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  • 18th Annual Rooftop Films Summer Series | Preview

    Rooftop Films

    By | May 8, 2014

    Industry City

    Showcasing yet another seminal year in the independent filmmaking universe, Dan Nuxoll and his programming team has assembled a top notch program for the 2014 Rooftop Films Summer Series featuring many of my favorite festival films of 2014 thus far. Rooftop Films kicks off its 18th annual summer series on Friday, May 16th at Industry City in Sunset Park with a slate of new short films from around the world. Then, on Saturday May 17th, they will feature a special sneak preview of the Sundance 2014 standout, Gillian Robespierre’s upcoming A24 release Obvious Child.

    The series continues through the summer, with screenings each week in a variety of exciting and picturesque outdoor locations. Rooftop Films’ full feature film slate includes docs about mushroom hunters (The Last Season), no-budget filmmakers (Giuseppe Makes A Movie), untouched corners of endangered rainforest (Forest Of The Dancing Spirits), and idiosyncratic jazz legends (The Case Of The Three-Sided Dream); bold, mind-bending fiction (R100, The Infinite Man, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night); and sneak peeks of several film festival faves (Obvious Child, The One I Love, Appropriate Behavior, Ping Pong Summer, Cold In July, Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter). Additionally, Rooftop Films will be presenting the World Premiere of Adam Newport-Berra’s feature film debut, Thanksgiving.

    With live performances, audience interaction, and enhanced themed events at amazing new venues, Rooftop turns each film screening into an unforgettable event. This summer, Rooftop Filims’ enhanced special screenings will include live performances by renowned musicians, mushroom hunting on the world’s largest rooftop soil farm, ping-pong tournaments, and drag performances. All shows include live-music before the screenings and most include filmmaker Q&As and complementary after parties. The Summer Series will also include over 13 programs of short films.

    Some of my personal favorites of the Rooftop Films 2014 Summer Series slate are:


    Appropriate Behavior (Desiree Akhavan | 82 min.)
    Special Sneak Preview

    Channeling the simplicity of the post-Mumblecore set (which means this film will be probably compared to Lena Dunham’s work), Desiree Akhavan presents a very realistic portrayal of a young woman struggling to balance her sexuality with her ethnicity in the “anything goes” atmosphere of Brooklyn. In Appropriate Behavior, “coming out” is not as simple as just stating your sexuality; for people of some ethnic and religious backgrounds, it can be a much more complicated statement to make. (Check out my 8 out of 10 review of Appropriate Behavior from Sundance 2014.)


    A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Ana Lily Amirpour | 107 min.)
    Special Sneak Preview

    Shot in the style of a graphic novel, Lyle Vincent’s gorgeously high-contrast, black and white cinematography highlights the surreal atmosphere of this Iranian vampire romance. Languidly paced and utterly devoid of tension, writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night circumvents any kinship with the horror genre, relying quite heavily on its atmospheric mood to keep its audience transfixed. Even the film’s presumed gender politics are conveyed by way of softly blurred metaphors that drift dreamily in and out of the narrative. (Check out my 8 out of 10 review of A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night from Sundance 2014.)


    Happy Christmas (Joe Swanberg | 78 min.)
    Special Sneak Preview

    One of Joe Swanberg’s most personal films, Happy Christmas functions as a loving ode to his wife Kris Swanberg, who had to put her creative career on the back burner after the birth of Jude. Swanberg intelligently discusses some of the challenges that two creative (read: financially insecure) parents might face while trying to raise a young child. First and foremost, this is a story of female empowerment as Kelly navigates her way to becoming more than just a mother. Kelly is incredibly empathetic as a struggling writer who is dealing with motherhood. Using her natural Kiwi accent in this role, Melanie Lynskey seems remarkably comfortable with her fictional family. Her report with Jude is excellent, allowing him to steal any of the scenes that they share. Then again, with his natural comedic talent, the two-year-old steals every scene in which he appears.


