Rooftop Films announced the feature films selected for 23rd Summer Series to run from May 17th to August 23rd. Films include Brittany Runs a Marathon, celebrated playwright Paul Downs Colaizzo’s Sundance smash that took home the fest’s U.S. Dramatic Audience Award; Tali Shalom-Ezer’s My Days of Mercy, starring Ellen Page, Kate Mara and Amy Seimetz; Mickey and the Bear, Annabelle Attanasio’s Montana-set drama starring Camila Morrone; Alex Thompson’s SXSW Audience Award winner, Saint Frances; Michael Tyburski’s strikingly unique Rooftop Filmmakers Fund grantee, The Sound of Silence, starring Peter Sarsgaard and Rashida Jones; Tom Cullen’s devastating directorial debut, Pink Wall, starring Tatiana Maslany and Jay Duplass; Premature, Rashaad Ernesto Green’s fresh portrait of New York love; Samantha Buck & Marie Schlingmann’s playfully irreverent Sister Aimee; and Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe’s suburban black comedy, Greener Grass.
“Last year, all of us at Rooftop Films dedicated ourselves to more inventive programming, adding more integrated musical performances, and we searched the far corners of the city to add several new, spectacular venues. The result was record-breaking attendance numbers and our most enthusiastic audience reaction to date,” said Dan Nuxoll, Artistic Director of Rooftop Films. “This year we’re building on that success and working to turn every single screening into a truly one-of-a-kind event. We’re thrilled with our slate this year, and the wide variety of films and specially curated enhancements should make this Summer Series our most memorable yet.”
Rooftop Films describe the Summer Series as more than a Film Festival, but an independent film celebration, with live musical performances, after-parties, and additional enhancements throughout the summer. Special activations this year include a special free presentation of Melvin Van Peebles’ ground-breaking classic Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song in Fort Greene Park, with a live score performance by Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber; a Green-Wood Cemetery-set screening of Brandon Vedder’s documentary Strange Negotiations, followed by a special post-show Q&A and performance by Pedro the Lion frontman, David Bazan; Sonic Youth: NYC & Beyond, a New York-specific collection of film and videos from their private archives curated by members of the band and archivist Aaron Mullan; and as always, the Summer Series brings the triumphant return of several Rooftop Filmmakers’ Fund Grantees, including Michael Tyburski (The Sound of Silence), Petra Costa (The Edge of Democracy), and more.
ROOFTOP FILMS 2019 SUMMER SERIES – Feature Films
Anbessa (Mo Scarpelli)
A brand new condominium has shot up in the Ethiopian countryside, pushing farmers off their land for the construction, promising thousands of others a “better” way of life. Anbessa follows one boy caught between the two as he navigates modernization on his own terms in order to survive in a brave new world.
Brittany Runs a Marathon (Paul Downs Colaizzo)
Brittany Forgler is a funny, likeable, 27-year-old hot mess of a New Yorker whose trashy nightclub adventures and early-morning walks of shame make her late for work every day. But when she stops by a Yelp recommended doctor’s office in an attempt to score Adderall, Brittany gets handed a series of diagnoses instead—elevated heart rate, high blood pressure … the list goes on. Suddenly forced to get a grip, Brittany laces up her Converse sneakers and runs one sweaty block. The next day, she runs two. Soon she runs a mile. Brittany finally has direction—but is she on the right path? Award-winning playwright Paul Downs Colaizzo makes his directorial debut with this bright, brisk comedy, with Jillian Bell leading an irresistible cast that infuses Brittany’s story with heart and soul. Brittany Runs a Marathon is a film as entertaining as it is inspirational, the tale of how a woman known for being the life of the party finds real friends—and a real life—by taking control of her herself, one city block at a time. An Amazon Studios Release.
