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BAMcinemaFest 2013 Lineup Announced

When it replaced BAM’s season of Sundance favorites some years ago, BAMcinemaFest emerged as a stronger and much more Brooklyn-centric event, a true festival rather than just a Park City greatest hits package. This year, it bookends proceedings with festival favorites from two our “25 New Faces” of previous years, David Lowery’s gorgeous period outlaw drama Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, and Destin Cretton’s SXSW-winning social worker drama Short Term 12.

Michael M. Bilandic’s artworld satire Hellaware — which was featured in our Summer 2012 article “The Shooting Parties” — is the sole world premiere, however the focus here is on local talent rather than token premieres. New York filmmakers are represented in force by a strong selection of both docs (After Tiller, God Loves Uganda, Northern Light, Remote Area Medical, These Birds Walk) and narratives (The Cold Lands, Crystal Fairy, Hellaware, It Felt Like Love, Mother of George, Museum Hours, Newlyweeds, White Reindeer), with the vast majority of these films coming from Brooklyn-based directors.

Also of special note are two films directed by regular Filmmaker contributors, Farihah Zaman’s excellent and timely doc Remote Area Medical (co-directed with Jeff Reichert), and James Ponsoldt’s crowdpleasing coming-of-age drama The Spectacular Now. Additionally, Joe Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies is produced by Filmmaker contributing editor Alicia van Couvering — congratulations to all of them!

The full lineup is as follows:

OPENING NIGHT: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (David Lowery) NY Premiere Narrative
An IFC Films release. Opens August 16.

CLOSING NIGHT: Short Term 12 (Destin Cretton) NY Premiere Narrative
A Cinedigm release.

After Tiller (Martha Shane & Lana Wilson) NY Premiere Documentary
Forty years after Roe v. Wade, abortion remains a divisive and incendiary national debate. In the aftermath of Dr. George Tiller’s assassination in 2009, only four physicians in the US continue to perform third trimester abortions, each plagued by constant death threats, protests, and legal battles—all for their steadfast commitment to women’s rights. Filmmaking duo Shane and Wilson bring us this intimate portrait of the intrepid practitioners as they grapple with the ethics that permeate their personal and professional lives. Winner of the Documentary Jury Prize at Sarasota Film Festival. An Oscilloscope Laboratories release.

C.O.G. (Kyle Patrick Alvarez) NY Premiere Narrative
Adapted from a chapter in David Sedaris’ superb story collection Naked (the first film version of Sedaris’ work), C.O.G. stars musical theater and TV star Jonathan Groff (Spring Awakening and Glee) as David, a recent Yale grad who gets his hands dirty at an Oregon apple orchard in a vainglorious search for Thoreau-esque self-discovery. When his best friend and would-be fellow apple picker bails on him, he seeks companionship from a series of mentors (each scarier than the last) who provide harsh lessons on faith, friendship, love, and identity. Charming and witty as the young hero, Groff is the perfect mouthpiece for Sedaris’ indelible voice, and writer-director Alvarez imbues the story with heartbreak and a surprising degree of darkness. A Screen Media release. Opens this September.

The Cold Lands (Tom Gilroy) NY Premiere Narrative
Eleven-year-old Atticus (Silas Yelich, winner of the Special Jury Prize for Promising Actor at the Nashville Film Festival) and his mother Nicole (Lili Taylor) live a modest life off the grid in the woods of upstate New York. When Nicole dies suddenly after refusing to seek treatment for an illness, Atticus is left to fend for himself, and his uncertain future takes a turn when he develops a fast-growing friendship with a weed-smoking necklace salesman. With gorgeous visuals and surprising touches of fantasy, Gilroy captures the dangers and freedoms of living on the margins of American society.

Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski) NY Premiere Narrative
Bujalski, the director of Funny Ha Ha and Beeswax (BAMcinemaFest 2009), is back with a true original—a lo-fi surrealist comedy about an imaginary 1980 chess conference where large, and sometimes hilariously defective, chess-playing computers and their nerdy programmers are pitted against a crusty grandmaster (Boston film critic Gerald Peary) to determine whether man or machine rules supreme. With humor so bone dry that one might mistake his film for a documentary, Bujalski employs a bleary-eyed black-and-white aesthetic by shooting with a vintage Portapak U-Matic video camera, which achieves a retro hyperrealism that mixes beautifully with the film’s shades of deadpan surrealism. A Kino Lorber release. Opens July 17 at Film Forum.

Continental (Malcolm Ingram) NY Premiere Documentary
The Continental, a gay bath house, opened deep in the basement of New York’s majestic Ansonia Hotel in 1968, advertising the gleaming emporium as akin to “the glory of ancient Rome.” With a host of amenities including a sauna and swimming pool, a cabaret nightclub, the first light-up dance floor à la Saturday Night Fever, an “orgy room,” and K-Y jelly in the vending machines, it was a notorious beacon of hedonism, but it also proved integral to the gay liberation movement of the pre-AIDS era. Hosting a bevy of now-legendary performers such as Cab Calloway, Gladys Knight, the Pointer Sisters, Patti Labelle, and most famously, Bette Midler (aka Bathhouse Betty), with Barry Manilow on the keys, the Continental shuttered after just seven years. Ingram tells the club’s colorful story in this extraordinary documentary.

The Crash Reel (Lucy Walker) NY Premiere Documentary
Once a fearless master of gravity-defying leaps and mid-air flips, champion snowboarder Kevin Pearce suffered massive head trauma after an accident in 2009—a brush with death that brought his Olympics-bound career to a sudden halt. Oscar-nominated documentarian Lucy Walker brings together a wealth of vérité footage, juxtaposing years of astonishing airborne feats with an unflinching look at Pearce’s long and agonizing rehabilitation. The result is an unforgettable testament to the passion of a phenomenal athlete and the tireless support of the family and friends who guide him through his recovery. An HBO Documentary Films release. Debuts on HBO on Monday, July 15.

Crystal Fairy (Sebastián Silva) NY Premiere Narrative *Spotlight screening at the BAM Harvey Theater
One of the openers of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Sebastián Silva’s (winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance for The Maid) latest is a bizarre, mescaline-driven road trip through Chile. In a frequently hysterical, often cringe-inducing performance, Michael Cera is Jamie, a boorish American ex-pat who, when he’s not inviting transvestite hookers back to his friend’s apartment, is chiefly interested in drug tourism. He and three Chilean brothers plan to set off in search of the prized San Pedro cactus and its promise of beachy hallucinations, but in the previous night’s drunken stupor Jamie invites a free-spirited fellow American (Gaby Hoffman in a naked performance, literally), whose devil-may-care worldview gives them more of an adventure than any of them had bargained for. An IFC Films release. Opens July 12.

Drinking Buddies (Joe Swanberg) NY Premiere Narrative *Outdoor screening with Rooftop Films
The ever-prolific Joe Swanberg (who has directed 15 films in less than a decade) delivers this seductive rom-com, a departure from his previous work. At a Chicago microbrewery, smitten coworkers Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson, Safety Not Guaranteed) are a little too friendly considering they’re both unavailable: Kate keeps it casual with gregarious rich guy Chris (Ron Livingston), while Luke’s longtime sweetheart (Anna Kendrick) has marriage on the brain. When all four go on a camping trip, this frothy romance turns into something a lot harder to swallow. A Magnolia Pictures release. Available on VOD July 25 and in theaters August 23.

God Loves Uganda (Roger Ross Williams) NY Premiere Documentary
Shifting between Kansas City and Uganda, this provocative exposé reveals the inner workings of a group of American missionaries who have instilled a virulently conservative ideology in Uganda by influencing public policy. Their mission is to eradicate “sexual sin” with abstinence-only sex education and the brutal punishment of homosexuality. Fueled by outrage and with a sharp journalistic alertness to his complex subject, Oscar-winning director Roger Ross Williams has already stirred controversy with this powerful polemic.

