Now in its ninth year, BAMcinemaFest, running from June 14-25, continues to highlight the best of American independent film, from hot-topic documentaries and experimental works to studio-supported rising stars and regional gems. Among them are new films from some of our favorite local filmmakers, many of whom took time to answer a few of our questions about not only their respective films, but their lives in Brooklyn, moviegoing and otherwise.


 


Ana Asensio is the director of
Most Beautiful Island, a harrowing drama/thriller about an undocumented Spanish immigrant struggling to stay in New York who gets roped into a dangerous game that promises a payout of $2,000.

What neighborhood do you live in, and how long have you lived there?

Park Slope. I have been here for three-and-a-half years now. Before, I lived in Brooklyn Heights for six-and-a-half years.

In what way is living in Brooklyn beneficial to your career as a filmmaker? In what ways is it a hindrance?

I moved out of the East Village and came to Brooklyn looking for some silence. I found in Brooklyn the peace I needed to think, rest and be creative. I also love that I know many people in my neighborhood and I have conversations with the butcher, the UPS and FedEx guys, the fruit vendor, etc. In fact, there are a bunch of neighbors who I convinced to play a part in my film for an extra touch of realism: the deli guy, the ice cream vendor and the taxi driver.

How is it a hindrance? I live very close to Prospect Park, and almost every day I take a walk in the park. It’s so beautiful! I can space out in my thoughts while taking a walk and think about stories…

How does the film you have at BAMcinemaFest tie into your Brooklyn/NYC roots, if at all? 

I am a foreigner by birth, but like many, I found my home in New York City and I consider myself a New Yorker. I have been attending BAMcinemaFest for a few years now, and, in fact, I met one of the producers of my film, Jenn Wexler, at the opening night of BAMcinemaFest back in 2014. BAM is an NYC reference for avant-garde performances and great films. It feels like a dream to have my first film screening there!

How often do you go to independent/repertory movie theaters here in New York City? What are your favorite theaters?

I am a regular of IFC Center, Film Forum and Landmark Sunshine Cinema. Those are the only movie theaters I actually go to, since I love to watch independent and foreign films. I try to go as much as my schedule allows me to.

What movie should we watch tonight?

About Elly


 


Photo by Chris Renteria

Sabaah Folayan is the co-director (with Damon Davis) of Whose Streets?, a documentary about the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of the Michael Brown police shooting.

What neighborhood do you live in, and how long have you lived there?

Crown Heights, three years.

In what way is living in Brooklyn beneficial to your career as a filmmaker? In what ways is it a hindrance?

Being in New York City puts you a train ride away from many of the organizations that support film. When it comes to Brooklyn, I love the community vibe, the local food, and the beautiful people who remind me of the neighborhood in Los Angeles where I grew up.

How does the film you have at BAMcinemaFest tie into your Brooklyn/NYC roots, if at all?

Whose Streets? chronicles the lives of St. Louis residents fighting for justice after Michael Brown was killed. Sadly, a number of people have been fatally shot by Brooklyn police. In 2014, the Brooklyn Bridge was shut down in solidarity with Ferguson protests.

How often do you go to independent/repertory movie theaters here in New York City? What are your favorite theaters?

I often see films at independent theaters. I love the programming that I find at BAMcinématek and Maysles Theater in Harlem.

What movie should we watch tonight?

You should watch Yance Ford’s riveting memoir Strong Island.


 


Jim McKay is the writer/director of both this year’s Centerpiece film,
En el Séptimo Día—about a week in the life of an undocumented Mexican immigrant living in Sunset Park—and Our Song, a 2000 film about three girls living in Crown Heights that is playing in a free screening on June 22 at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 1.

What neighborhood do you live in, and how long have you lived there?

I’ve lived in Brooklyn for 13 years and South Slope for the last six.

In what way is living in Brooklyn beneficial to your career as a filmmaker? In what ways is it a hindrance?

This is the fourth feature film I’ve made that’s been shot in Brooklyn—this one 100% on location—and so living here has given me a 24/7 visual/tonal palette of inspiration as I’m thinking of/writing/shooting stories. En el Séptimo Día was especially great because I could ride my bike to work. I can’t think of any hindrances without making a joke about beards, strollers, or elderflower cocktails, so I’ll pass on that one.

How does the film you have at BAMcinemaFest tie into your Brooklyn/NYC roots, if at all?

We live in one of the most diverse cities in the world, but we’re also very tribal and self-segregating. My filmmaking has taken me to places and neighborhoods that were new to me—Our Song was filmed entirely on location in Crown Heights, and En el Séptimo Día is based in Sunset Park—and given me a whole new set of experiences and friendships.

How often do you go to independent/repertory movie theaters here in New York City? What are your favorite theaters?