Desolation Center (Stuart Swezey)
Desolation Center is the untold story of a series of Reagan-era guerrilla music and art performance happenings in Southern California, recognized as the inspirations for Burning Man, Lollapalooza and Coachella, paving the way for these collective experiences that have become a crucial part of alternative culture in the 21st century. The feature documentary combines interviews and rare performance footage of Sonic Youth, Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Swans, Redd Kross, Einstürzende Neubauten, Survival Research Laboratories, Savage Republic and more; documenting a time when pushing the boundaries of music, art, and performance felt almost like an unspoken obligation. Directed by the creator and principal organizer of the events, Stuart Swezey, Desolation Center is the true story of how the risky, and at times even reckless, actions of a few outsiders can unintentionally lead to seismic cultural shifts.
The Edge of Democracy (Petra Costa)
As a child in 1985, filmmaker Petra Costa (Elena, Olma and the Seagull) saw democracy take root in Brazil following years of authoritarian rule under a military dictatorship. Gaining unprecedented access to working-party leaders Lula de Silva and his protégée Dilma Rousseff, Costa traces the downfall of both democratic leaders following corruption scandals that resulted in the impeachment of Rousseff and the imprisonment of de Silva. Merging the personal and the political, Costa delves to the heart of her country’s unfolding identity crisis, examining widespread institutional corruption while connecting her own family’s complex past to Brazil’s current crisis. Capturing a unique historical moment, The Edge of Democracy examines the forces at play in the global erosion of democracy. A Netflix release.
Goldie (Sam de Jong)
Goldie is a star – well, not quite yet, but at least in the eyes of her little sisters Sherrie and Supreme she is. The rest of the world is bound to take note soon too. Her big break surely awaits, she’s just got to pick up that golden fur coat she’s had her eye on first. And land a role as a dancer in a hip-hop video. And keep child welfare services from separating her from Sherrie and Supreme, after their mother is locked up. Holding onto those dreams isn’t easy when fate has placed such daunting obstacles in her path. With Goldie, Dutch director Sam de Jong has delivered a real New York film: raw and glamorous, unflinchingly realistic and relentlessly optimistic, with a ton of heart and at least as much attitude. A Film Movement release.
The Great Hack (Karim Amer & Jehane Noujaim)
Have you ever filled out an online survey? Do you wonder why you receive ads for products that you happened to research the day before? Be afraid. Be very afraid. Data has surpassed oil as the world’s most valuable asset, and it is being weaponized to wage cultural and political wars. We’re in a battle for control over our most intimate personal details. The Great Hackuncovers the dark world of data exploitation through the compelling personal journeys of players on different sides of the explosive Cambridge Analytica/Facebook data breach that rocked the world. A Netflix release.
Greener Grass (Jocelyn DeBoer & Dawn Luebbe)
Greener Grass is a deliciously twisted comedy set in a demented, timeless suburbia where every adult wears braces on their straight teeth, couples coordinate meticulously pressed outfits, and coveted family members are swapped in more ways than one in this competition for acceptance. The film is a twist on everyday suburban life – both a love letter and an “FU” – where the characters make life-altering decisions on a whim and being polite is held to a highest standard, even if it means you go too far. An IFC Films Release.
The Hottest August (Brett Story)
A complex portrait of a city and its inhabitants, The Hottest August gives us a window into the collective consciousness of the present. The film’s point of departure is one city over one month: New York City, including its outer boroughs, during August 2017. It’s a month heavy with the tension of a new President, growing anxiety over everything from rising rents to marching white nationalists, and unrelenting news of either wildfires or hurricanes on every coast. The film pivots on the question of futurity: what does the future look like from where we are standing? And what if we are not all standing in the same place? The Hottest August offers a mirror onto a society on the verge of catastrophe, registering the anxieties, distractions, and survival strategies that preoccupy ordinary lives.
Mickey and the Bear (Annabelle Attanasio)
Faced with the responsibility to take care of her opioid-addicted veteran father, headstrong teen Mickey Peck does what she can to keep her household afloat. When she receives the opportunity to leave her home for good, she must make the impossible decision between familial obligation and personal fulfillment.
Midnight Family (Luke Lorentzen)
The Ochoa family runs a for-profit ambulance in Mexico City, competing with other EMTs for patients in need of urgent help. While making a living in this cutthroat industry, they struggle to keep their financial needs from jeopardizing the people in their care. When a crackdown by corrupt police forces the family to try legitimizing their operation, their desperate financial situation pushes them into questionable practices even as they continue providing essential emergency medical services. In humanizing the Ochoas’ ethically compromised business, Midnight Family explores urgent questions around healthcare, the failings of government and the complexity of personal responsibility. A 1091 Media release.