Hellaware (Michael M. Bilandic) World Premiere Narrative
Aspiring but less than ambitious photographer Nate (Keith Poulson, Somebody Up There Likes Me) clumsily navigates the New York City art world in a post-grad haze, waiting for his breakthrough project to fall into his lap. During a drug-fueled wormhole through the annals of YouTube, Nate discovers his next subjects when an arbitrary click lands him on a crude music video by the Young Torture Killaz—an Insane Clown Posse knock-off group of jaded Delaware teens with a lot to scream about—and the inspiration (and exploitation) flows. BAMcinemaFest alumnae Kate Lyn Sheil and Sophia Takal (Green) co-star in this satirical snapshot of NYC pretention.

I Used to be Darker (Matthew Porterfield) NY Premiere Narrative
After a seaside summer gone sour, Northern Irish runaway Taryn crashes in on the end of her aunt and uncle’s marriage while seeking solace in their Baltimore home. Drawing inspiration from Bill Callahan’s song “Jim Cain”—“I used to be darker, then I got lighter, then I got dark again / Something too big to be seen was passing over and over me”—Porterfield (Putty Hill, BAMcinemaFest 2010) confronts the pain of a family’s dissolution in the form of this naturalistic, lo-fi musical. A Strand Releasing film.

It Felt Like Love (Eliza Hittman) NY Premiere Narrative
Evoking the unsentimental honesty of Maurice Pialat and Catherine Breillat, Brooklyn native Eliza Hittman’s debut feature explores feelings of fear and shame that tend to be elided in more conventional coming-of-age films. During an uneventful summer, lonely Lila develops an unhealthy fixation on an older thug. Deluded and awkward in her romantic pursuit, she soon finds herself in a dangerously vulnerable situation. Set in South Brooklyn, Hittman’s film offers a glimpse of a local milieu that is often overlooked by the borough’s indie movement.

Mother of George (Andrew Dosunmu) NY Premiere Narrative
In a flurry of dazzling colors, textiles, music, and dance, Brooklyn restaurant owner Ayodele and his bride Adenike (The Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira) are married and ceremoniously blessed with traditional Nigerian prayers of fertility. Immersed in the vibrant culture of Crown Heights’ Yoruba community, Adenike struggles to conceive a child, and with mounting pressure from her oppressive mother-in-law, she must take drastic measures to save her marriage. With sumptuous, spellbinding cinematography from DP Bradford Young (Pariah, Middle of Nowhere), Andrew Dosunmu’s (Restless City) exquisite sophomore feature is an enlightening look at immigrant life. An Oscilloscope Laboratories release.

Museum Hours (Jem Cohen) NY Premiere Narrative
Infused with a sense of wonder at art’s ability to console in times of darkness, acclaimed media artist Jem Cohen’s breakthrough feature film captures the beauty of Vienna in winter from the perspective of two unlikely new friends. A Canadian woman (singer-songwriter Mary Margaret O’Hara) comes to visit an ailing family member and finds solace in the majestic Kunsthistorisches Art Museum, where she meets a soft-spoken middle-aged guard who offers to keep her company on her trip. As they stroll through the city streets, observing how the paintings of the Old Masters reverberate throughout the snow-covered landscape, their meandering conversation gives way to candid exchanges on art, grief, and love. A Cinema Guild release. Opens June 28 at IFC Center.

Newlyweeds (Shaka King) NY Premiere Narrative
Rent-to-own repo man Lyle and his girlfriend Nina are a Brooklyn couple united through a deep and meaningful love of plants—specifically, the fragrant, desiccated kind that you pack into a pipe and puff on. Dispassionately whiling away their days at their jobs and spending evenings in an amorous haze, the wake-and-bake lovebirds must reevaluate their relationship and their lifestyle after a rambling and episodic comedy of errors, rife with jealousy and poor judgment. With a vaporous mix of tones and emotional shifts, this stoner comedy cum melodrama is no cautionary tale or screed against (or for) mary jane, but ultimately a bittersweet tale about how this couple deals with life and love once the smoke clears. A Phase 4 Films release. Opens August 9.