I don’t go nearly enough. It’s the number one thing I’d like to change about my life. My favorite theaters are BAM (of course), IFC Center, Metrograph, the Quad, and Film Forum.

What movie should we watch tonight?

If it’s not whatever’s playing at BAMcinemaFest…I’ll give a shout-out to Ken Loach’s Raining Stones and Jafar Panahi’s Crimson Gold, two films that were inspiring to me in the making of En el Séptimo Día.


 


Alex Ross Perry is the writer/director of this year’s closing-night film,
Golden Exits, an ensemble comedy-drama about a group of single and married people whose lives are quietly upended by the presence of a young Australian woman in NYC for a summer internship.

What neighborhood do you live in, and how long have you lived there?

Park Slope. Nine years.

In what way is living in Brooklyn beneficial to your career as a filmmaker? In what ways is it a hindrance?

Overall, it’s a beneficial and inspiring place to live, as opposed to Los Angeles or Manhattan. The biggest drawback is that every so often, I have to go into the city for a meeting if the person isn’t willing or is too important to come meet me at my preferred cafe, across the street from my apartment.

How does the film you have at BAMcinemaFest tie into your Brooklyn/NYC roots, if at all?

Nearly the entire film was shot walking distance from my apartment. The three principal locations are 3rd Street in Cobble Hill, 2nd Street in Park Slope, and Carlton Ave. just across Flatbush. The whole idea was formed because I work at home and wander around a lot, and it seems a ton of other people do exactly the same thing. One day, I thought about how strange it would be to walk into the place where I buy a cookie at the same time every day and how unexpected it would be to see one of the other people who also goes at the same time sitting with somebody I knew. Living in a neighborhood is a funny thing. Brooklyn is full of them and I imagine they are full of stories, too.

How often do you go to independent/repertory movie theaters here in New York City? What are your favorite theaters?

No more than five times a week. I don’t pick favorites because that is unfair. I go where the movies are. However, I will give special mention to the Loew’s Jersey City theater, easily accessible from the city. Once a month, they show classic 35mm films in a century-old movie palace with live organ, and it is a truly valuable experience. It is fun to be excited about new theaters, but let’s not forget how sad it is when something like the Ziegfeld closes, so let’s appreciate historic miracles while we can.

What movie should we watch tonight?

I don’t feel comfortable giving people recommendations, for fear that they won’t enjoy it and will then hold my opinions in lower esteem henceforth.



Gillian Robespierre is the director of this year’s Spotlight presentation,
Landline, a 1990s-set family comedy-drama about the tensions that sprout forth within a family in Manhattan when one of the daughters discovers her father is carrying on an extramarital affair.

What neighborhood do you live in, and how long have you lived there?

I currently live in Greenpoint, and I’ve been here 14 years. Before that, I lived down the street from BAM in Fort Greene. And before that I lived in lower Manhattan, where I grew up.

In what way is living in Brooklyn beneficial to your career as a filmmaker? In what ways is it a hindrance?

I’m not the type of New Yorker who never leaves. I recently fell in love with the west coast’s addicting sun and fresh produce. I also get a bad case of New York City-itis every few months and dream of moving to a cabin in the woods. But then, I have one of those magical nights when I’m in the back seat of a cab driving over a bridge with the window down and I see the beauty behind the garbage. I feel like I’m in a scene in a movie. There’s truly nothing more cinematic than the Brooklyn or 59th Street Bridge. I’ve set all my movies in New York City (and Brooklyn) and don’t really think I could ever leave it for too long.  But I often joke that my next film will take place in Hawaii. I can assure you it’s a serious joke.

The only hindrance of living in Brooklyn is that I have to commute into Manhattan and sometimes the E train smells like blood. But that’s only a slight hindrance.

How does the film you have at BAMcinemaFest tie into your Brooklyn/NYC roots, if at all?

Landline is set in Manhattan in the ’90s. My co-writer, Liz Holm, and I knew early on that we didn’t want to have any social media play a part in the story. So we thought a clever (not that clever) way to dodge someone stalking a loved one on the Internet was to set the movie pre-social media. We set it in New York City because Liz and I are born and raised New Yorkers who grew up in the ’90s and felt like enough time had passed to set a movie in it. To us, the ’90s feel like the last moment New York was still this place that was a little more gritty, where artists, musicians and punks ruled below 14th Street, certainly not the shopping mall and glass-box condos that exist now. There was also a real thriving middle class who could exist in Manhattan, many of whom can’t and don’t anymore. For sure, every generation of New Yorkers thinks their era was the last time New York was really New York, before the rich got richer and the poor got poorer, so maybe we’re just guilty of that. But looking back at our childhoods, it felt like the city was shifting in step with our families taking new shapes. That constant evolution, always changing while still being nostalgic for what came before, is one of the best things about this city, and movies in general.

How often do you go to independent/repertory movie theaters here in New York City? What are your favorite theaters?

