Jun 6, 2008

Bi-Coastal Fest viewing tips - HBFF/Sundance at BAM/BIFF/NewFest

It's the beginning of summer and although its been overcast for a few straight days here in New York, the non-addicted are probably not apt to rush to a regional or niche film festival and check out some movie they've never heard of. That said, a slew of interesting events kick off this weekend both here and on the other coast.

In Los Angeles, the Hollywood Black Film Festival is back for a 10th year. The programming is always a mixed bag at HBFF and hopefully there will be more free booze than the token Hennessey pour party attendees were privy to last year, but there are normally a few standouts pictures, such as last year's winner I'm Through With White Girls, which will have its New York premiere next month at BAM as part of the Afro-Punk Festival on July 7th. One title I would surely recommend is Mia Trachinger's Reversion, roundly dismissed by many critics at Sundance, I found it to be a surprising, courageous gem of a low-fi sci-fi in the tradtion of Alphaville or Code 46.

Here in Brooklyn, BAM wraps up its Sundance Insitute visit with some vintage Gregg Araki - his 92' breakthrough The Living End will screen with the director present for a Q&A tonight, followed by a midnight screening of the director's 07' Sundance entry Smiley Face. Stay far far away from Clark Gregg's sterile adapatation of Chuck Palahniuk's sex addiction novel Choke, but do try to catch Sunday's final screenings of grand jury prize winner Frozen River and the lauded Katrina docTrouble The Water. Both, although unseen by yours truly, have garnered incredibly spirited partisans since there Sundance debuts.

Also in Brooklyn, The Brooklyn International Film Festival closes its latest edition this weekend. Titles of note include Tao Ruspoli's much talked about Slamdance competition entry Fix and Purchase grad and XX/XY director Austin Chick's latest, the Josh Hartnett dot com goes bust saga August, which bowed to mixed notices at Sundance. Also on tap are some terrific shorts, including Bill Plympton's Hot Dog and Andrew Betzer's SXSW winner Small Apartment.

Finally, NewFest marks its 20th year this June with another eclectic slate of Queer conscious films. The fest kicked off last night with Stewart Wade's Tru Loved - anything that features Jasmine Guy, Alexandra Paul, Cynda Williams (where have you been since One False Move, my dear? Remember the Bokeem Woodbine starrer Caught Up? Thought not.) and Star Trek's Nichelle Nichols can't be all bad. Other notable include The Universe of Keith Haring, which received strong notices at Tribeca and Pageant, which took a prize at Slamdance. On the short side, Yaniv Debach's Fashion Ho is worth checking out, as are Jonathan Lisecki's Woman in Burka and Import Export director Ulrich Seidl's bizarro 1 minute short Brothers, Let Us Be Marry.