Spring festival season is in full swing in New York. The New Directors/New Films festival continued its filmmaker events with a casual dinner at Cineric‘s lab facilities, and Gen Art launched its week-long series of movies and parties for the urban professional set. And at the Anthology Film Archives, New York prepared to bid a fond farewell to the nation’s first underground film festival.
Cineric Salutes ND/NF Filmmakers
The New Directors/New Films festival is well underway, and on Tuesday evening, the film lab Cineric hosted a party in honor of the filmmakers. The attendees mingled, dined and drank in-between tours of the facility, a former (and future) post-production facility now working in preservation and restoration efforts. Guests made their way back to the company’s screening room to watch side-by-side before-and-after restoration prints of “Dr. Strangelove,” which two years ago became the first black and white film restored at the highest digital resolution of 4K.
“We thought this function would be a great way to bring new filmmakers into film labs,” says MoMA curator Rajendra Roy, “to see what the process is not only for the creation of their new films, but also to keep in mind restoration and preservation.”
“Cineric used to have a smaller-scale event every year,” explains president Balazs Nyari, whose company is preparing to return to its previous capacity as a post-production house (their last films were “Bringing Out the Dead” and “The Sixth Sense“). “We decided to bring back young filmmakers, because they will see here something they may never have seen in their lives, these days: where you have a fully-functioning optical camera, where you walk through editing rooms where people are working with actual film on the table, doing film effects and preservation and working with it, alongside the truly modern digital facilities.”
“A lot of the best restoration places have come from the post-producton houses,” says director of preservation and restoration Tom Heitman. “We’re one of the only places that has all the technology, to register 3-strip, Technoscope, all kinds of things.”
The New Directors/New Films festival continues through Sunday.
Gen Art Opens To “Capacity”
Wednesday night was a madhouse at New York’s most cherished movie palace, the Clearview Ziegfeld Theater in midtown, for the opening night of the 13th annual Gen Art Film Festival, a week which advertises 7 premieres, 7 shorts and 7 parties. The opening film was actor/director Terry Kinney‘s inoffensive little Sundance Amer-Indie “Diminished Capacity‘, a broad, road-trip comedy featuring two men with slightly malfunctioning memories, one (Matthew Broderick) as the lingering result of a concussion and the other (Alan Arkin) due to progressing senility.
The crowd was at capacity, hoping to get a look at the two stars (alongside Bobby Cannavale and Louis C.K.) before heading to the ritzy post-party at the Park. If the young, affluent, and somewhat yuppie attendees seemed a bit different from New York’s typical festival crowd, it’s because they are.
Gen Art was originally founded in 1993, as a way to connect young, unestablished artists with young potential art collectors, who had financial resources but were often intimidated by the gallery scene. The film festival continues in that tradition by screening small-budget films to high-budget patrons.
“Unlike most festivals, the audience here isn’t made up of people who call themselves ‘cinephiles’,” says festival director Jeffrey Abramson. “They tend to be more mainstream- they’re Netflix subscribers, people who watch movies at Union Square rather than Film Forum. But they’re open to new films, that they might not have heard of- they’re curious.”
This year’s festival features a mix of the crowd-pleasers (Tim Sanderson‘s “Nightlife“, on Friday, a world premiere everyday-life-of-vampires mockumentary) to the edgy (Jennifer Phang‘s Sundance stand-out semi-animated suburban decay poem “Half-Life“, Sunday). “We want to program films that resonate with our audience, but we still want to challenge them,” says Abramson. “We know the audience will show up regardless, especially for the parties.”
The organization knows its target audience well- these are extremely social people, and the nightly parties, each at a different upscale venue and each with a name DJ, are an essential part of what brings this audience out; every night feels like a Flavorpill special event, particularly as most filmmakers and cast members attend.
“A lot of festivals, they show the movie and people go off and do their own thing,” explains Abramson. “We want to bring people together- the filmmakers, the audience, the industry. We’ve never changed the essential format, because it does really well.”
The festival continues through Tuesday at the Visual Arts Theater, formerly the Chelsea Clearview West.
Underground Fest’s Swan Song
Wednesday night also saw the opening of the 15th annual (and final) New York Underground Film Festival at the Anthology Film Archives, with the New York premiere of VICE Films‘ first effort, Eddy Moretti and Suroosh Alvi‘s documentary “Heavy Metal in Baghdad“. The film is the story of Iraqi heavy metal band “Acrassicauda”, who attempt to perform music while facing a rapidly deteriorating civil situation.
“When we were discussing how so many other organizations like ours are closing down,” says festival co-director Nellie Killian, “we thought, ‘well, we’re a small organization, and we’re vulnerable. How sad would it be if we just disappeared without notice?’ We decided we’d like to go out with a bang.”
Over its 15 years, the festival’s seen its share of fanfare and controversy, including 1994’s screening of the NAMBLA documentary “Chicken Hawks“, legal prosecution resulting from Warner Brothers following a 2004 screening of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” with an alternate soundtrack by artist Brad Heeley, and a special 2002 protest by ‘God Hates Fags’ preacher Fred Phelps. This year, the festival will be screening a retrospective of past festival highlights.
The festival may be ending, but its essential spirit is still alive and kicking (for proof, check this out. If you don’t fall in love, you aren’t a New Yorker). The festival will live on as Migrating Forms organization, started by Killian and co-director Kevin McGarry, which will also host a spring festival.
“The main difference in organizations is that we wanted to start doing year-round programming, to make this organization into something more sustainable that can offer more support to artists,” says Killian. “In some ways the organizational change was primarily a name-change; once we stopped thinking of this as the NYUFF, we were able to really feel we were starting with a blank slate, as far as developing the organization.
“It’s liberating to get away from the word ‘Underground’,” she continues. “So many people have such specific ideas of what that means, and that can bother us when programming.” It’s hard to imagine that NYUFF co-founder Todd Phillips, who later went on the direct the films “Road Trip” and “Old School“, wouldn’t agree.
The NYUFF continues through Tuesday.