I have a toddler so I don’t get out much, but in my past life I used to go to Nitehawk in Williamsburg. Any place that serves wings while watching a movie on the big screen is my kind of place. Growing up in Manhattan, Angelika was my home away from home. I spent many summer days escaping the heat inside that theater. I don’t even mind that you can hear the 6 train rumbling through. I remember seeing Dead Man there, and the only other people in the theater were former Mayor Ed Koch and his security guard.

What movie should we watch tonight?

Fat Girl, by Catherine Breillat



Jim Strouse is the writer/director of
The Incredible Jessica James, a comedy about a Brooklyn-based aspiring playwright dealing with the fallout from a recent break-up.

What neighborhood do you live in, and how long have you lived there?

I live between Carroll Gardens and Red Hook, but I don’t feel like I’m firmly situated in one or the other enough to claim either as my neighborhood. I’ve lived in Brooklyn 10 years, New York for 20.

In what way is living in Brooklyn beneficial to your career as a filmmaker? In what ways is it a hindrance?

In writing, I like to draw from the places and the people I know, and in that respect, Brooklyn is a constant source of inspiration. There is a vast range of people and experiences in Brooklyn, and I feel plugged into it as a father and member of my community here.

I don’t know if you’ve heard this, but it’s really expensive here. That can be a hindrance. It’s not easy to make a sustainable living as an indie filmmaker.

How does the film you have at BAMcinemaFest tie into your Brooklyn/NYC roots, if at all?

The Incredible Jessica James draws on everything I love about New York. A lot of it is inspired by my experiences as a midwestern transplant struggling to make ends meet while trying to catch a break as a writer. I loved that time (in retrospect, at least). Also, this movie incorporates my love of off-Broadway and children’s theater.

How often do you go to independent/repertory movie theaters here in New York City? What are your favorite theaters?

All. The. Time. BAM is a second home for me. I also love the Metrograph. Film Forum is where I first watched Singin’ in the Rain, Harold and Maude and The Long Goodbye.

What movie should we watch tonight?

That depends on who you are and what kind of day you’ve had. Are you alone or watching with someone? Without having any of that info, I’m just going to have to suggest you watch Planet Earth.



James N. Kienitz Wilkins is the director of
Common Carrier, an experimental documentary about the lives of various New York artists.

What neighborhood do you live in, and how long have you lived there?

I’ve lived in Bushwick for ten years.

In what way is living in Brooklyn beneficial to your career as a filmmaker? In what ways is it a hindrance?

I just looked up the word “career” in Apple Dictionary: “The car careered across the road and went through a hedge.” I guess I’m the car and Brooklyn is the hedge: I’m in it too deep to answer those questions.

How does the film you have at BAMcinemaFest tie into your Brooklyn/NYC roots, if at all?

It was shot in Brooklyn and features mostly Brooklyn-based artists or people who have a relationship to Brooklyn. The soundscape is Brooklyn. In many ways, it’s about urbanism.

How often do you go to independent/repertory movie theaters here in New York City? What are your favorite theaters?

I’ve been going to BAM a lot more often now that I have a membership through the IDNYC program, which is the city’s best-kept secret.

What movie should we watch tonight?

The Second Game by Corneliu Porumboiu.



Lauren Wolkstein and Christopher Radcliff are the directors of
The Strange Ones, a road trip/psychological mystery about two siblings on the run from a violent crime. 

What neighborhood do you live in, and how long have you lived there?

Lauren Wolkstein: I live in Ditmas Park with my wife, Sara, and our two cats, Jill and Steven. I’ve lived here for over four years now in the same building, and I have lived in various other parts of Brooklyn before settling in Ditmas.

Christopher Radcliff: I live in Chinatown in Manhattan. I’ve been here for three years after living in Williamsburg for five years. 

In what way is living in Brooklyn beneficial to your career as a filmmaker? In what ways is it a hindrance?

Lauren Wolkstein: It’s great living here because most of my collaborators live in New York and in my neighborhood in particular, so it is easy to get together to brainstorm and develop projects. However, it’s far away from the rest of my collaborators who have moved to LA or live in France, which means that I just have to be flexible with my schedule. Thank goodness for Skype.

Christopher Radcliff: It’s a benefit because Brooklyn is full of filmmakers and people who inhabit aspects of the independent film world, so there is a lot happening here. I don’t really see a hindrance.

How does the film you have at BAMcinemaFest tie into your Brooklyn/NYC roots, if at all?

Lauren Wolkstein: We shot The Strange Ones in upstate NY, and it is a road movie that is about two transient travelers. I feel like everyone in NY is somehow transient and restless in their ways.

Christopher Radcliff: Our film is completely connected to NYC because it was birthed here, made here (aside from the shoot), and finished here. Most of our team lives in Brooklyn or Manhattan, and our production office was in Gowanus.

