BAM unveiled the lineup for the tenth annual BAMcinemaFest taking place June 20 to July 18, 2018. Opening this year’s festival on Wednesday, June 20 is the head-spinningly surreal debut from musician-turned-filmmaker Boots Riley, Sorry to Bother You. Struggling to make ends meet in Oakland, CA, Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) lands a job as a RegalView telemarketer. Realizing perfecting his “white voice” is the key to his monetary success, Green soon discovers it’s not without considerable consequences. Also starring Armie Hammer as RegalView’s callous CEO and a beguiling Tessa Thompson as Green’s activist-artist love interest.
This year’s Closing Night selection on Saturday, June 30 is the New York premiere of Brooklyn filmmaker Josephine Decker’s third feature, Madeline’s Madeline. It stars writer/actor/director Miranda July as single mother Regina and dazzling young newcomer Helena Howard as her daughter Madeline. The film chronicles a volatile mother-daughter relationship which slowly intensifies with Madeline’s participation in an improvisational theater class led by an unscrupulous stage director (played by Molly Parker).
This year’s Centerpiece selection is Leave No Trace. Eight years after Winter’s Bone, director Debra Granik returns with an arresting portrait of a father and daughter living a transient lifestyle off the grid. Starring Ben Foster and newcomer Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie in a mesmerizing breakout performance, Leave No Trace is a Bleeker Street release.
This year’s Spotlight selections are Eighth Grade and Crime + Punishment. Bo Burnham’s much talked about Sundance film Eighth Grade follows 13-year-old Kayla (a riveting portrayal by newcomer Elsie Fisher), who, just having been awarded the status of ‘Most Quiet’ by her peers, ironically finds a voice in making inspirational videos for teens on YouTube. At once unflinchingly honest and unfailingly empathetic, Burnham’s auspicious directorial debut is as relatable as it is hilarious. Eighth Grade is an A24 release. Stephen Maing’s Crime + Punishment is a galvanizing documentary chronicling 12 New York Police Department minority officers who risk everything, speaking out against the continued use of quotas that unfairly target young black and Hispanic men. With unprecedented fly-on-the-wall access, the film exposes racism, corruption, and intimidation within the NYPD. Crime + Punishment is a Film Collaborative release.
Kasi Lemmons’ Eve’s Bayou (1997) has been selected as the festival’s free, outdoor screening happening on Thursday, June 28 at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Relayed through the eyes of 10-year-old Eve (Jurnee Smollett), this Southern Gothic saga transpires over the course of a Louisiana summer after Eve discovers her picture-perfect family is something else entirely.
The BAMcinemaFest main slate includes 20 feature films, with three world and two North American premieres, as well as nine documentary titles. The world premieres include Chained for Life, Feast of the Epiphany, and Two Plains & a Fancy. Aaron Schimberg’s Chained for Life is a reflexive look at the making of a controversial art film, with a heartbreaking performance by Adam Pearson (Under the Skin), featuring familiar faces from BAMcinemaFest’s past. Feast of the Epiphany, by film critic Michael Koresky and BAMcinemaFest alums Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman (Remote Area Medical) explores metaphysical connections among guests at an urban dinner party in the wake of a loss. BAMcinemaFest alums Whitney Horn and Lev Kalman (L is For Leisure) return with Two Plains & a Fancy, a spa-Western-comedy following three hapless tourists as they encounter ghosts, time travelers, and lonesome cowboys.
This year’s BAMcinemaFest includes two short film programs, one comprising six narrative short films. The second, a documentary shorts program, is paired with the North American premiere of Lizzie Olesker and Lynne Sachs’ documentary The Washing Society, about the behind-the-scenes labor involved in the laundromat industry. Penny Lane’s documentary The Pain of Others, about controversial Morgellons disease sufferers, is the festival’s second North American premiere, and screens with the short film The Water Slide (Nathan Truesdell).
