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FESTIVAL CALENDAR

JUNE

--Brooklyn International Film Festival
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JULY

--Japan Cuts: Festival of New Japanese Films
--NY African Film Festival
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AUGUST

--ACE Film Festival
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SEPTEMBER

--Coney Island Film Festival
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OCTOBER

--Cinekink
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NOVEMBER

--African Diaspora Film Festival
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--Indo-American Arts Council Film Festival
-- International Dog Film Festival
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JANUARY

--Explorers Club Documentary Film Festival
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FEBRUARY

--NY Arab and South Asian Film Festival
--Red Shift Festival
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MARCH

--Craic Film Fleadh
--Fusion Film Festival
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--Independent Thai Film Festival
--New Directors/New Films
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APRIL

--Brooklyn Underground Film Festival
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MAY

--Bicycle Film Festival
--Bosnian-Herzegovinian Film Festival
--NY International Children's Film Festival
--NY Minute Film Festival
--NY Polish Film Festival
--Pacifika: NY Hawaiian Film Festival
--Sundance at BAM
--Be Film / Tribeca Underground Film Festival

ONGOING --Animation Block
--Asbury Shorts of New York
--Caroline's Funny Film Shorts
--First Sundays Comedy Film Festival
--NewFilmmakers

NYC Film Festivals

International Focus, Brooklyn Flavor

Kelly Hutchinson and Jim True-Frost in a scene Slippery Slope, one of the locally produced films screening at the 10th Brooklyn International Film Festival (Photo: Sarah Schenck)
By Annaliese Griffin

The Brooklyn International Film Festival has changed as much as the borough itself over the past 10 years: What started out as a small event in Williamsburg has become a full-fledged film destination. A decade ago the event was an invitation to cross the bridge, founder and executive director Marco Ursino told The Reeler, while this year BiFF (opening tonight at Steiner Studios) hosts 140 films from 30 countries, selected from the more than 2,000 submissions. Festival entries, which include both features and shorts, will screen all over the borough, from Prospect Heights to the Navy Yard to Cobble Hill and back up to Williamsburg, where it all began.

Identity, the organizing theme for 2007, emerged as Ursino and his staff considered BiFF’s future. “We started to ask ourselves in the fall, ‘Who are we, where are we going, is it a good machine that we’re driving?’” he said. Ursino noted that he prefers to structure the festival around broad ideas that allow for a wide variety of work. “Cultural identity, transformation. Who are we as a festival, a country or a planet? The themes are always philosophical not too narrow."

Despite the largely abstract work of exploring identity, Brooklyn has emerged as one concrete motif among the festival offerings. Several films about the borough are in the line-up, as well as films by directors from the borough. Slippery Slope, a feature from Sarah Schenck, a Park Slope-based filmmaker, makes its U.S. debut as part of BiFF on Sunday, June 3. A comedy about a filmmaker who secretly takes a job directing porn in order to fund her documentary, Feminism for Dummies, Schenck’s film takes a look at feminism and pornography through the same lens.

In a telephone interview with The Reeler, Schenck explained that the idea for the screenplay was born out of an ongoing conversation with a documentarian friend -- both of them had toyed with the idea of directing porn. Instead, Schenck wrote and directed Slippery Slope. “There’s a real tension between some mainstream feminist thought about pornography and what I thought was erotic,” she said. “I don’t really believe there’s a complete difference between what men and women are interested in sexually.”

Although the movie has been well received at festivals in Montreal and Italy, Schenck submitted it to 40 U.S. festivals and it was only picked up by BiFF. “I don’t understand why this film hasn’t screened anywhere else," she said. "I wonder if it’s because it’s explicit."

For director Andrew Traister, screening his film, Nicky’s Birthday Camera, at BiFF is an unequivocal triumph. “When you’re a first-time director and you’re 61 years old and you get an opportunity to screen your film in New York, where you also grew up, it’s fantastic,” he said, speaking from his home in California. Traister’s movie is told entirely through the point of view of a mute boy with a video camera. The movie he shoots "tells the truth and sets things right, but not without creating chaos,” the director said.

Ursino said that he sees the 2007 festival as a point of departure; the screenings around Brooklyn and advertising partnerships with bars and restaurants around the borough have recast it as an international event with distinctly local focus. “It’s a fresh start, I really see it that way,” Ursino said, “We’re going back to the original spirit, but thank God we have a little more experience.”

The Brooklyn International Film Festival runs until June 10 throughout Brooklyn. For program and ticket information, visit the festival's Web site.

Posted at June 1, 2007 9:22 AM

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