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Shawnee Benton Gibson and Bruce McIntyre in Aftershock by Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee.
Shawnee Benton Gibson and Bruce McIntyre in Aftershock by Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee. | photo by Kerwin Devonish.

BAM announced the lineup for this year’s BAMcinemaFest 2022 taking place in person at BAM Rose Cinemas in Brooklyn, New York, June 23—30, 2022.

The festival opens with Aftershock, an award-winning powerful documentary spotlighting the Black women, and bereaved partners, who have been failed by the U.S. maternal health system. Directed by Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee, the screening will be followed by a panel discussion to inspire and empower the trailblazing work being done to ensure the best birthing outcomes for all Americans.

The festival features the New York premiere of new restorations of Ayoka Chenzira’s first feature film, the coming-of-age dramatic comedy Alma’s Rainbow (1993), screening with her animated satirical short film Hair Piece: A Film for Nappyheaded People (1984). Amber Bemak’s 100 Ways to Touch the Border, a self-reflexive documentary on the radical artistic practice of extraordinary Mexican/Chicano performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña and his troupe La Pocha Nostra, makes its world premiere.

The hopes, anxieties, and romantic tanglings of Gen Z make an appearance at BAMcinemaFest with Andrew Infante’s award-winning Brooklyn rom-com Ferny & Luca and Kit Zauhar’s feature debut Actual People. The festival also includes Ramin Bahrani’s (Chop Shop, White Tiger) acclaimed 2nd Chance about the life and lies of the bulletproof vest inventor; Rita Baghdadi’s Sirens, the story of the Middle East’s first all-female thrash metal band; and Julie Ha & Eugene Yi’s Free Chol Soo Lee, a portrait of community activism following the wrongful conviction of Chol Soo Lee and the complex legacy of becoming the symbol of a movement.

Also in this year’s lineup, Damian Marcano’s award-winning breakout debut Chee$e; Ahsen Nadeem’s Crows Are White, a documentary-existential comedy set in a Buddhist monastery; director Jason Kohn’s documentary-thriller about the secretive world of the diamond industry Nothing Lasts Forever; and Tyler Taormina’s Happer’s Comet screening with Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck and Robert Machoian’s The Last Days of August, two visually stunning films that capture prairie towns in Nebraska and the quiet nightlife of suburban Long Island. BAMcinemaFest features two short film programs highlighting formally inventive short films that ask questions about art, history, family, connection, and trauma.

Films

Aftershock (2022)
Dirs. Paula Eiselt & Tonya Lewis Lee.
Shamony Gibson and Amber Rose Isaac were excited mothers-to-be whose deaths due to childbirth complications were preventable. Directors Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee follow Gibson’s and Isaac’s bereaved partners as they fight for justice and build communities of support with other surviving Black fathers. Aftershock shines a light on the world of gynecology—one that has a long-standing history of exploiting and neglecting Black women in America—while simultaneously uplifting the families, activists, and birth workers who are striving to bring change. From Onyx Collective and ABC News, the film will stream on Hulu domestically later this Summer. 86min.

Chee$e (2022)
Dir. Damian Marcano.
Damian Marcano’s award-winning breakout debut follows Skimma, a young Trinidadian man whose dreams of leaving his remote island village to explore the world are dashed when he becomes a father and needs money. Inspired by a local cheesemaker, he decides to store weed inside cheese—and sell it. 105min.

Ferny & Luca (2021)
Dir. Andrew Infante.
With Leonidas Ocampo, Lauren Kelisha Muller. Winner of the Craig Brewer Emerging Filmmaker Award at the Indie Memphis Film Festival, Ferny and Luca is a Gen Z rom-com set in Brooklyn. The stylish, lo-fi film follows the hot and cold relationship of Ferny, a sweet and naive pretty boy, and Luca, a rough-and-tumble disco queen, who is more concerned with chasing her dreams than chasing boys… mostly. Filled with the rhythms of young life in pandemic-era New York, Andrew Infante’s film is a joyous city symphony on the struggles of 21st century NYC. 70min.

When There Was Water (2022)
Dir. Nicole Otero.
A lyrical exploration of family, loss, connection, and nature. 15min.
Part of BAMcinemaFest Shorts Program 1.

The Feeling of Being Close to You (2022)
Dir. Ash Goh Hua.
This autobiographical film documents an attempt at healing the trauma of touch between mother and child, as the filmmaker and their mother talk openly for the first time about the intergenerational trauma and abuse within their lives. Present day phone conversations are juxtaposed with archival VHS footage, creating a connection between the past and a re-write for the future. 12min.
Part of BAMcinemaFest Shorts Program 1.

Portal (2022)
Dir. Rodney Evans.
During the pandemic, two queer BIPOC friends sustain each other through communication and connection in this short non-fiction film about the lack of touch for single people catalyzed by Covid-19. 12min.
Part of BAMcinemaFest Shorts Program 1.