2018 BAMcinemaFest Lineup
“A Boy. A Girl. A Dream” (Qasim Basir) NY Premiere Narrative
The boy is Cass (Omari Hardwick), an LA nightclub promoter whose once-promising filmmaking career has been put on hold. The girl is Frida (Meagan Good), a lawyer visiting from the Midwest, whom he meets on election night 2016. The dream is what unfolds before our eyes in one seemingly continuous, hallucinatory take as the two navigate a will-they or won’t-they mutual attraction; open up to one another about their hopes and disappointments; and—along with the rest of the world—begin to process the momentous political sea change washing over America, all in the course of a single evening. More than just a dazzling technical achievement, A Boy. A Girl. A Dream. takes viewers on a profound emotional journey as it explores how everything can change in an instant. A Samuel Goldwyn Films release.
“América” (Erick Stoll & Chase Whiteside) NY Premiere Documentary
When we first meet Diego—the magnetic emotional center of this sunny, warmhearted family portrait— he’s unicycling around a town square, disco-strutting on stilts, and beach-bumming around Puerto Vallarta. But when his frail but sweet-natured 93-year-old grandmother, América, is suddenly left without a caretaker, Diego—along with his two equally acrobatic brothers—leaves behind his laid-back life to return to his home in Colima, Mexico. In images at once meticulously composed and bursting with vitality, filmmakers Chase Whiteside and Erick Stoll celebrate the selflessness of caregiving and the infinite love coursing between generations.
“Bisbee ‘17” (Robert Greene) NY Premiere Documentary
A town’s traumatic past reverberates into the present in this stirring, complex look at American struggle and resistance. In 1917, the copper mining workers of Bisbee, Arizona—many of them immigrants—went on strike to fight for safer working conditions. In response, a posse of 2,000 men rounded up 1,200 strikers, dumped them in the desert, and effectively exiled them from the town forever. One hundred years later, Bisbee’s residents prepare to reenact this dark episode—a sort of historical exorcism that brings to light contemporary tensions between labor and management, union-building and capitalism, immigrants and nationalists. Directed with rousing cinematic flair by Robert Greene (Kate Plays Christine, BAMcinemaFest 2016), Bisbee ’17 resurrects a neglected slice of American history and connects it to our own urgent political moment. Co-presented with Rooftop Films.
“Chained for Life” (Aaron Schimberg) World Premiere Narrative
Building on the promise of his hallucinogenic debut Go Down Death, Brooklyn filmmaker Aaron Schimberg delivers another brilliantly oddball, acerbically funny foray into gonzo surrealism. In a deft tragicomic performance, Jess Weixler (Teeth) plays Mabel, a movie star “slumming it” in an outré art- horror film being shot in a semi-abandoned hospital. Cast opposite her is Rosenthal (Under the Skin’s Adam Pearson), a gentle-natured young man with a severe facial deformity. As their relationship evolves both on and offscreen, Schimberg raises provocative questions about cinematic notions of beauty, representation, and exploitation. Tod Browning crossed with Robert Altman crossed with David Lynch only begins to describe something this startlingly original and deeply felt.
“Crime + Punishment” (Stephen Maing) NY Premiere Documentary
This galvanizing documentary goes behind the scenes and undercover to expose racism, corruption, and intimidation within the New York Police Department. Shot between 2014 and 2017, Crime + Punishment chronicles the efforts of the NYPD 12, a band of minority officers who speak out against the continued use of arrest and summons quotas—an officially illegally practice that overwhelmingly targets young black and Hispanic men. Putting their careers on the line, the officers mount a David vs. Goliath legal challenge—only to find themselves weathering harassment and retaliation from within their own departments. With remarkable, fly-on-the-wall access, director Stephen Maing crafts a jolting 21st-century Serpico that unfolds with the verve and style of a Hollywood policier.
