By William J. Hammon, Founder, ActuallyPaid.com
It was my distinct honor and pleasure to help cover the Brooklyn Film Festival last year, sampling some incredible new work from emerging independent artists and filmmakers. Whether it was reviewing the films in print or on video, I had an absolute blast, and I’m clear on the other end of the country!
This year, we’ve been invited back to cover the celebration yet again, and we’re more than happy to do so. With luck, we’ll have some great recaps, reviews, and interviews with the talent behind the creations. With the world slowly reopening, the festival will be both online and in-person for those who wish to partake. Here’s a preview of some of the films on display…
Directed by Adrian Bartol and co-written by him and leading man Will Brandt, American Desert is a soul-searching look at addiction and the treatment of American veterans. Brandt plays Matt Benning, an Afghanistan vet suffering from PTSD who is addicted to booze and pills. He’s at the end of his rope when he meets Brandi (Ruby Modine from Shameless), who sets him up with a job at a convenience store run by “Uncle Bill” (Michael Ironside, most recently seen on the big screen in Nobody). Brandi and Bill take Matt under their wing, but before long it’s clear that they have their own addiction issues, and their own ulterior motives. This has been chosen as one of the Opening Night features for the festival, and we may just have a review coming soon!
Created as a series of animated shorts for Snapchat, Aaron Augenblick has compiled the entire first season of Death Hacks into a half-hour presentation. The vertical, phone-shaped shorts feature comedy A-listers Thomas Middleditch and Kristen Schaal as undead influencers presenting their short-form web videos with tips and tricks to live your best afterlife once you’ve shuffled off the mortal coil.
The animation style is spectacular, with a brightly-colored sheen added to hilariously grotesque imagery. This is in keeping with Augenblick’s career, as he’s done similar work on cartoon shows like Ugly Americans and Superjail. The writing is also top notch comedy, deftly satirizing social media culture without pandering or outright condemning it. It’s not only funny, but well-balanced.
A festival favorite that’s toured the world over the last year (including a nomination at the prestigious Annecy International Animated Film Festival), Kapaemahu is a unique film delivering a bit of cultural lore in highly creative fashion. Based on Hawai’ian legend, the short tells the story of four god-like beings with tremendous healing powers, who eventually became stones that are still seen today on Waikiki Beach.
The supreme beings are both male and female simultaneously, an intriguing take on non-binary characters and their depiction in art. The animation style almost feels like the sand on the beach itself might take form, given the use of whites, yellows, and oranges along with its grainy texture. Kapaemahu was shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short, and was included in the theatrical releases as a “Highly Commended” entry in addition to the final five nominees.
The Orange Child
French actor and filmmaker Alexandre Desane brings us The Orange Child, making its American debut at BFF this year. In just 11 minutes, Desane brings the issue of representation in cinema to the forefront in the creative forms of a struggling actor and an idealistic game designer.
As an adult, our main character runs through every audition he’s offered, categorizing them according to what stereotype he’s expected to fill. This contrasts with his discovery of his old computer, where as a child, he created a video game called “The Orange Child,” because at the time, he could not engage with the idea of being “black.” So he created a character that was “orange,” from an orange planet, who fought racism in schools. It’s a simple and heartfelt idea that’s brilliantly executed in just a short space of time.
Seiva Bruta (Under the Heavens)
Written and directed by Gustavo Milan, Seiva Bruta is a brief but emotionally fraught look at human kindness versus cruelty. A young woman named Marta, who recently gave birth, becomes friends with a couple – Jorge and Alice – while they’re all hitchhiking to Brazil with their new baby in tow. Marta is able to nurse the baby to calm it down, forming a bond not just between the two, but between Marta and Alice as well. When danger arises, it’s up to them to determine the proper course for their own safety and that of the child.
Clocking in at 17 minutes, Milan packs a lot of material and thematic weight into such a short space of time. There’s some tremendous cinematography, including Marta’s lactation substituting for raindrops. The film is heavy and graphic at times, but the ambiguous motivations along with the fully-realized characters linger long after it’s over, which is the mark of great storytelling.
This is just a taste of what’s in store this year at the Brooklyn Festival, 1/36 of it, in fact. Keep checking in for more updates as the event unfolds, and if any of these films interest you, we more than encourage you to attend the festival any way you can.
There are 144 entries spread across fiction, shorts, documentaries, animation, and experimental cinema for you to enjoy. The festival begins screening online on June 4th before officially getting underway on the 5th and running through the 13th. For more information and ticketing visit the festival’s website.