The 2016 BAMcinemaFest, taking place June 15 to 26, 2016 in Brooklyn, announced its full lineup. The 8th edition of the festival will open with the NY Premiere of Little Men directed by Ira Sachs, and close with the NY Premiere of Dark Night directed by Tim Sutton.
The NY Premiere of Wiener-Dog directed by Todd Solondz will screen as the Centerpiece film; and the NY Premieres of In a Valley of Violence directed by Ti West, and Joshy directed by Jeff Baena, will screen as the Spotlight Films.
2016 BAMcinemaFest Main Slate:
OPENING NIGHT: Little Men (Ira Sachs) NY Premiere Narrative
One of American independent cinema’s most perceptive filmmakers delivers an achingly empathetic drama that confronts the complexities of gentrification. After the death of his father, struggling actor Brian (Oscar nominee Greg Kinnear) inherits a Brooklyn house and moves in with his family. His artistically inclined teenage son Jake finds an inseparable friend in his neighbor Tony, but the strength of their bond is tested when Brian decides to raise the rent on Tony’s mother (Paulina Garcia, who won the Silver Bear for her performance in 2013’s Gloria), a Chilean immigrant who runs a dress shop on the ground floor. Suffused with hard-won compassion and honesty, this follow-up to 2014’s acclaimed Love Is Strange captures the joy and pain of coming of age in a rapidly changing neighborhood. A Magnolia Pictures release, scheduled for theatrical release on August 5.
CLOSING NIGHT: Dark Night (Tim Sutton) NY Premiere Narrative
Brooklyn filmmaker Tim Sutton (Memphis, BAMcinemaFest 2014; Pavilion, BAMcinemaFest 2012), called “among the country’s most intriguing cinematic anthropologists” (Variety), returns with this uncompromising portrait of American violence and alienation. Loosely inspired by the multiplex shooting that devastated Aurora, Colorado, in 2012, Sutton’s third film observes six strangers as their lives intersect at the site of imminent brutality. Boasting evocative cinematography by Hélène Louvart (Pina, The Wonders) and a haunting score by Maica Armata, Dark Night is an impressionistic journey into the dread lurking beneath the placid surface of suburban life.
CENTERPIECE: Wiener-Dog (Todd Solondz) NY Premiere Narrative
Two decades into a career of mining the varieties of human dysfunction, celebrated independent filmmaker Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness) casts new light on the grotesque suburban landscape through the eyes of man’s best friend. As a hapless female Daschund makes her way through a series of troubled owners—including a failed screenwriter (Danny DeVito), an embittered octogenarian (Ellen Burstyn), and the resurrection of Solondz’s cult heroine Dawn Wiener as a veterinary assistant (Greta Gerwig)—Solondz crafts an outlandish, sometimes surreal portrait of all-American malaise. Elegantly shot by Oscar-nominated cinematographer Edward Lachman (Carol), the latest comedy from one of American cinema’s most uncompromising artists is rich in existential despair, scatological humor, and unexpected compassion. An Amazon Studios/IFC Films release.
SPOTLIGHT: In a Valley of Violence (Ti West) NY Premiere Narrative
Master of slow-burn, retro-cool indie horror Ti West (The House of the Devil) offers his typically gonzo take on the classic revenge Western. Ethan Hawke stars as a mysterious drifter en route to Mexico with his trusty canine companion, who wanders into the desolate desert mining town of Denton. There, a run-in with a smarmy gunslinger (James Ransone)—who happens to be the son of the local marshal (John Travolta)—escalates into increasingly bloody and berserk violence that consumes the entire community. Laced with nigh-surreal touches, a splashy Leone-esque opening credits sequence, and an Ennio Morricone-inflected score, this offbeat, grandly entertaining neo-Spaghetti Western is supremely stylish pulp with a black comic heart. A Focus World release.
SPOTLIGHT: Joshy (Jeff Baena) NY Premiere Narrative
After his engagement suddenly ends, Joshy and a few of his friends decide to take advantage of what was supposed to be his bachelor party in Ojai, California. In their attempt to help Joshy deal with the recent turn of events, the guys turn the getaway into a raucous weekend filled with drugs, booze, debauchery, and hot tubs. Featuring a score by Devendra Banhart and a hilarious ensemble cast—including Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley), Adam Pally (Happy Endings), Jenny Slate (Obvious Child), and acclaimed filmmaker Alex Ross Perry (Queen of Earth, BAMcinemaFest 2015 Centerpiece)—Jeff Baena’s sophomore feature is a wickedly amusing portrayal of male bonding and emotional incompetence. A Lionsgate release.