My Days of Mercy Tali Shalom-Ezer)
For Lucy Morrow (Ellen Page), life stopped the night her mother was murdered, and, eight years later, she’s still waiting for it to start again. Her father was arrested, charged with the killing, and now awaits his execution on death row; however, he has always passionately denied committing the crime. She, her sister (Amy Seimetz), and her brother (Charlie Shotwell) spend several weekends out of the year protesting the death penalty outside of different state executions across the country. It is at one of these protests where Lucy meets Mercy (Kate Mara), a woman her own age who she has an instant attraction to. Mercy is a member of the Homicide Survivors Group – a group of people dedicated to supporting both the families of murder victims and the death penalty itself. Though they belong to opposite sides of what is often a fiercely charged confrontation, Mercy and Lucy quickly become entangled in each other’s lives. A Lionsgate release.
The Pine Barrens (David Scott Kessler)
Within the heart of New Jersey, the most densely populated state in America, a scorched wilderness stands in defiance of the encroaching megalopolis that surrounds it. Once deemed inhospitable; north and south, rural and suburban, harmony and disruption, truth and folklore, all merge and contradict around the stories that unite individuals living among the land. Spanning six years, the film paints a portrait of nature and identity that aims to capture the surreal wonder of the Pinelands during a time when corruption threatens to undermine its few protections. The Pine Barrens is scored live by The Ruins of Friendship Orchestra, a fusion of folk and electronic sounds, creating a layered experience transporting the viewer through this surreal landscape.”
Pink Wall (Tom Cullen)
Six scenes. Six years. Six moments that shaped the relationship of Jenna and Leon. Pink Wall examines what defines us, the pressures of gender expectations, and our perpetual struggle between life and ambition. A 1091 Media release.
Premature (Rashaad Ernesto Green)
Ayanna is making the most out of her last summer in Harlem before heading to college. She’s bold, confident, and not really looking for love—until she meets the slightly older Isaiah. After one of those rare first dates that lasts for hours, she knows there’s something different about him. Ayanna has found herself at an intimidating crossroads: one foot is still under her mother’s roof, while the the other is primed to step out on her own with Isaiah. Rashaad Ernesto Green captures youthful, uninhibited conviction through Ayanna’s world in flux: transitional outbursts at home with her mother, deep and sensuous encounters of intimacy with Isaiah, and moments of unfiltered honesty with her girlfriends. Co-writer and breakout-lead Zora Howard brings complexity to Ayanna, a young woman balancing vulnerability and self-sufficiency. The result is an outspoken portrait of a young woman in transition, anchored by the relationships that shape us, the friendships that bolster and push us, and the love that has the power to change everything. An IFC Films release.
Running with Beto (David Modigliani)
This behind-the-scenes HBO documentary follows Beto O’Rourke’s rise from virtual unknown to national political sensation as he barnstorms across Texas in a bold attempt to unseat Ted Cruz in the US Senate. Embedded with O’Rourke for the final twelve months of his campaign, Running with Beto follows the rising star’s journey in real time through intimate access with the candidate, his family, and a team of political newcomers who champion a new way of getting to know a candidate — one Texas county at a time. Modigliani reveals the challenges and triumphs of an unconventional campaign as Beto navigates an onslaught of negative advertising, inevitable strain on his family, and the pressure of delivering for legions of supporters. This film is creatively and financially independent from Beto O’Rourke and his campaign. An HBO Documentary Films release.
Saint Frances (Alex Thompson)
After her decision to end an unwanted pregnancy, 34-year-old Bridget reluctantly agrees to nanny the bright and rambunctious Frances, forming an unexpected bond with her and her parents.
Sister Aimee (Samantha Buck & Marie Schlingmann)
In 1926 America’s most famous evangelist is a woman. And she’s looking for a way out. Fed up with her own success, she gets swept up in her lover’s daydreams about Mexico and finds herself on a wild road trip towards the border. Based on true events. Mostly made up.