“Clara’s Ghost” (Bridey Elliot) NY Premiere Narrative
Families don’t get much more poisonous than the one at the center of this pitch-black, disturbingly funny nightmare comedy. Casting her own family as the gruesome clan in question, Bridey Elliott chronicles one epic night of debauchery in the Reynolds household as monstrously superficial daughters Julie and Riley (former SNL cast member Abby Elliott & the filmmaker)—former child stars à la Mary-Kate and Ashley— return home to Connecticut to celebrate their dog’s birthday with ham actor father Ted (comedian Chris Elliott) and harried mother Clara (Paula Niedert Elliott). As the vodka flows, things go from scathingly hilarious to increasingly unsettling—especially when Clara begins communing with a spirit. Something like Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence played as an unsparing cringe comedy, Clara’s Ghost heralds the arrival of Bridey Elliott as a bold new directorial voice.
“Distant Constellation” (Shevaun Mizrahi) NY Premiere Documentary
This hushed, hypnotic documentary floats ghost-like through the rooms and corridors of an Istanbul retirement home, an uncanny alternate reality where time seems to stand still as the world outside changes rapidly. Director Shevaun Mizrahi’s observant camera bears witness to the testimonies of the home’s residents: an aging roué who speaks about his sexual escapades in 1950s Paris; a hunched-over woman scarred by memories of the Armenian genocide; a former photographer now losing his sight. By turns tragic, humorous, and surreal, Distant Constellation is a meditation on time, memory, and the endless human cycle of life and death.
“Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” (Gus Van Sant) NY Premiere Narrative
Joaquin Phoenix adds to his impressive roster of transformative, totally committed performances with this irresistibly offbeat charmer from Gus Van Sant. Based on the memoirs of puckishly irreverent Portland cartoonist John Callahan (Phoenix), the film traces Callahan’s journey towards self-actualization after a car accident leaves him paralyzed and forces him to confront his alcohol addiction. Aided by a uniquely colorful AA support group, he finds redemption in art and in his own brilliantly warped imagination. Boasting scene-stealing supporting performances from Jonah Hill, Jack Black, and Rooney Mara—along with memorable turns by Kim Gordon, musician Beth Ditto, and cult fave Udo Kier—Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot is as skewed, funny, and inspirational as its subject.
“Eighth Grade” (Bo Burnham) NY Premiere Narrative
Comedian Bo Burnham makes the leap to filmmaker with this refreshingly real, sharply observed, and devastatingly funny look at growing up in the age of Snapchat. In a naturalistic breakout performance, Elsie Fisher stars as Kayla, a social media-hooked 13-year-old who projects confidence and cool on her barely watched YouTube channel, but in real life is painfully shy, endearingly awkward, and practically invisible to her classmates. With high school just around the corner, can she reconcile her online persona with her real self? At once unflinchingly honest and unfailingly empathetic, Burnham’s auspicious directorial debut is as relatable as it is hilarious.
“Feast of the Epiphany” (Michael Koresky, Jeff Reichert & Farihah Zaman) World Premiere Narrative/Documentary
Two halves form a harmonious whole in this ingenious documentary-narrative shape-shifter. In part one, Abby, a 20-something Brooklynite, prepares to throw an intimate dinner party, a meticulously planned evening that takes an unexpected turn when the guest of honor shows up and raw emotions rise to the surface. Then suddenly, audaciously, we are whisked away to an altogether different reality—one that both deepens and challenges our understanding of what came before. Hinging on this daring gambit, Feast of the Epiphany blossoms into a subtly profound reminder that behind every story are a multitude of others waiting to be told.
“The Gospel of Eureka” (Michael Palmieri & Donal Mosher) NY Premiere Documentary
Welcome to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, a one-of-a-kind oasis in the Ozarks where Christian piety rubs shoulders with a thriving queer community. Narrated with homespun humor by Mx Justin Vivian Bond, this lushly photographed documentary spotlights the space where the town’s seemingly contradictory factions intersect: Lee and Walter, out and proud husband-owners of a local gay bar they liken to a “hillbilly Studio 54,” talk about their deep-seated faith; a Christian t-shirt designer describes his love for his gay father; and everything comes together in a show-stopping mash-up of a spectacular passion play and raucous drag show. The result is a joyously offbeat slice of Americana that breaks down the red-state-blue-state divide.