The Alchemist Cookbook (Joel Potrykus) NY Premiere Narrative
Young outcast Sean (Ty Hickson) has isolated himself in a trailer in the Michigan backwoods, setting out on alchemical pursuits with his cat Kaspar as his sole companion. Filled with disdain for authority, he’s escaped a society that has no place for him, but when he turns to black magic to crack nature’s secret, he rouses a malevolent force that threatens to dismantle both his otherworldly goals and his very being. This micro-budget genre-bender echoes the absurdist, visceral tones in Joel Potrykus’s previous films, Buzzard and Ape, which were showcased in a BAMcinématek retrospective in 2015. An Oscilloscope Laboratories release.
Another Evil (Carson Mell) NY Premiere Narrative
There are spirits in the secluded vacation home of Dan (Steve Zissis) and Mary (Jennifer Irwin). Fed up with this supernatural nuisance, Dan hires Os, a professional exorcist (Mark Proksch) whose fragile emotional state after a recent divorce leads him to cling to his client as a potential new best friend. After a boozy week of bonding, it becomes clear Os answers to a boss much greater than his client, and will go to great lengths to please him. An inventive, risk-taking blend of horror and comedy, Silicon Valley writer Carson Mell’s feature debut explores the unholy mess that emerges when a paranormal infestation is accompanied by a woefully human one.
Author: The JT LeRoy Story (Jeff Feuerzeig) NY Premiere Documentary
Armed with a tortured backstory and some scintillating subject matter, gender-non-conforming teen author JT LeRoy burst onto the literary scene in the late 90s, finding friends and champions among the likes of Winona Ryder, Billy Corgan, and Gus Van Sant. Two novels, one film adaptation, and several media appearances later, this much-publicized wunderkind was exposed as the fabrication of Laura Albert, a Brooklyn mother with a fake British accent and a troubled past of her own. Drawing on tell-all interviews and a wealth of archival material, including an unforgettable phone recording with Courtney Love, Author authoritatively unravels one of the biggest controversies in contemporary American fiction. An Amazon Studios/Magnolia Pictures release.
The Childhood of a Leader (Brady Corbet) North American Premiere Narrative
Independent film mainstay Brady Corbet (Mysterious Skin, Martha Marcy May Marlene) delivers one of the most audacious directorial debuts of the year (winning two major awards at the Venice Film Festival) with this allegory of totalitarianism in the wake of World War I. Loosely inspired by the writings of Jean-Paul Sartre and Margaret MacMillan, The Childhood of a Leader is a nightmarish coming-of-age tale charting the early stirrings of despotism in a French choirboy (chillingly assured newcomer Tom Sweet), whose father is a high-ranking diplomat assisting President Woodrow Wilson in the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Corbet’s ambitious reflection on the dark forces of history features a special appearance by Robert Pattinson and a thunderous orchestral score by avant-garde icon Scott Walker. A Sundance Selects release.
collective:unconscious (Lily Baldwin, Frances Bodomo, Daniel Patrick Carbone, Josephine Decker, Lauren Wolkstein) NY Premiere Narrative
Five of New York’s most innovative independent directors adapt each other’s dreams for the big screen in this ambitious omnibus film. Formally audacious and wildly unpredictable, this cinematic descent into the surreal ranges from the ominous to the absurd: a gym class is conducted from inside a volcano; the Grim Reaper hosts a chilling game show; one man’s risky quest changes a brainwashing tower signal; former prison inmates reflect on their first moments of freedom; and a mother-to-be realizes a beast is growing in her womb. Producer Dan Schoenbrun’s (The School is Watching, BAMcinemaFest 2015) project captures the hypnotic visions that result when gifted filmmakers are given unlimited creativity.
Fraud (Dean Fleischer-Camp) NY Premiere Documentary
While digging through the cyber-heaps of footage readily available on YouTube, filmmaker Dean Fleischer-Camp (Marcel the Shell) came upon over 100 hours of home movie video documenting the birthday parties, afternoons spent at the playground, and mall trips of an unknown American family. Commenting on the fluid natures of digital storytelling and voyeurism, Fleischer-Camp masterfully re-edited the footage to create Fraud, a provocative narrative that paints a wild new portrait of the family and their day-to-day lives. A found-footage film in the truest sense, Fraud explores what happens when a new, unexpected narrative is imposed on the virtual detritus of our lives.
Goat (Andrew Neel) NY Premiere Narrative
Binge drinking, threats of forced bestiality, loads of piss and vomit: Andrew Neel’s dystopian vision of college Greek culture doesn’t skimp on the grotesque details. This unflinching adaptation of Brad Land’s memoir (co-scripted by David Gordon Green) dives into the merciless pledge period at Phi Sigma Mu, the fraternity that sensitive-but-jockish freshman Brad (Ben Schnetzer) hopes to join, and to which his swaggering older brother Brett (Nick Jonas, in a breakthrough performance) proudly belongs. Recently a victim of a car robbery and assault, Brad sets out to reaffirm his masculinity by submitting to the humiliation of the society’s hazing rituals. Cataloging the vagaries of this grueling process, Goat is both an indictment of sadistic machismo and a surprisingly sensitive look at brotherly intimacy. A Film Arcade/Paramount Pictures release.
