#NYFF 2016: Three Short Films By Brooklyn Filmmakers

The 54th New York Film Festival runs September 30-October 16. Follow our exhaustive coverage of the festival here.

nyff-dramatic-relationships Dramatic Relationships
Directed by Dustin Guy Defa
The Greenpoint-based Defa, reigning cinema laureate of retro film grain and bad NYC weather (see Person to Person, however you can), brings together a cast of microindie luminaries for a compendium of snippets depicting the casual degradations endured by female actresses on film sets, in a six-minute short also distinguished by a strong conceptual hand and rich textures. In a series of loose-ends vignettes from a fixed camera, as if it’s stayed running between multiple takes in a few nondescript parks and apartments, the offscreen Master’s Voice of a director, sometimes joined by an onscreen male actor, tweak wardrobe and performance choices in a way that seems process-oriented, except for how the actresses are always centered in the compositions, highlighting their different responses to petty prodding only they recognize as profoundly intrusive. (In particular, two scenes with Lindsay Burdge recall her work in Actor Martinez, as a microindie actress struggling with the lack of boundaries on an improv-based no-budge/DIY set.) Early academic studies of the “male gaze” looked at the on-screen products of the highly industrialized studio system; in keeping with the reflexivity of much current indie cinema, Dramatic Relationships finds fertile drama within the microaggressions of a “resourceful,” unplanned set, achieving a crescendo of humiliation before ending in a moment of cheeky subversion, with the sensuality of a Philippe Garrel film.
October 2, 3:30pm; October 4, 6:15pm as part of the “New York Stories” shorts program.


This Castle Keep
Directed by Gina Telaroli
Telaroli, young Brooklyn’s foremost moviemaking cinephile, takes on gentrification in her own backyard, Sunset Park, in a manner at once straight-on and elusively, allusively personal. After a set of opening credits over a curtain closed to the communal bustle of NYC neighborhood life (like Rear Window!), we join a kitchen convo between a realtor and the young woman responsible for selling her late aunt’s brownstone. If she’d lived ten, even five years longer, says the broker, the house would really be worth something; but then, remembering a recent trend article in the Times Real Estate section, has the idea of dividing it up as a rental unit, for club kids. Throughout, the camera wanders through the apartment, taking in all the familiar flaws of a 19th century townhouse—cracked plaster, warped floorboards, sloppy repainting—with a photographer’s eye, not a realtor’s, in insert close-ups distinguished by homey angled daylight, captured in clean, warm hi-def digital. The layers of personal memory accrued in a home are rendered through a panopoly of stray objects—from a photo album, featuring mocked-up color and black-and-white prints from different eras, to a film still, framed objects and the pages of book—and especially cinematic textures. Two of the slowest dissolves I’ve ever seen introduce a sequence of double and triple exposures and mixing of film and digital stocks, a moviegoer’s version of the kind of clutter that doesn’t seem a mess to those who know it well; the film finally ends with some documentary shots of Sunset Park’s avenues, rendered in the bulky, vintage colors of narrow-gauge celluloid. The implication, shiveringly clear, is that all this is about to change forever; what remains uncertain is the place of any one individual consciousness within that process.
October 2, 3:30pm; October 4, 6:15pm as part of the “New York Stories” shorts program.


Indefinite Pitch
Directed by James N. Kienetz Wilkins
Between this and last year’s Special Features, I’m tempted to declare Wilkins the best writer making films today. At the very least, Indefinite Pitch’s voiceover narration would stand alone for its multilayered mental perambulations—on paper, as in the recent “imperfect stroller” novels, or from behind a desk, monologue-style, though the register is a bit more playful in its self-aware switchbacks and capacity for feigned surprise and real delight. Over art-photojournalistic black and white stills of the Androscoggin River, which powered the paper mills of Berlin, New Hampshire and Wilkins’s hometown of Lewiston/Auburn, Maine, Wilkins winds through a vivid psychogeography of contemporary curiosities and anxieties, following mental hyperlinks—accidental-on-purpose historical echoes, puns and parallels; sociological observations; autobiographical digressions—through old news items and lost silent serials; stories of arson and opiate addiction and arson in Northern New England; and the multiple meanings of the word “pitch,” from opportunistic sales patter to the manipulations of his own voice.
October 8, 4:15pm; October 9, 12:30pm as part of the “Site and Sound” shorts program within the NYFF’s experimental Projections section

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