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an honorary for David Lynch 

"All Lynch [movies] are sacred to me. I still remember going to the theater not long after I first moved to Los Angeles to see this, wondering who this unknown actress was in the lead, and coming out dazed and amazed.- Jordan

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Directors (For Sama)
Lulu Wang (The Farewell)
Ritesh Batra (Photograph)
Schmidt & Abrantes (Diamantino)
Jia Zhang-ke (Ash is Purest White)

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A Preview of BAM Cinema Fest

by Murtada Elfadl

The Farewell

This Wednesday June 12th marks the start of the 11 day BAMCinemaFest at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It's a local New York summer mainstay that highlights mostly emerging filmmakers. Some of the films in the lineup have premiered earlier this year at Sundance like the opening night film; Lulu Wang’s The Farewell. Some at last year’s Venice; Rick Alverson’s psychodrama The Mountain. However the festival has its share of world premiers. Let’s preview some of the eclectic films that Brooklynites will enjoy over the next two weeks...

We saw The Farewell at Sundance; BAMCinemaFest opening night will be its de facto New York premiere. Lulu Wang has crafted a finely observed family comedy and Awkwafina shines in her first dramatic lead part. She’s Billi, a young Chinese-American artist living in New York with her immigrant parents; the family faces a crisis when their beloved grandmother is diagnosed with cancer. Off to China they go for one final visit. The comedy comes from the tragedy of the situation. All the characters are finely observed, as are the relationships between them. The friction and love between in-laws, between generations, and between families with different cultural values is recognizable and true. If you miss The Farewell, you’d really miss out.


Another Sundance entry is writer/actor Zora Howard and writer/director Rashaad Ernesto Green’s Harlem set love story Premature, which is partly based on their own experiences. A musician (Joshua Boone) and a woman (Howard) headed to college fall in love but only she knows that theirs is a seismic relationship. One they are unlikely to encounter again. The film deals with how does one save a relationship when only they know it won’t ever get better than this. Howard is able to telegraph that in touching and affecting ways. Her heartbreak and burgeoning experience comes through clearly as her character navigates the downs of this up and down love affair.

Give Me Liberty

Other emerging filmmakers highlighted by BamCinemaFest include Kirill Mikhanovsky and first timer Diana Peralta. In Mikhanovsky’s Give Me Liberty, we follow a medical transport driver - Vic played by Chris Galust - in a day from hell where almost everything goes wrong. His clients are unhappy, his ailing grandfather is losing his memory and might be an accidental arsonist. Vic has to drive a gaggle of older Russians to a funeral while forging a connection with a willful woman who has ALS (Lauren ”Lolo” Spencer). There’s kinetic energy to spare lin the film, like a fast car careening off the rails as we live through Vic’s extra extra day. Full of big characters who wear their emotions on their sleeves while screaming at each other, Give Me Liberty finds a heart rending story of kinship and love amid the chaos.

De Lo Mio

In Peralta’s De Lo Mio, two New York sisters travel to the Dominican Republic to sell their grandmother's old home. Once there they try to heal a rift with their estranged brother who was left behind by their father, creating friction in the siblings relationship. A series of conversations, reproachments and approachements tell a poignant, deftly observed and recognizable story of familial love and strife. Like The Farewell and Premature, De Lo Mio is inspired by Peralta’s family history and she also finds authenticity in drawing on her own life.

Selah and the SpadesA movie we missed at Sundance but were happy to discover in Brooklyn is the stylish Selah and The Spades. Another feature debut, from Tayarisha Poe, Selah is the arty dapper cousin of Mean Girls. It follows a group of smart students in a Pennsylvania prep school who exert influence by playing mind games against each other in a deadly quest for power. Lovie Simone as their leader gives a startling performance and Moonlight's Jharrel Jerome, who's having a moment right now with his leading performance in Ava DuVernay's When They See Us, is touching in a supporting part.In both Selah and Premature, it was gratifying to see black people in present day America dealing with something other than systemic injustice. Not that the filmmakers ignore the push and pull of societal forces, but it’s not the focus.

BAMCinemaFest runs June 12—23. 

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Reader Comments (1)

I saw Selah and the Spades at Sundance and I enjoyed how it was a revingiration of the nature of high school cliques. Hopefully, it finds a distributor if it hasn't already.

June 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew St.Clair

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