Kate Plays Christine (Robert Greene) NY Premiere Documentary
In 1974, Florida newscaster Christine Chubbuck made headlines (and became an inspiration for Sidney Lumet’s Network) when she committed suicide on live television. In this Sundance Special Jury Award-winner, actress Kate Lyn Sheil (House of Cards, The Girlfriend Experience) heads to Sarasota to investigate the facts as she prepares to star in “a stylized cheap ’70s soap opera” version of the story that may or may not be in production. Questioning the assumptions that often fuel cinematic recreations of the past, Robert Greene’s latest film is a mercilessly self-interrogating nonfiction thriller that explores the ethical pitfalls of media representation. A Grasshopper Film release.
Little Sister (Zach Clark) NY Premiere Narrative
“Fail to see the tragic, turn it into magic!”—Marilyn Manson. Zach Clark’s (White Reindeer, BAMcinemaFest 2013) fifth feature is an insightful, oddball exploration of family and trauma set during the run-up to the 2008 presidential election. Ex-goth-girl-turned-nun Colleen (Addison Timlin) returns to her childhood home in North Carolina to reconnect with her recently-disfigured military vet brother (Keith Poulson). Though she uprights the cross above her bed upon arrival, her teenage feelings of angst and alienation soon resurface. GWAR dance sessions, awkward mother-daughter conversations (featuring a wildly entertaining Ally Sheedy), and drug-fueled Halloween parties ensue over the course of her visit. Clark “pleasingly meshes a scuzzy digital aesthetic with dreamy pop-art intrusions” (Variety), resulting in a feel-good trip about despair, joy, and everything in between.
Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World (Werner Herzog) NY Premiere Documentary
Indefatigable chronicler of curiosities grand and modest, Werner Herzog sets his latest sights on the most awe-inspiring wonder of our times: the Internet. The virtual world grows exponentially larger—and more invasive, interactive, and dynamic—each day. Comprising interviews with an eclectic selection of subjects—victims of online harassment, video game addicts, advanced robotics engineers, and brilliant pioneers who envision life on Mars—Lo and Behold contemplates the greater implications for humankind. These fascinating snapshots offer avenues through the endless digital expanse, allowing Herzog to ask the big questions about love, morality, and the future. A Magnolia Pictures release.
The Love Witch (Anna Biller) NY Premiere Narrative
“She loved men… to death.” A gorgeous throwback to 60s Technicolor erotic movies, Anna Biller’s tale about a love-starved, murderous witch is wicked feminist fun. Beautiful enchantress Elaine (Samantha Robinson) uses every spell at her disposal in order to make men fall in love with her. Once entranced, however, these would-be lovers reveal themselves as wholly unappealing romantic partners. The body count rises in her luscious gothic Victorian apartment as she disposes of her failures and pines ever more desperately for a worthy sweetheart. Shot and presented on sumptuous, color-soaked 35mm, The Love Witch offers a stylish, fantastical examination of gender and female desire.
Morris from America (Chad Hartigan) NY Premiere Narrative
This heartwarming coming-of-age comedy centers on Morris (Markees Christmas, in an incredible breakout performance), a 13-year-old who has just relocated with his father, Curtis (Craig Robinson), to Heidelberg, Germany. Morris is a complete fish-out-of-water—a self-proclaimed budding Notorious B.I.G. in an EDM world. He falls hard for a cool, rebellious classmate, and sets out against all odds to take the hip-hop world by storm and win the girl of his dreams. Chad Hartigan’s (This is Martin Bonner, BAMcinemaFest 2013) delightfully original take on growing up and finding your voice won two prizes at this year’s Sundance Film Festival: the Waldo Salt Screening Award and a Special Jury Award for Robinson, whose touching, nuanced performance has been receiving tremendous praise. An A24 release.
Newtown (Kim A. Snyder) NY Premiere Documentary
In this devastating documentary, community members of Newtown, Connecticut—police officers, parents, emergency responders, teachers—speak out on the grief and trauma that will weave them together forever. Given exclusive access to the homes of those who lost loved ones in 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, documentarian Kim Snyder captures intimate cycles of mourning and anger, coping and disbelief, electing to document the reverberations one act of violence can have on a town and its residents. This compassionate portrait suggests that while grief echoes far and wide, the collective conscience of this heartbroken town is also bonded by empathy, resilience, and hope.