    The Infinite Man (Hugh Sullivan | 84 min.)
    New York Premiere

    Arguably the best time travel film this side of Nacho Vigalondo’s Timecrimes (2007) and Shane Carruth’s Primer (2004), it is incredibly enjoyable to just sit back and get lost in the convoluted chronology of Hugh Sullivan’s The Infinite Man. While it seems impossible — especially after only one viewing — to accurately map the various incarnations of Dean, Lana and Terry, the plot always seems grounded in some semblance of reality…albeit a reality in which time travel exists. It is nearly impossible not to love such a thoughtfully complex narrative that is built upon the sublime simplicity of just three characters and one location. That is precisely the formula for making a low budget first feature that I learned in film school and Sullivan absolutely nails it. (Check out my 8 out of 10 review of The Infinite Man from SXSW 2014.)


    Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter (David Zellner | 105 min.)
    Special Sneak Preview

    Masterfully lensed by Sean Porter (It Felt Like Love, Eden), Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter functions quite purposefully as two distinct halves, both of which are closely tied to Japanese cinematic history. While Kumiko is in Japan, Porter captures the suffocating claustrophobia and urban grittiness of modern Tokyo; once Kumiko arrives in Minnesota, Porter transforms the snow-covered expanses into a surreal staging ground for the epic journey. The artfulness of Porter’s cinematography, the eerily pitch-perfect score by The Octopus Project and Rinko Kikuchi’s astoundingly stoic performance all contribute to the remarkable maturity of this Zellner Brothers endeavor. By far their most accomplished and coherent film (a statement intended by no means to discredit their previous work), Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter seems as if it was made by a Japanese master rather than two brothers from Austin, Texas with a penchant for absurdity. (Check out my 9 out of 10 review of Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter from Sundance 2014.)


    Obvious Child (Gillian Robespierre | 90 min.)
    Opening Weekend Film

    Obvious Child is a well-paced comedy packed with a steady stream of hilarious jokes, yet the film also carries a strong and unwavering opinion on its subject matter. While the subject of this film may chase some potential audiences away, Obvious Child does such an admirable job of presenting its case that it could actually change some minds if audiences would just give it a fighting chance. (Check out my 9 out of 10 review of Obvious Child from Sundance 2014.)


    The One I Love (Charlie McDowell | 91 min.)
    Special Sneak Preview

    Though The One I Love is nicely set up as a romantic comedy, it is armed with an alarmingly intense and disconcerting air that hovers on the brink of mutating into a horror film. The dramatically sharp turns are deftly orchestrated, never giving away too much information at any one time. Seamlessly blending reality with imagination, even the most absurd qualities of the narrative are portrayed so subtly that they it feels unnervingly authentic. This high concept narrative takes its audience on a rapidly-paced and perplexing journey that is sure to make some heads spin, but it is totally worth the wackadoodle trip. (Check out my 9 out of 10 review of The One I Love from Sundance 2014.)


    Ping Pong Summer (Michael Tully | 92 min.)
    NY Premiere

    As Ping Pong Summer borrows faithfully from the oh-so-cheesy, coming-of-age films of the 1980s, writer-director Michael Tully reveals an unabashed fondness for the genre’s formulaic conventions and standard touchstones. It is as if Tully is asking the audience to reexamine these narrative devices culled from 1980s cinema via our own modern perspective. In retrospect, the plot may seem just as ridiculous as the graphics of vintage arcade games, cassette-deck boom boxes, parachute pants and Pixy Stix; or, the narrative structure may conjure up the very same charmingly nostalgic memories as the 1980s production design. For better or worse, Ping Pong Summer is precisely what my generation believes a coming-of-age story should be. (Check out my 7 out of 10 review of Ping Pong Summer from Sundance 2014.)


    We Are The Best (Lukas Moodysson | 90 min.)
    Special Sneak Preview

    Not unfamiliar with telling stories from a female vantage point (Show Me Love, Lilya 4-Ever), Lukas Moodysson is able to maintain the unique perspective of the graphic novel. Moodysson seems to truly understand the underlying bonds between Bobo and Klara, while skillfully refraining from overdramatizing their relationship. Other than some venomous insults from the peanut gallery, their tomboyish style is not a stereotypical reflection of their sexuality. Bobo, Klara and Hedvig never seem to question their gender; instead, it is their unwavering confidence in themselves that allows them to proudly not adhere to the conformist notion of beauty. Moodysson also allows the girls to wear their adolescent naiveté like a badge of honor, perhaps recognizing that it was a similar naiveté that produced such great female punk bands as The Raincoats, The Slits and LiLiPUT/Kleenex. (Check out my 8 out of 10 review of We Are the Best! from AFI Fest 2013.)


