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Laura Blum

Laura is a festival correspondent covering films and the festival circuit for She also publishes on Thalo



BAMcineFEST Grows in Brooklyn

BAMcinemaFEST is back for year two at Brooklyn's BAMcinématek, where its slate of New York premieres stands to fuel its rep as a local Cape Canaveral of independent films. The June 9–20, 2010 spectacle is challenging lazy Manhattanites like me to rethink our scout pledge, "I'll never leave the island for culture."

P.T. Barnum paraded 21 elephants across the Brooklyn Bridge, so an hour subway ride shouldn't be such an ordeal. 

Especially not when it comes to attractions like Opening Night, featuring Jay and Mark Duplass's gleefully squirm-worthy Cyrus. The siblings behind The Puffy Chair and Baghead wrote and directed this not-always-romantic comedy of family dysfunction starring Marisa Tomei, Jonah Hill, Catherine Keener and self-proclaimed Shrek-look-alike, John C. Reilly. One of 16 New York premieres at the Festival, the screening will be followed by an Opening Night party in the BAMcafé and Dorothy W. Levitt Lobby.

Another fine reason to cross the East River is critic Kent Jones's parlay with Olivier Assayas (Summer Hours, Demonlover, Irma Vep). The French director has cherrypicked two of his favorite movies for the Festival: Maurice Pialat's We Won't Grow Old Together and David Fincher's director's cut of his crime thriller Zodiac, based on the true story of San Francisco's notorious serial killer of the same name. (Zodiac will be screened prior to Assayas's sit-down with Jones.)

Tiny Furniture also carries the stain of real life. The seriocomedy by Lena Dunham tells the semi-autobiographical tale of a recent college grad who returns home while sorting out her future. It won top narrative feature award at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival, among other decorations, and Dunham was tagged as one of Filmmaker Magazine's "25 New Faces of Independent Film" in 2009. One of BAMcinemaFEST's avowed goals is to spotlight emerging voices, per curator Florence Almozini.

However rapturously the film may be greeted during its New York premiere at BAM, its young maker and lead actress is keeping a level head about it. At the Independent Feature Project's annual Script to Screen Conference this March, she acknowledged that the "festival bubble" doesn't reflect reality. Confessing concern that her mini-budgeted film might not have an "afterlife" -- despite its North American acquisition by IFC Films -- she further endeared herself to the crowd with her comment, "It's so important to prove I'm not a big leaky bag of money."

Though I've yet to see Tiny Furniture, I can believe the hype about Dunham's sharp dialogue, and look forward to the schlep on the N or the R. One possibility is the Sunday, June 13 screening under the stars, co-sponsored with the Rooftop Films Summer Series.

But it could be a toss up with the 3-D spectacle of Mark Lewis's Cane Toads: The Conquest. Yet another temptation is the closing night showing of G.W. Pabst's silent classic Diary of a Lost Girl, starring Louise Brooks, with live accompaniment by Irish ambient rockers 3epkano.

And how about the Festival's designated "Special Screening," Wake in Fright? Newly restored, the long-lost Ozploitation flick by Ted Kotcheff (The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, First Blood), puts the screws to a young schoolteacher in Australia's menacing Outback. (You may know the film as Outback.)

BAMcinemaFEST inherited its mantle from Sundance at BAM, a three-year collaboration between  BAMcinématek and the Sundance Institute that showcased fiction and non-fiction features and shorts. This year BAMcinématek marks its 11th anniversary in operation as Brooklyn's lone year-round repertory film program.

Repertory programming is also a BAMcinemaFEST highlight, as are American indies, international imports, live music, filmmaker Q&As and parties. During these 12-days in June, I may just need a new Metrocard.

Go to for a deeper dive into the Festival program.


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