Though movie culture in Brooklyn has recently grown prominent, the borough’s cinematic vitality wasn’t always this strong. In 2007, when the Galapagos Art Space was located in the borough’s Williamsburgh neighborhood, a bunch of friends with ties to the now-defunct Reel Life video store — including the program’s current producer Chris Henderson — got together to host a movie night at Galapagos. The night, called Moviehouse, would show a cult movie and throw a short film from a local filmmaker in front of it.
When Galapagos moved to Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood that year, Moviehouse moved to the collaboration and education space 3rd Ward, where they dropped the Hollywood cult feature and focused on interesting short film programs, often paired with work in other fields — specifically comedy and dance — to create innovative programming that fills a niche. Now, Moviehouse tries to do as many outdoor or public projections as possible, but they move inside during the colder months for a monthly screening at 3rd Ward.
This Saturday, Moviehouse will invite Upright Citizens Brigade comic Angel Yau for a night of film and laughs. Earlier this season, the space showed the new TV on the Radio documentary and a dance and video performance.
Since its inception, Moviehouse has run its screenings with the help of a VJ. “We started the VJ to help people stay and so that Galapagos space could make money off their bar,” Henderson told Indiewire. “But now we’ve kept it, and our current VJ, Shantell Martin, is an internationally known artist. She live draws before every show. It’s about getting the audience to actually come and work with what’s on the screen, as opposed to sitting back and passively enjoying it.”
One of the organization’s unique focuses is dance and film/video. Henderson has worked with several other dance and arts non-profits. Now, he is particularly focused on getting dance and video performances into the Moviehouse program. “There’s very little space where people can be excited about the coming together of both media. Very few presenting organizations are interested in both. The most exciting work is multidisciplinary. It doesn’t help when people silo art.”
As for future plans, Henderson told Indiewire, the group hopes to organize outdoor projection and dance performance in public spaces in Greenpoint and Long Island City.
Here are Henderson’s movie preferences:
The film I have the fondest memories of is Walter Salles’ “Central Station.” Other favorites are “Barton Fink,” “Magnolia,” “Wild Strawberries,” “Modern Times,” “In The Mood For Love,” “Pi,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Raising Arizona,” “City of God,” “Children of Men,” and “The Muppet Movie.”
My favorite body of work is Jim Jaramusch’s. There isn’t a single weak film. His films capture thoughtful interactions between the actors, the sets, and the crew. I think my favorite scene is Roberto Benigni, Tom Waits and John Lurie screaming for ice cream in “Down By Law.”
Favorite Dance/Film or Video Piece:
Two of the most interesting pieces we’ve presented are Mayuna Shimizu’s “The Other Side” and Min Oh’s “A Dialogue.” Mayuna worked with an animator and a musician to create a work where the dancers and the videos essentially reflected each other to bring up notions of duality. In Min’s work she created a video program that would play clips of her in reaction to the audience’s choices. As a live performer she then interacted with the video to create a visual dialogue.
Favorite Thing About Brooklyn Film Culture:
We’re at a very exciting time now when the technology has been around long enough that artists are beginning to move past the kind of whizz-bang elements of including video or computer software in their work. The technology is becoming more of an aesthetic or narrative device rather than something that draws away from the piece. The great part about working in Brooklyn is that we have a large community of massively talented locals making innovative work, as well as tons of international artists who come and go and bring all of their exciting ideas and influences with them. It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of.