    And, I am looking forward to finally seeing:

    10,000KM (Long Distance) (Carlos Marques-Marcet | 99 min.) Special Sneak Preview

    Separated by 10,000 kilometers, Alexandra and Sergi must rely on virtual communication to keep the flame of their relationship alive. But with their realities no longer shared and the touch of one another gone, the technology that has supposedly brought the world closer together may just tear them apart. (Synopsis by Rooftop Films)

    The Case of the Three Sided Dream (Adam Kahan | 87 min.) Special Sneak Preview

    Multi-instrumentalist, civil rights activist and worshipper at the church of dreams, Rahsaan Roland Kirk overcame blindness, paralysis and social injustice to fundamentally alter the landscape of jazz. (Synopsis by Rooftop Films)

    Cold In July (Jim Mickle | 109 min.) NY Premiere

    Jim Mickle’s Sundance hit is an ostensible thriller-cum-revenge flick, harking back to 80’s b-movies and delicately crafted around a simple premise that turns out to be anything but. (Synopsis by Rooftop Films)

    The Deadly Ponies Gang (Zoe McIntosh | 65 min.) International Premiere

    Clint and Dwayne are two of a kind. The kind that start a pimped-out pony gang (ponies replete with glitter, oversized sunglasses, and bling) on the edges of rural New Zealand. Riding through town the duo deals some drugs, tries to snuggle up to some ladies, and attempts a fundraiser for new teeth while learning the lengths people will go for their mates. (Synopsis by Rooftop Films)

    The Disobedient (Mina Djukic | 112 min.) NY Premiere

    Running through life with wild abandon, lifelong friends Leni and Lazar set out on an improvised countryside bike trip. Like tiny tornadoes they whirl around rural Serbia resulting in the type of destruction that can only come from true, disastrous love. (Synopsis by Rooftop Films)

    Five Star (Keith Miller | 82 min.)

    In a blend of fiction and reality, Five Star (winner of a Rooftop Filmmakers Fund grant) explores the relationship between two men – Primo, a five star general in the Bloods, and John, a young man trying to decide whether gang life is the path for him. As Primo mentors John in the workings of the gang world, a secret threatens both men’s futures. (Synopsis by Rooftop Films)

    Pulp (Florian Habicht | 93 min.) Special Sneak Preview

    One of the greatest bands to come out of the ‘90s is captured in this intimate and imaginative documentary, structured around Pulp’s final concert in their hometown of Sheffield. Pulp is a music-film like no other – at once a concert film, a nostalgic look back at an iconic band, and a thoughtful and sweetly charming tribute to the hometown fans that fell in love with them. (Synopsis by Rooftop Films)

    R100 (Hitoshi Matsumoto | 94 min.) NY Premiere

    When a mild-mannered Japanese mattress salesman joins a hidden, mysterious S&M club that specializes in surprising its clients in public and applying sadistic, sexual torture in any place at any time he soon realizes the price for pleasure may be too high. (Synopsis by Rooftop Films)

    The Search For Emak Bakia (Oskar Alegria | 84 min.) NY Premiere

    In 1926, the Surrealist artist Man Ray created an experimental film titled Emak Bakia, shot along a forgotten stretch of the Basque coast. Today, a filmmaker retraces Man Ray’s steps by foot, using chance and the wind to guide him in this poetic, indefinable documentary. (Synopsis by Rooftop Films)

    She’s Lost Control (Anja Marquardt | 95 min.) Special Sneak Preview

    Focusing on the life of a sex surrogate working in Manhattan, Anja Marquardt’s impressively assured directorial debut casts a penetrating gaze on the complexities of professional intimacy. (Synopsis by Rooftop Films)


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