Radio Dreams (Babak Jalali) NY Premiere Narrative
In this Rotterdam Film Festival award-winning comedy, beloved singer-songwriter Mohsen Namjoo—often hailed as “the Bob Dylan of Iran”—stars as Hamid, an esteemed author who moves to San Francisco and makes a career shift as the director at a financially struggling Farsi-language radio station. With his Einstein-ian shock of hair and cantankerous disposition, he presides over a resolutely uncommercial program, whose owners hope to cash in with an on-air jam session featuring Afghan rock band Kabul Dreams and their longtime idols, Metallica. Charting the course of a day at the station’s claustrophobic offices, where the staff wait anxiously for the arrival of Metallica—whose drummer Lars Ulrich ultimately makes a special appearance—Radio Dreams explores art, commerce, and assimilation with a deft blend of deadpan humor and melancholy.
Slash (Clay Liford) NY Premiere Narrative
Fifteen-year-old Neil (Michael Johnston) is both a shy, questioning high-school freshman and a burgeoning author of slash fiction—steamy stories written with a homoerotic bent about iconic characters in fantasy and sci-fi pop culture. When his writing is involuntarily shared at school, Neil is ostracized by everyone in the community save uninhibited classmate Julia (Hannah Marks). A fellow erotic writer, Julia encourages him to share his prose about Vanguard, the hyper-masculine hero of a major sci-fi franchise who, with Neil’s help, has explosive pansexual encounters across the galaxy. Clay Liford’s (My Mom Smokes Weed, BAMcinemaFest, 2010; Wuss; Earthling) compassionate exploration of adolescence, fandom, and sexuality finds its heroes discovering the courage it takes to be their most authentic selves.
Spa Night (Andrew Ahn) NY Premiere Narrative
Andrew Ahn’s debut feature is an atmospheric journey through the churches, karaoke bars, and 24-hour spas of Los Angeles’ Korean immigrant community. Tight-lipped 18-year-old David Cho (Sundance Award winner Joe Seo) struggles to balance the pressures of college admissions with the odd jobs he takes to help his financially struggling parents. When a gig at an all-male spa gives him his first glimpse at an underworld of gay hookups, he begins to explore his burgeoning sexual desires. Interweaving family drama with scenes of frank eroticism, this luminously shot drama upends clichés of the gay coming-of-age film. A Strand release.
A Stray (Musa Syeed) NY Premiere Narrative
On the run from a host of misfortunes, Somali immigrant Adan (Barkhad Abdirahman, Captain Phillips) finds himself on the streets of Minneapolis after his mother kicks him out and his friends deny him refuge. His prospects start looking up when he finds shelter and a new job at a local mosque, but he’s evicted when he brings in a stray dog, whose presence is deemed impure by members of the Muslim community. Homeless again, he must navigate the pressures brought on by his newfound faith, past friends and an old flame, and an FBI agent who hopes to enlist him as an informant. Gritty and beautifully shot, Musa Syeed’s sophomore feature is a moving look at the Twin Cities’ underrepresented refugee community.
Suited (Jason Benjamin) NY Premiere Documentary
The HBO documentary film Suited, directed by Jason Benjamin, spotlights Bindle & Keep, a tailoring company based in Brooklyn that caters to the LGBTQ community, creating custom-made suits for gender non-conforming and transgender clients. From Derek, a groom-to-be, to Everett, a law student in a conservative environment, to Mel, who simply wants to look good for her 40th birthday party—the need for well-fitting garments represents deeper meaning around identity and empowerment. Produced by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner, the film documents a cultural shift that is creating a new demand—and response—for each person’s right to go out into the world with confidence. Courtesy of HBO Documentary Films.
Tiny: The Life of Erin Blackwell (Martin Bell) NY Premiere Documentary
Thirty-two years after the landmark documentary Streetwise introduced viewers to an indelible teenage girl known as Tiny—then a 14-year-old prostitute living on the streets of Seattle—director Martin Bell revisits the tumultuous life of Erin Blackwell. Chronicling her rocky path from drug addiction and poverty to an all-too-fragile stability as the mother of ten children, this intimate follow-up—produced by the late, legendary photographer Mary Ellen Mark, who chronicled Blackwell’s life for 32 years—is a compassionate portrait of a woman scarred by life, but who remains resilient.
A Woman, A Part (Elisabeth Subrin) North American Premiere Narrative
Forty-something, Ritalin-dependent TV star Anna Baskin (Sons of Anarchy, Mad Men and Billions’ Maggie Siff) is in emotional freefall. In the hopes of escaping her Emmy-winning screen persona, she impulsively walks off the set of her LA show and flies back to New York. Squatting in her old rent stabilized Brooklyn apartment, she makes awkward attempts to reconnect with friends from her old theater company, unleashing unresolved dynamics from the past. Multidisciplinary artist Elisabeth Subrin, whose credits include critically acclaimed films and installations such as Lost Tribes and Promised Lands (2010) and Shulie (1997), makes her narrative feature debut with this “poignant and compelling” (Artforum) examination of sexism, professional burnout, and the porous boundary between our authentic and performed selves.