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What to See at the 2019 BAMcinemafest

So Pretty

Following its very good opening night film — Lulu Wang’s The Farewell (also Filmmaker’s forthcoming Summer issue cover) — BAMcinemafest the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s essential early summer fest, is underway. This year’s edition is typical of the fest: a well-curated and relatively compact mix of recent festival standouts, a world premiere or two, and assorted other programs, including tomorrow’s day-long (and free) program of industry panels presented in collaboration with IFP. The festival runs until June 22, and for those in or headed to Brooklyn, here are some recommendations from us at Filmmaker.

So Pretty. Jessie Jeffrey Dunn Rovinelli’s second feature takes a cult gay German novel that’s untranslated here, Ronald M. Schernikau’s So Pretty as its starting point. A trans film where the word “trans” is never spoken, this is a group portrait as relaxing and soothing as it is formally rigorous. Read the director’s first person essay for Filmmaker here. — Vadim Rizov

The Cancer Journals Revisted. BAM’s world premiere this year is filmmaker and writer Lana Lin’s “re-visit” and “re-vision” of Black lesbian feminist poet Audre Lorde’s seminal 1980 critical memoir about living with breast cancer. To reflect on the work, Lin, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, has invited a 27-person chorus of sorts — “artists, activists, health care advocates and current and former patients” — to bring Lorde’s words to the screen. — Scott Macaulay

The Hottest August. Brett Story’s Le Joli Mai-inflected nonfiction essay film, which premiered at this year’s True/False, is a loose, surprisingly playful portrait of climate change refracted through one month’s worth of exploratory interviews and travel around NYC’s five boroughs. — VR

The Infiltrators. Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera’s immigration-themed hybrid thriller is the inverse of a prison break movie, a tale of real-life activists entering prison in order to help undocumented workers avoid deportation. The visual fusion here between the real-life activists and their dramatic counterparts is deftly realized, with the filmmakers managing both a systemic critique of our current carceral politics alongside an inspiring tale of activism. — SM

Midnight in Paris. The title is not a Woody Allen tribute, but the theme of a high school prom whose approach provides the structure for this lively, buoyant portrait of a Flint, Michigan high school in 2012. — VR

The Mountain. Also featured in Filmmaker’s new print issue is Rick Alverson’s beautifully confounding film about a kind of American presumption, a thesis embedded within a story about a traveling 1950s lobotomist and his young photographer sidekick. Alverson has been making idiosyncratic, thoughtful and defiant independent films for several years now, and this film is his breakthrough. — SM

South Mountain.. From SXSW, where it premiered, is this subtle mid-life drama that stars Talia Balsam and represents the return of Hilary Brougher, whose emotionally acute independent films grace us about once a decade. Read my interview with here. — SM

Selah and the Spades. There are echoes of Heathers as well as Ryan Johnson’s debut feature, Brick, in this tough work of teenage noir by Tayarisha Poe, whose tale of gang life in a New England prep school found its first realization as a web series. Read my interview with Poe out of Sundance here.

Caballerango. A 25 New Face of Film in 2015, Juan Pablo González makes his feature debut with Caballerango a low-key, empathetic examination of a small Mexican town reeling in the wake of a young horse rider’s sudden death. — VR

The Sound of Silence.From Sundance is another film by a Filmmaker 25 New Face, Michael Tyburski, , an eerie drama about a man whose job is to apply a feng shui approach to the acoustic properties of New York apartments.

The World is Full of Secrets. Christopher Small calls 25 New Face filmmaker Graham Swon’s debut feature “lovely and verbose… full of really nasty descriptions of violent acts.” Read Small’s interview with Swon here.

Premature. Rashaad Ernesto Green’s 16mm-shot, Harlem-set Premature is a classic tale of teen first love, enriched by the sharp POV of Zora Howard, who plays the lead role, co-writes and contributes the poetry heard in the film as well. Read my interview with Green out of Sundance here.

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