By Mary Thornton
For the 19th year, the Brooklyn Film Festival boasts selections from all over the world. With 107 films from 31 countries, there was no shortage of impressive films both feature-length and short. With an overall theme for the festival of "Experiment," there was no better place to be to be exposed to the up and coming people and trends in film.
Spanning from the first Friday in June with an opening party and screening to the following weekend through the award ceremony on Sunday evening, the festival presented its short films in groupings by genre. Even in a block of documentary or animated shorts, there was very little overlap in themes and stories. However, what really grabbed me about the shorts presented - especially in the experimental group - was the variety in visuals.
Another great thing to witness at an event like this was what was happening in the world of sound design. Although not as easily noticed (or as easily shared in an article format), as visuals, I was interested in the way that Foley and music could come together to create a world. This was especially key in the shorts because of how vital it is to keep up a consistent atmosphere for anywhere from 3 to 20 minutes. One that I thought was a great example of this was the German short Solo Finale. The creaking and the echoes of an ancient organ in an empty, upside-down world works with the music and the conflict between the two characters.
Since each showing was followed by a question and answer session with the filmmakers present, it was always worth planning to stay longer. It was great to listen to filmmakers from different parts of the world answer the same question whether it was about their casting process or their original inspiration. One artist from Hong Kong was inspired to create his first ever film after a struggle with depression, and the unique sand art animation in his short Red Egg was a big part of his recovery.
With a story and characters reminiscent of a 1970's crime movie but the colors and writing of a modern day thriller, Crooked and Narrow managed to keep the audience's tension level high. I think the best evidence for this is how, even in expected scenes of conflict and violence, from my spot far back in the screening room I could see a number of audience members jump at every sudden punch or gunshot. It also speaks to how well the sound in the film was mixed. As I mentioned before, this is a time where many filmmakers and editors in particular have realized the important part that sound design can play. While I won't say any titles in particular, there were examples of films even at this festival that fell short even to the point of having key dialogue be inaudible. This, however, was not one of them. The sound and editing in general contributed so much to each scene that the film actually took home an award for best editing, which I felt was very well deserved.
One of the things that made the festival exciting for anyone in the area is that, since it spanned a full week, each film was shown twice. This is, however, where commuting for the weekends of the festival made it difficult to get the full scope of everything the event had to offer. While I wasn't able to see every movie, I did attempt to see at least something from every category. While reading the descriptions of the films, I immediately had to stop at Lapachhapi. This turned out to be a very good decision.
Overall, the festival that took place over several locations in the Greenpoint and Williamsburg neighborhoods certainly delivered on its theme. Between the exposure to and opportunities for international and local filmmakers and panels and networking opportunities for attendees, witnessing an event like this is truly a reminder that however intimidating the glut of films out there currently being made may be, there is always room for original and powerful storytelling. I actually had the chance to sit down with some of the filmmakers not mentioned in this article. I for one am excited by the trends in movies I saw from just about everything I watched, but I feel the three directors I spoke to are going to be particularly interesting to watch in years to come.
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