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Thursday, June 1, 2017

2017 BAMcinemaFest

Marjorie Prime. Photo: FilmRise
By Maureen Masters

In just nine years, BAMcinemaFest has established itself as a leading American independent film festival. With an annual slate of around 30 New York premieres of features, documentaries, and shorts, plus special events like the 25th anniversary of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing in 2014, and 2015’s 20th anniversary cast reunion of Larry Clark’s Kids, the festival provides an invaluable platform for emerging artists and holds an important place in the Brooklyn film community, making it an ideal hometown premiere spot for New York and Brooklyn-based filmmakers. Plus, films don’t get lost in the shuffle at BAMcinemaFest with the tightly curated selection screening only at two venues on the BAM campus (the BAM Rose Cinemas and the Harvey Theater) during the 12-day festival, from June 14 to 25.

What’s new for the 2017 festival and most importantly, what can audiences look forward to this year? BAMcinemaFest programmers Nellie Killian, Jesse Trussell, Ryan Werner, and new Associate Vice President of Cinema Gina Duncan are excited by the many new filmmakers in the festival. Several short-film alumni make their feature film debuts—including Jennifer Reeder (Signature Move) and Janicza Bravo (Lemon). They are also excited to showcase two films by Michael Almereyda (best known for past films including Experimenter, 2015; Hamlet, 2000; Nadja, 1994), a long-time favorite of BAMcinématek. He brings his new science-fiction feature Marjorie Prime and his documentary essay Escapes. Almereyda’s most recent film, Marjorie Prime, premiered at Sundance to rave reviews. The film is based on Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer-shortlisted 2014 play of the same name about a woman coming to terms with the death of her husband via the use of his hologram (called a “prime”). The film stars Jon Hamm and Lois Smith, as well as Geena Davis and Tim Robbins.

Whose Streets?. Photo: Magnolia Pictures
Writer-director Aaron Katz’s Los Angeles neo-noir Gemini holds this year’s coveted opening night film spot. BAMcinemaFest programmers have enjoyed Katz’s work for many years (Cold Weather was in the 2010 festival). Trussell says Katz’s new film “feels like a spiritual successor to Cold Weather, a carefully composed, elegant mystery/character study with a cool formal style. The film is also a close look at a certain kind of Hollywood friendship and has a sneaky vein of dark comedy. It’s incredible to watch him come into his filmmaking prime and we couldn’t imagine a better opening night film for the festival.” Gemini stars Lola Kirke, Zoe Kravitz, and John Cho. Writer-director Alex Ross Perry’s Golden Exits is this year’s closing night film. Golden Exits is a keenly observed film relaying the story of a small circle of Brooklynites whose lives are upset by the arrival of a young Australian visitor. The film stars Emily Browning and former Beastie Boy Adam Horowitz, with an eclectic ensemble cast featuring Jason Schwartzman, Mary Louise Parker, and Chloe Sevigny. Alex Ross Perry is a multiple BAMcinemaFest alum, having screened Color Wheel at the 2012 festival and Queen of Earth as the Centerpiece selection in the 2015 festival.
Gemini. Photo: Neon
Other highlights for 2017 will be the world premiere of Jim McKay’s En el Séptimo Día. McKay’s first feature in over 15 years (during which he’s directed TV including Breaking Bad, The Wire, The Americans, and Mr. Robot) is set in Sunset Park and features actors from the local latino community. Duncan says the film is “an instant classic all the more powerful for its contemporary relevance.” In addition the festival hosts a special retrospective screening of McKay’s last feature film, the beloved Brooklyn classic Our Song, starring Kerry Washington, in a free BAMcinemaFest screening at Brooklyn Bridge Park. This year’s festival also includes a trio of essential-viewing social justice documentaries including Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous’ The Work, focusing on a four-day intense therapy session by and for maximum security inmates; Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis’ Whose Streets?, a first-hand account of the protest movement in Ferguson following Michael Brown’s death; and Peter Nick’s The Force, winner of this year’s Sundance documentary prize for Best Director, which investigates the role of police enforcement in our lives through the lens of the Oakland PD.

BAMcinemaFest is also hosting the North American premiere of James Kienitz Wilkins’ Common Carrier, a formally audacious documentary about the lives of artists in contemporary Brooklyn. Kienitz Wilkins has been a familiar face in recent years at BAM; his lo-fi found footage and fragmentary material based-films served as the closing night program of BAMcinématek 2016 Migrating Forms festival. Kienitz Wilkins was also commissioned to make this year’s Migrating Forms trailer. Join us for this choice selection of new films by rising and established filmmakers at BAMcinemaFest.

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Maureen Masters is a publicity manager at BAM.

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