Not even a pandemic can hold independent filmmakers down!
The world is slowly but surely opening back up from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Looking back, it is bewildering just how much has happened, as well as what hasn’t happened, since it started. The film industry, like many services and businesses, was hit hard, causing delays in both production and releases. In addition, some film festivals had to make adjustments to continue their events while following social distancing regulations.
Last year, the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival went digital for its 10th year and was successful in bringing its community of filmmakers together, both in Brooklyn, as well as in other parts of the world. Festival co-founder and executive director Anthony DeVito, says of the filmmakers, “They tell stories that show us a much wider world beyond our own experiences, and we’re all better for it.” DeVito and co-founder Joseph Shahadi, along with this year’s co-director Christie Conochalla, are planning for even more success for their 11th year!
This year’s Art of Brooklyn Film Festival (#AOBFF21) is featuring over 54 features, shorts, and pieces of visual art, some of which were made during the pandemic. Here are just a few of the highlights:
The film’s screenplay, written by Deirdre O’Connor, was previously selected by the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival in their screenplay competition, and now viewers get to see it realized as a film. Featuring the final performance of the late Danny Aiello (Do the Right Thing), the film tells the story of a family where the adults try to manage their lives while caring for their children, as well their aging father. Although it is bittersweet seeing Aiello giving one final performance, it is a truly incredible one to go out on. The film itself is funny, sad, and full of heart, and it will truly hit home for many people who have had to care for their parents. One Moment served as the opening festival film on June 2nd, and will have an encore screening on June 5th at 4pm.
This documentary, made during the pandemic, follows the employees of two Queens bars, as well as members of the hospitality industry, who were forced to close their doors when the lockdown started They dive into the hardships they faced, as well as how they tried to keep their hopes up and their anxieties at bay. It is a tough to film to watch, knowing how life-changing this pandemic was for most people, let alone hospitality workers. It is, however, an important watch, because it also shows the strength these individuals have, as well as the love they have for their neighborhood and the people who live there. Last Call will screen on June 7th at 9pm with a livestream filmmaker Q&A to follow.
On the verge of their show’s Broadway debut, the relationship of three best friends is challenged when the male lead asks the others to help him bear a child. The film has gorgeous cinematography, and the soundtrack, which features the songs in the stage show, is irresistible. Stacey Maltin directs the film, which she co-wrote with co-lead Jay DeYonker, with gusto, and the two of them, along with Margarita Zhitnikova, give impressive and heartfelt performances. The production company behind the film, Besties Make Movies, has added yet another uplifting and engaging story to its already growing filmography. Triple Threat will be screened on June 11th at 9pm with a livestream filmmaker Q&A to follow.
WHO IS LUN’NAH MENOH?
If you have not hear of Japanese performance artist Lun’nah Menoh, before, this documentary is a perfect introduction to her and her work. The documentary is a truly wonderful experience, and describing it would only ruin said experience, but it will have all been worth it by the end of the viewing! Who is Lun*na Menoh? will screen on June 3rd at 9:00pm with a livestream filmmaker Q&A to follow.
KOREATOWN GHOST STORY
Comedian Margaret Cho lends her presence to a wonderful supernatural horror short film based on a popular Korean ritual. Written and directed by Minsun Park and Teddy Tenenbaum, the film is eerie, bizarre, and at times, quite amusing, mostly thanks to the cinematography and Margaret Cho’s delightful performance. Lyrica Okano, who plays the lead, also does a magnificent job and really sells the claustrophobic fear her character experiences. Koreatown Ghost Story will be screened as part of the festival’s “Poor Decisions And Bad Luck: Dark Side’ shorts block on June 9th at 9:00pm with a livestream filmmaker Q&A to follow.
Water takes place during the both the 1950’s and the civil rights movement of the 1960’s in an alternative dystopian universe where children are placed into social groups, separated by gender and arranged by skin tone. Lucy, who is part of a swim team-like group, begins to take steps towards enlightenment following the death of her mother. Writer/Director/Star Brittney Rae fills the screen with gorgeous art direction and clever references to civil rights leaders of the time, and the world this film takes place in feels fully realized. Water will screen as part of ‘Can I Just Live?’ shorts block on June 9th with a livestream filmmaker Q&A to follow.
As stated before, some of the films at this year’s festival were made during the pandemic, and Quarantween uses the pandemic as its setting. This short film follows a young boy who goes out trick or treating on Halloween during a time when everyone is stuck inside and refuse any form of human contact, let alone wanting give him candy. Writer/Director Daniel James McCabe stated in an interview that this film was made as a way for him and his family (including his young son, who plays the lead) to cope with being cooped up inside. The resulting film is warm, funny, and offers viewers some post-pandemic hope. Quarantween will screen as part of the festival’s “America Drinks And Goes Home’ Shorts” block on June 11th at 7:00pm with a livestream filmmaker Q&A to follow.
“We are blown away by the films we’re screening this year.” states DeVito. “The quality, creativity, and diverse viewpoints are really impressive. It’s clear that no matter what’s going on the world, you can’t hold independent filmmakers down.”
The 10th annual Art of Brooklyn Film Festival will run from June 1st-June 12th, and the films will be featured through a virtual festival platform provided by Eventive. Physical events include an outdoor screening in Sunset Park on June 11th at 8:30pm.
Tickets can be purchased through the festival website, aobff.org.