Sonic Youth: NYC and Beyond (Curated by members of Sonic Youth & archivist Aaron Mullan)
As a fixture of the New York music scene for 30 years, Sonic Youth performed in New York City innumerable times, and served as ersatz cultural ambassadors for the city when traveling. As part of the 2019 Rooftop Films programming, Sonic Youth will present a New York-specific collection of film and videos from their private archives. Much of the material to be presented is completely unseen, threaded together with a few items which are out there in the public knowledge but here presented from the best source available to the band. A panel discussion featuring Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley, archivist Aaron Mullan, and more will follow.
The Sound of Silence (Michael Tyburski)
There are a symphony of almost undetectable sounds that make up a moment of silence, and Peter Lucian (Peter Sarsgaard) is determined to catalogue them all. Through his job as a New York City “house tuner,” the hyper-methodical Peter works meticulously to diagnose the discordant ambient noises—produced by everything from wind patterns to humming electrical appliances—adversely affecting his clients’ moods. When he takes on the particularly difficult case of Ellen (Rashida Jones), a lonely woman plagued by chronic exhaustion, Peter finds that the mysteries of the soul may be even greater than the mysteries of sound. A quietly moving portrait of a harmony-obsessed man learning to embrace the dissonances of human emotion, The Sound of Silence invites viewers to hear the world with fresh ears. An IFC Films release.
Strange Negotiations (Brandon Vedder)
After renouncing his long-held Christian beliefs and walking away from his critically-acclaimed band, Pedro the Lion, musician David Bazan retreated into a solitary life of touring solo, struggling to rebuild his worldview and career from the ground-up, and to support his family of four. Strange Negotiations finds David a decade into his journey, during which he has become a sort of reluctant prophet to Americans reeling from their country’s own crisis of faith highlighted during the 2016 presidential election.
Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Redux, Remix & Requiem (Melvin Van Peebles)
Melvin Van Peebles’ Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song was a cinematic milestone; within weeks of its April 1971 release it became the most successful independent feature in American film history. Van Peebles financed, wrote, starred in, edited, produced and distributed the film. He composed the score himself and got a band of upstarts he met through his secretary to play his tunes for the soundtrack. That group, uncredited on the vinyl release, became more well-known a couple years later as Earth, Wind & Fire. Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber revisit Van Peebles’ compositions, performing a live score remix with actors and band members reading from the original script while a silent print of Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song is projected onto the big screen on Fort Greene Park’s Myrtle Avenue hill. Featuring an in-person appearance by the living legend himself!
Well Groomed (Rebecca Stern)
Well Groomed travels a year in the humorous and visually stunning world of competitive creative dog grooming alongside the women transforming their beloved poodles into living sculptures.
Yes, God, Yes (Karen Maine)
After an innocent AOL chat turns racy, a Catholic teenager (Stranger Things’ Natalia Dyer) in the early ‘00s discovers masturbation and struggles to suppress her urges in the face of eternal damnation.
SELECT SHORT FILM PROGRAMS
This is What We Mean by Short Films: Opening Night 2019
It’s been too long, so, come and get your Fest on! Rooftop returns for our 23rd Summer Series with a program of amazing new short films featuring our favorite neighborhood celebrities, illegal Chinese Trap music, animated bungee dives, and conga lines on the high seas. These daring and wildly entertaining works will transport you to heretofore unexplored realities and display the creative potential of the cinematic short form. Come experience the Magnitudinous Illuminous that is Rooftop Films’ opening night!
The best short films are not just seen, but viscerally felt. The works in this program allow us to experience moments of human perseverance within worlds on the brink of collapse. Intrepid protagonists squeeze through perilous caves, shoot the shit in prison tattoo parlors, fight for their rights, stitch together felted caskets, and attempt to repair their shattered lives. Featuring stunning cinematography and innovative storytelling, these breathtaking short films will thrust us into perilous terrain alongside brave individuals who won’t give up until they reach the light at the end of the tunnel.