnolia Pictures release.
The Patron Saints (Brian M. Cassidy & Melanie Shatzky) NY Premiere Documentary Cassidy and Shatzky bring us another unflinching yet lyrical portrait of life on the periphery with a look at the forgotten souls of a rural nursing home. This ciné-essay, their nonfiction feature debut, is narrated by the facility‟s youngest patient, whose candid account is by turns mournful and macabre.
Pavilion (Tim Sutton) NY Premiere Narrative A sun-kissed, languid daydream of adolescence with its endless summers and fleeting friendships, Sutton‟s debut feature is a simple, casual tale documenting laconic teenager Max who moves from an idyllic lakeside town in New York to his father‟s home in arid suburban Arizona. Observational in style, the film‟s mesmerizing images of hot summer bike rides and cool lakebound dives have the residual power of memory, capturing the ephemerality and mystery of youth.
Radio Unnameable (Paul Lovelace & Jessica Wolfson) NY Premiere Documentary The 78-year-old legend and New York treasure Bob Fass, “the father of free-form radio,” has been the host of “Radio Unnameable” on New York‟s WBAI for almost 50 years. BAMcinemaFest alumni Lovelace and Wolfson (Iowa Mixtape, 2010) make incredible use of Fass’s personal archives: a priceless trove of first-person political reportage, early interviews with 60s icons Bob Dylan and Abbie Hoffman, and other far-out ephemera.
Tchoupitoulas (Bill Ross & Turner Ross) NY Premiere Documentary Experienced through the eyes of three young brothers who miss their ferry home to Mississippi and are left stranded in the Crescent City, Tchoupitoulas is a poetic, sensual odyssey through the intoxicating smells, lights, music, and colors and explosive energy of a long night in New Orleans. Bill and Turner Ross follow the brothers as they encounter musicians, revelers, drag queens, and hustlers—the nocturnal creatures that make the city a unique and vibrant cultural mecca.
The Unspeakable Act (Dan Sallitt) NY Premiere Narrative Jackie’s romantic feelings for her brother Matthew form the unlikely backdrop against which the milestones of adolescence—choosing a college, losing one‟s virginity—unspool in film critic Sallitt’s long-awaited directorial return (All the Ships at Sea, 2004), an unnervingly dispassionate take on the last taboo, set in Brooklyn’s Midwood.
V/H/S (David Bruckner, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence, Joe Swanberg, Ti West & Adam Wingard) NY Premiere Narrative This horror portmanteau film—helmed by the new generation of gore-teurs who brought you The Innkeepers, A Horrible Way to Die, and Silver Bullets—takes on found footage and anthology fright flicks and turns them on their respective severed heads. A group of burglars break into a rural mansion to steal a videocassette and find a dead body, a sea of video decks, and a frightful VHS compilation. A Magnet release.
Walk Away Renée (Jonathan Caouette) North American Premiere Documentary Nine years after Tarnation stunned the documentary world, Caouette returns with this poignant evocation of his mother‟s 40-year struggle with mental illness and the effect it had on their relationship—showcasing his singular blend of home-video montage, intimate confessionals, and a dizzying CGI dream sequence. A Sundance Selects release.
Welcome to Pine Hill (Keith Miller) NY Premiere Narrative Miller‟s debut feature obscures the boundaries of narrative and nonfiction, following newcomer Shanon Harper‟s ambiguous journey from the streets of Brooklyn to the Catskill backwoods. This abstract, emotional drama was inspired by the director‟s real-life happenstance encounter with Harper.