“Leave No Trace” (Debra Granik) NY Premiere Narrative
Eight years after Winter’s Bone, Debra Granik returns with another arresting portrait of life on the margins featuring a mesmerizing breakout performance from a young actress to watch. Will (Ben Foster), a veteran wrestling with PTSD, and his teenage daughter Tom (newcomer Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie) live in a makeshift campsite in the Oregon wilderness, cut off from nearly all human contact and surviving by their wits. When social services intervenes, their harmonious isolation—and the deep bond between them—is threatened. With clear-eyed naturalism and an unwavering compassion for her outsider subjects, Granik creates a tough, tender, and deeply moving look at a father and daughter searching for their own idea of home.
“Madeline’s Madeline” (Josephine Decker) NY Premiere Narrative
One of independent cinema’s most exciting new voices, Josephine Decker (Thou Wast Mild and Lovely, BAMcinemaFest 2014) continues to push boundaries with her thrillingly visceral third feature, set in New York’s experimental theater scene. This tour-de-force head trip evokes the fractured psyche of an unstable teenage girl (riveting newcomer Helena Howard), whose rocky relationship with her mother (Miranda July) splinters as the girl comes under the influence of an exploitative stage director (Molly Parker).
“Minding the Gap” (Bing Liu) NY Premiere Documentary
In his emotionally stunning debut feature, rising documentary talent Bing Liu reimagines the skate video as a vehicle for raw personal expression. Minding the Gap opens with Liu’s dynamic camera gliding along the streets of Rockford, Illinois, a struggling post-industrial city where the filmmaker and his longtime friends Keire and Zack find community in a close-knit band of fellow skateboarders. But skating is just a respite from their tumultuous lives at home. As Liu digs deeper into his friends’ personal demons, he hits upon a shared thread of troubled masculinity, domestic abuse, and fractured families—building powerfully towards a bracing confrontation with his own past.
“The Pain of Others” (Penny Lane) North American Premiere Documentary
It begins with crawling sensations beneath the skin. Sores erupt. Then wiry, multicolored fibers sprout forth from the lesions—seemingly the outgrowths of an alien parasite. It’s called Morgellons disease and thousands around the world purport to suffer from it. The problem: the medical community at large says it isn’t real, attributing the epidemic to psychosomatic delusion spread by internet-fueled paranoia. In this provocative found-footage work, director Penny Lane assembles clips from YouTube videos uploaded by people who believe they are afflicted: wrenching face-to-face encounters with anguish both physical and mental. The result is a chilling deep dive into mass hysteria in the internet age.
“Polly: Recent Films and Collaborations by Kevin Jerome Everson” (Kevin Jerome Everson) North American Premiere Narrative/Documentary
Journeying from 16th-century Florence to the 2017 solar eclipse, the latest films from the restlessly inventive, ultra-prolific experimentalist Kevin Jerome Everson blend past and present, documentary and reenactment to illuminate hidden fragments of black life and history.
“Relaxer” (Joel Potrykus) NY Premiere Narrative
Joel Potrykus (The Alchemist Cookbook, BAMcinemaFest 2016), Michigan’s greatest underground auteur, returns with another gonzo transmission from America’s heartland. Set on the eve of Y2K, Relaxer unfolds almost entirely in a squalid living room where Abbie (the Keatonesque Joshua Burge), commanded by his sadistic brother (David Dastmalchian), takes up a nigh-impossible challenge: beating the all-time Pac-Man high score without leaving the couch until he does. As Abbie’s quest devolves into a months-long absurdist nightmare, Potrykus guides this daringly demented black comedy into increasingly disturbing realms. The result is a grungy, noxiously funny vision of Gen X complacency hurtling towards oblivion.
