June 12, 2009 by Sarojini Seupersad
The Brooklyn International Film Festival is currently underway with more than 100 films and daily social events. If you don’t already know, the competitive festival includes experimental films, shorts, animation, documentaries and of course, feature films. The ten-day festival, now in its 12th year, has a very unique draw – it features films from around the world that probably will not be screened anywhere else in the U.S., much less in New York City.
And while the festival is really about the individual films, it’s also about authenticity and the art of filmmaking. This year, with a record-breaking 2786 submissions from 111 countries, only 114 made the cut. So the films chosen are the best that independent film has to offer. Some noteworthy films garnering attention are “The Timekeeper,” “Breaking Upwards,” and the odd documentary, “The Man Who Could Be Polka King,” about the world-famous polka star who involved himself in a very dirty business. After certain screenings, there will be a Q&A with the stars, directors or writers.
According Marco Ursino, the Executive Director and creator of the Brooklyn International Film Festival, this particular film festival really is about relationships. He feels independent films speak to audiences because of their simple depictions of human contact. “Everything around us is about relationships. American films are about communication and relationships. And a lot of independent films are about death, the telling of the story, desire for rebirth, closure and moving on. These films are more like ‘The Crash of the Planet’ point of view.” He also feels that the old Hollywood model does not really work anymore: “I don’t like a film where within five minutes, I can figure out the end. But an independent movie offers freedom from that. The independent movie equals freedom… Independent films can take more risks.” Read the interview here.
While the attendance and submissions have increased exponentially over the years – the first year had 100 submissions and 30 chosen films – Ursino says one thing hasn’t changed; the audience and their desire for interesting films. First begun as a hobby and as a last resort to screen his films, it has turned into a full-time job for Ursino, with 3 regular year-round employees and 20 more seasonal employees when festival season begins.
Ursino has a lot to say about the festival, like a father talking about his child graduating from college, he beams and laughs and is genuinely interested in discussing it. He’s friendly, open and couldn’t resist telling us a juicy tid-bit of a not-so-gossipy story: Since most of the filmmakers are from oversees, the festival provides accommodations for the filmmakers at The Hotel Chandler. This is the very same hotel that is run by Simon van Kempen, the now almost-famous, faux-French, social-climbing husband from “The Real Housewives of New York City.” Apparently, Simon has been to the festival, loves it and has offered accommodations to the guests, free of charge. What a guy, Simon! Way to give back to the arts community.
The festival runs till Sunday June 14, 2009. You can still catch some good flicks before they wrap it up for this year, so go here to view the schedule. The awards and selections will be given on Sunday as well, so stick around and meet the winners. Maybe you’ll run into Simon, Johan and Francois. Bon jour!