Northern Light (Nick Bentgen) NY Premiere Documentary
From the frozen woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula emerge three families, each weathering the challenges of recession-era America while preparing for the Sault Ste. Marie I-500, an annual snowmobile marathon. First-time director Bentgen’s gentle observational gaze and meticulously framed, breathtaking images form the nexus of this nuanced portrait of Midwestern working-class life. An official selection of True/False and Hot Docs and winner of Most Innovative Feature Film at Visions du Reel.

Remote Area Medical (Jeff Reichert & Farihah Zaman) NY Premiere Documentary
Amid the nation’s ongoing debate over health care reform, this bracing new documentary examines the everyday realities of Americans who lack access to affordable medical treatment. Filmed during three days in the operation of a “no-cost” clinic set up annually at Bristol, Tennessee’s NASCAR speedway, Remote Area Medical documents the range of medical care the eponymous organization provides to low-income patients in the heart of Appalachia. In the process, this moving film and winner of the Special Jury Prize at IFF Boston, reveals the spirit of a community, the fragility of the human body, and the inequality of our broken health care system.

The Spectacular Now (James Ponsoldt) NY Premiere Narrative *Spotlight screening at the BAM Harvey Theater
In this bittersweet coming-of-age dramedy from the writers of (500) Days of Summer, sociable high schooler Sutter (relative newcomer Miles Teller, in a magnetic performance) is endlessly charming and effortlessly popular—never mind that he is also arrogant and reckless and possibly an alcoholic, forever nursing a whiskey-infused 7-11 beverage cup. After a post-breakup all-night binge, he wakes up on the lawn of his classmate Aimee (Shailene Woodley, The Descendants)—a sweet, uncorrupted, and whip-smart girl with spirited ambition despite her uncool status—and the pair instantly connect, for better or worse. Funny and tender with moments of astonishing tragedy, the film co-stars Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights). An A24 release. Opens August 2.

These Birds Walk (Omar Mullick & Bassam Tariq) NY Premiere Documentary
Pushing cinema vérité to its raw emotional limits, this hard-bitten portrait of Karachi’s underclass is also an ode to the beauty and anguish of childhood that has earned it comparisons to François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. For their extraordinary debut feature, Mullick and Tariq traveled to Pakistan to raise awareness about the work of aging humanitarian Abdul Satar Edhi, the man behind the nation’s largest philanthropic organization. Immersing themselves in the lives of the countless runaways crowding Edhi’s orphanages, they emerged with this heartbreaking chronicle of poverty and street life seen through the eyes of the young and vulnerable, with a lyricism that honors the resilience of its subjects. An Oscilloscope Laboratories release.

This is Martin Bonner (Chad Hartigan) NY Premiere Narrative
In this reflective and absorbing drama, a divorced middle-aged Australian expat (Paul Eenhorn), adrift in his adopted country, moves to Reno, where he takes a job at a Christian charity that eases newly released prisoners back into society. Through this work he meets just-released felon Travis (Richmond Arquette), who is struggling to adjust to the world after 12 years in prison. Finding kinship in their shared feeling of being lost, the two men form an unlikely friendship. Understated, affecting performances by the two leads and a rigorous aesthetic earned this gem the Best of NEXT Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. A Monterey Media release.

White Reindeer (Zach Clark) NY Premiere Narrative
A bittersweet, subversive take on the holiday genre that’s drawn comparisons to John Waters and Douglas Sirk, White Reindeer follows a shell-shocked real estate agent (BAMcinemaFest alum Anna Margaret Hollyman, Gayby) who grapples with personal tragedy while fumbling to let loose among the strip clubs, department stores, and swinging new neighbors during one sad, strange December in suburban Virginia. An official selection of SXSW and winner of Best Feature at the Boston Underground Film Festival.

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