“Shirkers” (Sandi Tan) NY Premiere Documentary
In 1992, Sandi Tan was a film-obsessed teenage punk when she and her two best friends made a New Wave-inspired, feminist slasher movie, shot guerrilla style on the streets of Singapore. Then Georges, her enigmatic American mentor, absconded with the footage, never to be seen again. Twenty-five years later, Tan revisits the episode, interweaving the newly rediscovered footage with her search for answers: Who was Georges? And what drove him to steal her art? Working in a charmingly lo-fi, handmade-collage style, Tan turns the central mystery of her life into a captivating essay on friendship, cinephilia, and the dashed dreams of youth. A Netflix release.
“Skate Kitchen” (Crystal Moselle) NY Premiere Narrative
Crystal Moselle follows up her Sundance Grand Prize-winning documentary hit The Wolfpack with her equally impressive narrative debut. Inspired by and starring real-life members of New York City’s hippest all-girl skate crew, Skate Kitchen follows the journey of Camille (Rachelle Vinberg), a Long Island teen whose fraught home life and passion for skateboarding lead her to the Lower East Side. There, she finds her Eden among a band of street-savvy fellow female shredders—but the complexities of love and friendship threaten to upset their sisterhood. Propelled by the cool girl charisma of its leads, this authentic deep-dive into a vibrant youth subculture plays like a blissed-out, female-powered Kids for today’s New York. A Magnolia Pictures release.
“Sorry to Bother You” (Boots Riley) NY Premiere Narrative
The audacious, deliriously inventive debut from musician-turned-filmmaker Boots Riley marks the arrival of one of American cinema’s most exhilarating new talents. “Use your white voice.” With that simple piece of advice, stuck-on-the-bottom-rung telemarketer Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) goes from living in his uncle’s garage to rocketing up the corporate ladder as the company’s newest rising star “power caller.” But just what is he selling? Abetted by game performances from Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, and Armie Hammer as a crazed capitalist super-villain, Riley blends head-spinning surrealism with bomb-throwing sociopolitical satire for a cracked and brilliant anarcho-comedy that keeps topping its own craziness. An Annapurna release.
“Support the Girls” (Andrew Bujalski) NY Premiere Narrative
With a huge amount of heart and a healthy sprinkling of irreverent one-liners, Andrew Bujalski (Computer Chess, BAMcinemaFest 2013; Beeswax, BAMcinemaFest 2009) crafts a funny, human portrait of women banding together to get it done. Lisa (Regina Hall)—the fiercely devoted manager of Double Whammies, a Hooters-like Houston sports bar—has a seemingly superhuman ability to handle whatever life throws at her. On this particular day, that means protecting her staff from lecherous men, dealing with an attempted robbery, raising money for a waitress in trouble, and contending with Double Whammies’ unseemly owner, all while keeping the restaurant running smoothly. Buoyed by a magnificent performance from Regina Hall, this deceptively breezy comedy folds serious issues of sexism, racism, and capitalism into a generous tribute to female friendship and empowerment.
“The Task” (Leigh Ledare) NY Premiere Documentary
Twenty-eight strangers shuffle into a nondescript room where they sit down for day three of a radical social experiment orchestrated by taboo-breaking artist Leigh Ledare. Veering between brutal honesty, righteous indignation, manipulative caginess, and suspicion of the inscrutable “task” at hand, the participants—spread across race, age, gender, and class lines—relentlessly analyze each and every interaction that passes between them until even an act as small as changing one’s seat becomes charged with explosive tension. Provocative, at times uncomfortable, and always riveting, The Task is an unsettling mirror reflection of our societal fault lines.
