Mar 2, 2022
Pandemic horniness, sweat and the occult: Nitehawk’s Shorts Fest returns
After a Covid hiatus, Nitehawk Cinema's short film festival returns with ample offerings from fierce and funny female filmmakers
After years in hibernation, Nitehawk Cinema’s Shorts Fest returns this week at their Williamsburg and Prospect Park theaters for the first time since November 2019. It runs now through March 6.
“A lot of people have emerged from their pandemic bubbles,” says Cristina Cacioppo, programmer for Nitehawk. “But we’re coming into a time when people are feeling safe about going out. This year’s festival is going to be a great chance to feel community again and meet people.”
This year’s Shorts Fest has 60 short films, with filmmakers in attendance for Q&As, including many artists from Brooklyn.
“Our theaters reopened a year ago and we’re marking the occasion by relaunching the festival,” says Cacioppo. “We have so many local filmmakers that there’s a ton of people coming.”
Cacioppo joined Nitehawk as a programmer last fall after working for Alamo Drafthouse in the city.
She tells us the biggest thing she looks for in programming is quality and originality. “Movies with guts and heart that you don’t see much,” Cacioppo says.
Female-directed films make up a majority of this year’s festival program, including 16 shorts and music videos by a variety of Brooklyn filmmakers.
We spoke with Cacioppo and five Brooklyn-based female filmmakers about their shorts’ connection to the borough.
Tickets for the festival are available at Nitehawk’s website and in person at the box office. Proof of vaccination is required to enter the theater’s two locations.
“FITNESS! or a story about SWEAT”
Director: Kana Hatakeyama
The story: A titillating spiritual comedy about finding your deepest nature through technology, human connection … and sweat.
You capture a beautiful side of Brooklyn in your movie.
Kana Hatakeyama: I shot the film entirely in Brooklyn, and the team was more or less based in NYC. My colorist Marika Litz and sound editor Ash Knowlton are both Brooklyn-based, as am I. While the story itself isn’t specifically tied to Brooklyn, I was visually very inspired by Brooklyn however, there were specific locations that I just really wanted to capture and put in the film because I found them beautiful and striking, so that led to my decision to film entirely in Brooklyn.
Cristina says: “FITNESS” is so funny! The ways the movie uses social media posts to show this woman getting fit but also seeking clout, it’s hysterical. The dynamic between the woman and her personal trainer is funny and goes to very weird places.
Director: Leah Shore
The story: Samantha is locked up in her New York apartment, she’s lonely, she’s horny AF, and having a hard time getting laid for some reason.
Pandemic horniness is, understandably, at the center of “Puss.”
Leah Shore: I feel us New Yorkers are very horny, direct and want to date especially during current times, so “Puss” is about an incredibly horny lady during the beginning of the pandemic and trying desperately to cure it. What better place to celebrate horniness and angst than in Brooklyn!
Cristina says: “Puss” deals with horniness during the pandemic in such a fun, silly way. The director Leah Shore told me a lot of festivals rejected it because they didn’t get it, but we did.
Director: Mandy Marcus
The story: A Brooklyn teenager reunites with her Guyanese cousin for the funeral of a relative. On the last day of the wake the girls venture out into the city alone.
“Cousins” shows an intimate familiarity with the Caribbean-American community in Brooklyn.
Mandy Marcus: “Cousins” features Brooklyn elements that felt authentic to my experience growing up in this particular Caribbean-American community such as the dollar van, dollar pizza and bodega windows. Hopefully Brooklynites will appreciate the locations and details.
Where else did you shoot the movie?
The movie was made primarily in Brooklyn as part of my graduate degree at Brooklyn College’s Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema located at Steiner Studios in Brooklyn. The Guyanese expat community featured in the film resides in Brooklyn and Queens and we highlight some of those neighborhoods by filming in Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights.
Cristina says: “Cousins” is incredible. It’s one we keep talking about, and it’s even more glorious on the big screen. On the surface it’s a simple afternoon in the life of two girls, but there’s so many layers to it, and it’s a really special one.
“The Love Spell”
Directors: Jane Stiles and Meryl Jones Williams
The story: A babysitter and child perform an astrological ritual together to honor Venus.
Talk about making the city into a character in “The Love Spell.”
Meryl Jones Williams: Jane is from NYC and is endlessly inspired by the kooky and magical people. The story was written pre-pandemic, but the experience of staying in NYC through the peak of Covid-19 deepened the already existing themes of loneliness, longing for connection, and a turn to the occult. The emptiness of the city also influenced the film’s eerie aesthetic.
How did you use your connections to the film community in Brooklyn to make the movie?
We both have relationships with arts organizations in Brooklyn, which we partnered with. Meryl teaches at MonoNoAware, a film positive community in downtown Brooklyn. They used MonoNoAware’s equipment for select shots and inspirational footage. They processed and scanned the 16mm film at Negativeland, a worker-owned and operated motion-picture lab based in Bushwick.
Cristina says: “The Love Spell” was one of the first movies we watched, and we were instantly taken with it. It’s about loneliness and the friendship between a babysitter and her charge.
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