When It’s Good, It’s Good (2022)
Dir. Alejandra Vasquez.
When she returns to rural West Texas to document the effects of the boom-and-bust nature of the oil industry on her hometown, the filmmaker unexpectedly captures the political transformation that takes place in her family over five years and two election cycles. 16min.
Part of BAMcinemaFest Shorts Program 1. Sat, June 25 at 1:30pm.

Winn (2022)
Dirs. Joseph East & Erica Tanamachi.
A formerly incarcerated woman becomes an activist and fights to legally end the shackling of incarcerated pregnant people in Georgia. 17min.
Part of BAMcinemaFest Shorts Program 1.

100 Ways to Touch the Border (2022)
Dir. Amber Bemak.
A daring, self-reflexive documentary on the extraordinary Mexican/Chicano performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s 40-year career of radical artistic practice alongside his troupe La Pocha Nostra. At a time when the mainstream media is filled with stories about the US–Mexico border, this documentary presents the work and philosophical frameworks of an artist with a sustained dedication to highly impactful, innovative artistic interventions on that border. Including archival footage from his performances at BAM in the 90s, Gómez-Peña enacts his artistic interventions by “queering the border”—claiming all borders as queer and liminal spaces. World Premiere! 84min.

The Unknown Country (2022)
Dir. Morissa Maltz. With Lily Gladstone.
In this narrative/documentary hybrid, Lily Gladstone (Certain Women) stars as Tana, a grieving woman who starts an unexpected road trip from the Midwest to the Texas-Mexico border to reunite with her estranged Oglala Lakota family. Navigating a surreal natural landscape, as well as a complex post-2016 social climate, she meets familiar faces and strangers along the way as “human exchanges imbue a subtle sense of lyricism into the habitual” (Indiewire). At times at ease, at times on edge, Tana grapples with the pain of her recent loss and seeks to understand her place in the world. 85min.

Actual People (2021)
Dir. Kit Zauhar. With Zauhar, Scott Albrecht, Vivian Zauhar.
On the precipice of her college graduation, Riley is frantically searching for connection. Jealous of the job offers her classmates are receiving—and desperate to regain control of something—she decides to win the affections of a boy from her hometown of Philadelphia. An exciting, honest film by and about a young woman of color, Kit Zauhar’s feature debut captures Gen Z’s anxieties and hopes as they are launched into adulthood. 84min.

Shut Up and Paint (2022)
Dirs. Titus Kaphar & Alex Mallis.
Winner of the Best Short prize at the 2022 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Shut Up and Paint follows the painter Titus Kaphas as he turns to film when the art world tries to silence his voice. 20min.
Part of BAMcinemaFest Shorts Program 2.

The Body is a House of Familiar Rooms (2022)
Dirs. Eloise Sherrid & Lauryn Welch.
This magical-realist documentary collaboration between Samuel Geiger, director Eloise Sherrid, and the painter Lauryn Welch is a window into Geiger’s experience living with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a painful connective tissue disorder that limits his mobility and functionality. 10min.
Part of BAMcinemaFest Shorts Program 2.

Swerve (2022)
Dir. Lynne Sachs.
With poetry by Paolo Javier. A food market and playground in Queens, NY becomes the site for this film inspired by Paolo Javier’s Original Brown Boy poems. The film itself transforms into an ars poetica/cinematica—a meditation on writing and making images in the liminal space between a global pandemic and what might come next—as five New York City performers speak in verse while wandering through food stalls in search of a new sensation. World Premiere! 8min.
Part of BAMcinemaFest Shorts Program 2.

ᎤᏕᏲᏅ (Udeyonv) (What They’ve Been Taught) (2022)
Dir. Brit Hensel.
Filmed on the Qualla Boundary and Cherokee Nation, ᎤᏕᏲᏅ (Udeyonv) (What They’ve Been Taught) explores expressions of reciprocity in the Cherokee world, brought to life by an elder and a first language speaker. Premiering at Sundance, the documentary circles the intersection of tradition, language, land, and a commitment to maintaining balance. 9min.
Part of BAMcinemaFest Shorts Program 2.

The Fire This Time (2022)
Dir. Mariam Ghani. Ghani traces the connection between epidemics and social upheaval from the 1800s to the present. 26min.
Part of BAMcinemaFest Shorts Program 2.

Sirens (2022)
Dir. Rita Baghdadi.
This “utterly charming” (Hollywood Reporter) documentary by young Moroccan-American filmmaker Rita Baghdadi follows the first and only (to date) all-woman metal band in the Middle East. Amid a backdrop of political unrest and the heartbreaking unraveling of Beirut, the five-member band Slave to Sirens grapples with tenderness, friendship, and sexuality. Acting as director, producer, and cinematographer, Baghdadi’s singular vision is gentle yet emotionally powerful, offering a vision of light through darkness—and thrash metal. 78min.

