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Friday, May 29, 2015

2015 BAMcinemaFest—Note from the Curators

The End of the Tour. Photo: A24 Films

This year marks the seventh annual BAMcinemaFest as well as the second year with our current programming team. We were so proud of last year’s festival: Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, our opening night film, went all the way to the Oscars, and The Village Voice and am New York named BAMcinemaFest the Best Film Festival in New York—a huge honor in a landscape of some of the most prestigious festivals in the country. After six months of work on our seventh edition, we’re thrilled to finally share our slate of over 35 premieres, repertory rediscoveries, and special events that encompass some of the most thematically and formally daring work in contemporary American independent cinema.

For the first time ever, we have a BAMcinemaFest alumnus kicking off the festival—on June 17 in the Howard Gilman Opera House, James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now, 2013) returns for the New York premiere of The End of the Tour, a moving elegy to late literary master David Foster Wallace. Showing a returning filmmaker’s work on opening night is an exciting milestone and a testament to the festival’s growth alongside the artists we have championed. We’re pleased to have four more BAMcinemaFest alumni represented in the 2015 main slate, including Todd Rohal (The Catechism Cataclysm, 2011), Jem Cohen (Museum Hours, 2013), Sebastián Silva (Crystal Fairy, 2013), and Alex Ross Perry (The Color Wheel, 2011), the director of this year’s centerpiece, Queen of Earth.

Tangerine. Photo: Magnolia Pictures
The centerpiece and closing night selections showcase two radically different formal approaches to the medium, and we were immediately taken with their daring styles of filmmaking. Sean Baker’s Tangerine (Closing Night) features dazzling, neon-lit cinematography shot entirely on an iPhone; while Perry’s Queen of Earth, starring Elisabeth Moss and Katherine Waterston, is steeped in homage to 70s auteurs and luminously lensed in high-grain 16mm.

Our main slate takes viewers on a journey through the full spectrum of American indie talent, from BAM’s own Fort Greene neighborhood (Nasty Baby and A Woman Like Me), to tension-filled family gatherings in Texas (Krisha) and Illinois (Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party), to a feminist exploration of aging, motherhood, and dystopian sci-fi (Advantageous). And in its lo-fi reimagining-cum-interrogation of Shirley Clarke’s landmark documentary Portrait of Jason (1967)—shown during BAMcinématek’s A Time for Burning, a 2013 series on the cinema of the civil rights movement—Stephen Winter’s Jason and Shirley reveals the enduring influence of pioneering independent auteurs.

Repertory programming is BAMcinématek’s bread and butter for most of the year and very close to our hearts; all of our revivals at this year’s festival felt perfectly organic in the context of our larger program and mission. We jumped at the chance to present the New York premiere of Les Blank’s restored and long-unseen portrait of Leon Russell, A Poem Is a Naked Person (1974), since a string of Blank programs over the last few years—from an outdoor screening of shorts in last year’s BAMcinemaFest to a retrospective of restorations last fall—have made him a BAMcinématek favorite. We’re also screening a new restoration of Penelope Spheeris’ legendary LA punk chronicle The Decline of Western Civilization (1981), and her follow-up The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988) will be part of our upcoming series Indie 80s (this July and August), a sprawling survey of the decade between 70s New Hollywood and the 90s indie boom, showcasing precursors to today’s independent film landscape.

We are thrilled to be championing the cutting edge of the art form at BAMcinemaFest. This year’s selection shows an incredible path forward for the medium, young filmmakers, and the future of cinema. We look forward to seeing you at the festival!

—Nellie Killian, David Reilly, Ryan Werner, and Gabriele Caroti of BAMcinématek

BAMcinemaFest runs from June 17—28, 2015.

Reprinted from June 2015 BAMbill.

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