How often do you go to independent/repertory movie theaters here in New York City? What are your favorite theaters?

Lauren Wolkstein: As often as I can. I just saw the new restoration of one of my favorite films, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, at the Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn. Seeing that film in a theater is an experience like no other. The indelible images are forever seared in my memory. My favorite theaters in NYC are the Metrograph, Alamo Drafthouse, BAM, Film Society of Lincoln Center, and the newly reopened Quad. Also, the popcorn at the Film Forum is the best. However, Drafthouse’s popcorn with truffle butter is quickly showing itself to be a valid competitor.

Christopher Radcliff: I go to independent theaters probably a few times a month. My favorites are probably Walter Reade, Metrograph, BAM, and I’m excited about the new Quad Cinema. 

What movie should we watch tonight?

Lauren Wolkstein: I am on a Jacques Tati kick right now. Well, actually, I’m always on a Tati kick, so you should watch Tati’s Mon Oncle. You won’t be disappointed, especially if you are currently binging the new season of Twin Peaks. There are vast similarities between Monsieur Hulot and Agent Cooper, especially Coop’s view on the modern world after returning from the Black Lodge. We’ll talk about it over drinks at the Sycamore in my neighborhood. Come to Ditmas!

Christopher Radcliff: Definitely see Funeral Parade of Roses at the Quad if you can.


 


Rachel Wolther and Alex H. Fischer are the directors of
Snowy Bing Bongs, which is described as a “part psychotropic performance art spectacle, part absurdist sketch show” that “plays like a live action cartoon piped in from a cotton-candy-colored alternate universe.”

What neighborhood do you live in, and how long have you lived there?

Rachel Wolther: Crown Heights, four years.

Alex H. Fischer: Clinton Hill for one year. Before that, Park Slope for five years. Soon…Greenpoint? 

In what way is living in Brooklyn beneficial to your career as a filmmaker? In what ways is it a hindrance?

Rachel Wolther: There’s a real scene going on in Brooklyn at the moment; you really can’t go to a bar or a coffee shop without bumping into other filmmakers, which makes it a great place to meet collaborators. The downside is the city is totally jaded when it comes to shooting on location. The neighbors do not like it!

Alex H. Fischer: Everybody lives here! When I first moved to NY, I lived on the Upper East Side because I didn’t know any better (and I was squatting with my girlfriend at the time, so it was free!). I’ve always collaborated with comedians and musicians and they all lived and performed in Brooklyn, so even just in terms of efficient commuting time, living in Brooklyn was the right move. The only hindrance I can think of is that, unlike LA people, we don’t have nearby access to giant open spaces like the desert—but one time I needed a place like that for a music video and we ended up in south Jersey at a magical place called the Pine Barrens. It’s great for shooting desert shots, and also apparently four-wheeling…and the New Jersey Devil is from there!

How does the film you have at BAMcinemaFest tie into your Brooklyn/NYC roots, if at all?

Rachel Wolther: Several Brooklyn spots are important to the history of this movie! Cocoon Central Dance Team created the original show and performed it at Triskelion Arts in Greenpoint. Alex and I wrote the screenplay in his studio in Carroll Gardens and we edited the movie going back and forth from my apartment in Crown Heights and Alex’s in Bed-Stuy. Designer Meredith Ries constructed dozens of miniature planets in her studio in Gowanus, and animator Lucy Munger created a beautiful stop motion scene in her studio in Greenpoint. We’re so pleased to be having our world premiere in our hometown!

Alex H. Fischer: Cocoon Central are a big part of the Brooklyn comedy scene. They started out performing twice a month on the Brooklyn comedy show, The Moon (RIP The Moon), which was a group of weirdos (our dear friends) doing absurd, thoughtful, smart, insane things on stage. And in addition to Cocoon, the Moon had people on like Joe Pera and Reggie Watts and Kate Berlant and even the Daniels, Scheinert and Kwan. So the whole foundation of the movie and the cast was built on the Brooklyn comedy world. 

How often do you go to independent/repertory movie theaters here in New York City? What are your favorite theaters?

Rachel Wolther: I go once or twice a month. For repertory, BAM is my favorite. I loved the musicals series they did last year. I would also like to mention my favorite first-run theater, The Pavilion, which I love it because it’s so run-down and disgusting. Not everything has to be fancy all the time, Brooklyn! (RIP The Pavilion)

Alex H. Fischer: I go between five to 10 times a month. I had Moviepass for a while, but then I traded it in for a BAM membership. Aside from BAM, I love Nitehawk, and the programming at Metrograph is always (like, every night) really great.

What movie should we watch tonight?

Rachel Wolther: Point Break

Alex H. Fischer: White Men Can’t Jump

Photos (except when noted) by Robin Holland©