Nothing Lasts Forever (2022)
Dir. Jason Kohn.
Director Jason Kohn pushes the documentary into thriller territory as he pulls back the veil on the secretive world of the diamond industry. Witnesses turn into antagonists as he leads us through trade fairs, mines, laboratories, and conventions in the US, Africa, China, and India. Hailed by Variety as “the rare documentary that transforms the way we understand the world,” Nothing Lasts Forever invites us into a labyrinth where illusions and reality merge, authenticity and imagination overlap, and questions arise about the value we place on the goods around us. 87min.

Crows Are White (2022)
Dir. Ahsen Nadeem.
For over a thousand years, a secretive Buddhist sect has lived in an isolated monastery in Japan performing acts of extreme physical endurance in their pursuit of enlightenment. A filmmaker, struggling to reconcile his desires with his faith, sets off to the strict monastery in search of answers. When he arrives, his presence is not welcomed and the only monk who will speak with him is an outcast who prefers ice cream and Slayer to meditation. Together they forge an unlikely friendship that leads them to higher truths and, occasionally, a little trouble. Shot over five years on three continents, Crows Are White is an exploration of truth, faith and love, from the top of a mountain to the bottom of a sundae. 97min.

Alma’s Rainbow (1993)
Dir. Ayoka Chenzira.
With Victoria Gabrielle Platt, Kim Weston-Moran, Mizan Kirby. Known for her socially conscious films that challenge stereotypes about Black culture, Ayoka Chenzira’s first feature film is a coming-of-age dramedy that highlights a group of middle-class Black women living in Brooklyn. As Rainbow (Platt) enters womanhood and navigates her own experiences around beauty standards, self-image, and the rights of Black women over their own bodies, her pragmatic mother Alma Gold (Weston-Moran) and free-spirited aunt Ruby Gold (Kirby) disagree on the “proper” direction for Rainbow’s life. In this multi-layered Black woman’s world, Rainbow, Alma, and Ruby wrestle with love and what it means to exert and exercise their own agency. New Restoration! 90min. Screening with Hair Piece: A Film for Nappyheaded People.

Hair Piece: A Film for Nappyheaded People (1984)
Dir. Ayoka Chenzira.
In this satirical short, Chenzira utilizes mixed media and animation to unpack the stereotypes associated with Black hair while critiquing the limits of the European beauty standard. She draws attention to the physical pain Black women endure to straighten their hair, and the emotional pain that comes as a result of the pressure to conform. New Restoration! 10min. Screening with Alma’s Rainbow.

Free Chol Soo Lee (2022)
Dirs. Julie Ha & Eugene Yi.
Eugene Yi and Julie Ha spotlight the pivotal, yet under-told story of Chol Soo Lee. In 1973, Lee was wrongfully arrested and convicted for the murder of a local gang leader shot in San Francisco’s Chinatown. He was sentenced to life in prison based on the eyewitness accounts of white tourists, and spent years fighting to survive behind bars before journalist K.W. Lee took an interest in his case. The reporter’s investigation galvanized an unprecedented pan-Asian American grassroots movement to fight for Chol Soo Lee’s freedom, ultimately inspiring a new generation of social justice activists. 83min.

Happer’s Comet (2022)
Dir. Tyler Taormina.
Filmed on the weekends across four months during 2020, Tyler Taormina cast his own Long Island family and neighbors in the delicate cinematic meditation on late-night life, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. Taormina takes the audience through the nightly routines of suburban residents as they clean their offices, meet their lovers, apply make-up before going out, and rollerblade around town. Dreamlike, gentle, and strangely ominous, this sensory series of vignettes “is a hypnotic ode to the night owl” (The Film Stage). 62min. Screening with The Last Days of August.

The Last Days of August (2022)
Dirs. Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck and Robert Machoian.
Two of the most distinctive filmmakers working today, longtime collaborators Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck and Robert Machoian use a photo book aesthetic to explore prairie towns in Nebraska that have been devastated by the internet boom. While meditating on the longing for permanence, The Last Days of August asks: do miracles really happen? 13min. Screening with Happer’s Comet.

2nd Chance (2022)
Dir. Ramin Bahrani.
Hailed by Roger Ebert as “the new great American director,” Ramin Bahrani (Chop Shop, White Tiger) has not made a documentary – until now. Coming off of successful showings at SXSW and Sundance, 2nd Chance chronicles the life of bankrupt pizzeria owner Richard Davis who invented the modern-day bulletproof vest. Shooting himself 192 times to prove its effectiveness and advertising his new invention with a barrage of self-made promo films, Davis earned celebrity status among gun owners and law enforcement. But the death of a police officer wearing his vest catalyzes Davis’s fall, revealing a man full of contradictions cultivated over decades of reckless lies. In this gripping documentary, Bahrani lays bare the complexities of one man’s supposed virtue while speaking to the nature of power and impunity in America. 89min.

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