“Two Plains & a Fancy” (Lev Kalman & Whitney Horn) World Premiere Narrative
BAMcinemaFest alums Lev Kalman and Whitney Horn (L for Leisure, 2014) return with this deliciously deadpan, lo-fi acid-western comedy. Colorado, 1893: a trio of New York city slickers—a hippy-dippy mystic (Marianna McClellan), a French geologist (Laetitia Dosch), and a foppish artist (Benjamin Crotty)— wander the desert in search of the relaxing waters of the hot springs, along the way encountering from- the-future time travelers, kinky sex ghosts, spirit cats, and a pair of surprisingly fashionable cowboys. Shot on shimmering, sun-splashed 16mm, this hallucinogenic Old West road movie meanders in a blissful stoner haze from the wryly funny to the cosmic.
“The Washing Society” (Lizzie Olesker & Lynne Sachs) North American Premiere Documentary
When you drop off a bag of dirty laundry, who’s doing the washing and folding? Mixing revealing interviews with poetic performance, filmmaker Lynne Sachs and playwright Lizzie Olesker go behind the scenes of New York City’s laundromats to uncover the hidden labor that goes into cleaning your clothes— a story that intersects with history, immigration, race, community, and capitalism.
“Wild Nights with Emily” (Madeleine Olnek) NY Premiere Narrative
According to received wisdom, Emily Dickinson was a fragile recluse who spent her life holed up in her childhood home, a shrinking violet spinster too timid to publish her poems. Forget all that. In this delightfully funny historical burlesque, Madeleine Olnek (The Foxy Merkins, BAMcinemaFest 2014) offers a refreshing, much-needed reappraisal of Dickinson (Molly Shannon) as an ambitious, vivacious rebel whose passionate, lifelong love affair with childhood friend and later sister-in-law Susan Gilbert (Susan Ziegler) fueled her creativity. Balancing irreverent humor with a tender love story, Wild Nights With Emily challenges the sexist historical record, brilliantly reclaiming the writer’s reputation as a lesbian icon and a feminist trailblazer.
“Are You Tired of Forever?” 6min NY Premiere—Experimental
Directed by Caitlin Craggs
A schizoid self-portrait writ in a day-glo kaleidoscope of stop-motion cutouts, picnic food, jellified brains, and sprinkles.
“Black 14” 15min NY Premiere—Documentary
Directed by Darius Clark Monroe
In 1969, a group of fourteen black football players at the University of Wyoming took a stand against racism in college athletics—and paid the price for speaking out. A tribute to the fearlessness of those who paved the way for today’s activist athletes.
“Creature Companion” 30min North American Premiere—Narrative/Experimental
Directed by Melika Bass
Over the course of languorous summer days and nights, two women enter into a twitchy, sensuous symbiosis in this hypnotic performance piece.
“Edgecombe” 15min World Premiere—Documentary
Directed by Crystal Kayiza
Three snapshots of black life in Edgecombe County, North Carolina, a place where the racial injustices of the past continue into the present.
“Fucked Like a Star” 8min NY Premiere—Experimental
Directed by Stefani Saintonge
A poetic meditation on women’s work and the dreamlife of ants set to the words of Toni Morrison.
“Hair Wolf” 12min—Narrative Directed by Mariama Diallo
There’s something strange in the neighborhood salon… She’s white, she wants braids, and she will touch your black hair.
“Reenactment” 8min NY Premiere—Narrative/Experimental
Directed by Young Jean Lee
A no-nonsense police report becomes a harrowing, flesh-and-blood encounter with domestic violence and toxic masculinity.
“To Be Free” 12min NY Premiere—Narrative
Directed by Adepero Oduye
Nina Simone takes the stage for a defiant, soul-stirring performance.
“The Water Slide” 9min NY Premiere—Documentary (screens with The Pain of Others)
Directed by Nathan Truesdell
News clips and promotional videos tell the chilling story of how the building of an amusement park water slide led to an American tragedy.
“What We Have Built” 19min—Documentary
Directed by Adrián Gutiérrez & Grace Remington
A group of immigrants living in the Bronx join forces to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to improve their hometown in Mexico. A story of community, collective action, and the meaning of home.