By Don Simpson | May 3, 2012
A few weeks ago, BAMcinématek teased us with the announcement of 11 films from their 2012 program. Now, BAMcinématek has announced the complete main slate for the fourth annual BAMcinemaFest (June 20 — July 1, 2012). The 12-day festival presents premieres of emerging voices in American independent cinema. With 20 New York premieres and one North American premiere, the young festival includes films culled from Cannes, Sundance, Toronto, Berlin, Rotterdam, Slamdance, and SXSW.
OPENING NIGHT: Sleepwalk With Me (Mike Birbiglia)
Mike Birbiglia’s adaptation of his hit off-Broadway one-man show. Co-written and produced by Ira Glass, who has featured Birbiglia on This American Life, this hilarious and poignant autobiographical exploration stars Birbiglia as a bartender at a Park Slope comedy club who moves in with his long-term girlfriend (Lauren Ambrose). On top of his struggles with his relationship and his stand-up career, Birbiglia also battles an extreme form of sleepwalking where he acts out his dreams—even going so far as to throw himself out of a second story window in Walla Walla, Washington. This bittersweet ciné-memoir is both earnest and surreal.
CLOSING NIGHT: Rock ‘n’ Roll Exposed: The Photography of Bob Gruen (Don Letts)
The definitive portrait of a legendary photographer, Rock ‘n’ Roll Exposed: The Photography of Bob Gruen, directed by the equally legendary punk documentarian Don Letts, is the festival’s closing night film presented in a free screening for its New York premiere on July 1. Most famous for the iconic black-and-white photo of a casual John Lennon in shades wearing a “New York City” t-shirt—Gruen was John and Yoko’s personal photo documentarian—the New York photographer redefined the still image in rock, with what Alice Cooper has described as “the ultimate backstage pass…This guy must have stories that nobody has!” Featuring hundreds of celebrated shots of the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Chuck Berry, David Bowie, Elton John, Queen, Iggy Pop, The Clash, Blondie, and more alongside dozens of interviews with Debbie Harry, Yoko Ono, Julian Lennon, Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, Billy Joe Armstrong, punk historian Legs McNeil, and, of course, Gruen himself, Rock ‘n’ Roll Exposed is the true history of rock ‘n’ roll from the 60s to the present.
SPOTLIGHT SCREENING: Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin)
Winner of this year’s Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, and an official selection at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard, Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild is the festival’s spotlight screening, on June 21. Deep in the backwoods of the Louisiana delta, dauntless youngster Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis), her ailing father Wink (Dwight Henry), and their colorful band of neighbors defiantly resist the looming storm and rising waters that threaten to tear their community apart. Zeitlin’s feature debut is a visually lush cinematic folk tale worthy of comparison to the work of Terrence Malick and David Gordon Green’s George Washington—equal parts youthful whimsy, kitchen sink Southern fable, and poignant portrait of the Sisyphean struggle to protect a vanishing New Orleans way of life.
The Comedy (Rick Alverson)
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—pushes the boundaries of propriety. The result is a darkly affecting satire of our current anesthetized generation.
Compliance (Craig Zobel)
Straight from its controversial Sundance premiere, the unsettling and polarizing sophomore feature by Zobel is a dark, transfixing psychodrama inspired by true events. The film follows a fast-food employee (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 (Pat Healy).
Crazy and Thief (Cory McAbee)
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)
BAMcinemaFest alumni Ewing and Grady 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)
The latest from Kim 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.
Francine (Brian M. Cassidy & Melanie Shatzky)
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)
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 hilarious 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.
The Imposter (Bart Layton)
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.
The International Sign for Choking (Zach Weintraub)
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 (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)
In this lighthearted comedy, 30-something New Yorker Jesse (Josh Radnor) welcomes an invitation to return to his alma mater, hoping for a glimpse of the glory days of his youth. When he meets Zibby (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.
Nobody Walks (Ry Russo-Young)
Russo-Young’s 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.
The Patron Saints (Brian M. Cassidy & Melanie Shatzky)
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)
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)
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 make incredible use of Fass’ 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)
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)
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, 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)
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.
Walk Away Renée (Jonathan Caouette)
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.
Welcome to Pine Hill (Keith Miller)
Keith 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.