The 10 Must-See Films at BAMcinemaFest 2015

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This Wednesday, BAM’s 7th annual BAMcinemaFest will begin and once again highlight the best in American independent cinema. The Brooklyn-based festival will showcase 35 New York premieres of the most interesting and dynamic films from both established filmmakers and fascinating new talent. James Ponsoldt’s David Foster Wallace drama The End of the Tour will kick off the festival, with Alex Ross Perry’s Queen of Earth as the Centerpiece, and Sean Baker’s Tangerine as the Closing Night feature. From Wednesday June 18 through June 28, we’ll see lo-fi wonders from Nathan Silver’s chaotic beauty Stinking Heaven and Stephen Winter’s feverish Jason and Shirley to a 20th anniversary celebration of Larry Clark’s Kids and revered documentaries like Les Blank’s previously unreleased A Poem is Naked Person

Stay tuned for our forthcoming interviews with directors Nathan Silver, Stephen Cone, and Stephen Winter and check out the 10 must-see films at BAMcinemaFest 2015 below.

STINKING HEAVEN, dir. Nathan Silver
Screening Thursday, June 18

As one of the most interesting young filmmakers working today, Nathan Silver has reached a new high with his latest film, Stinking Heaven. Churning out one film a year for the past five years, Silver’s latest comes off the critical success of his last two movies, Uncertain Terms and Soft in the Head. With Stinking Heaven, Silver once again revisits his affinity for stories that explore the claustrophobic and emotionally fraught experience of familial structures and shared living. Whereas his last film took place in a secluded home for pregnant teenagers, here Silver gives us a raw portrait of a suburban safe house for recovering addicts.

Featuring an ensemble cast — mixing indie film wold staples with incredible unknowns — the 90s-set Stinking Heaven intimately explores their daily life and rituals of the house, from group therapy and reenactments to the strained relationships and dynamics that make up their insular world. Shot on lo-fi cameras from the decade, the film plays out as a raw depiction of the tempestuous atmosphere that overcomes the house when a new member begins to disrupt their daily order. Through Silver’s neurotic and chaotic lens, we’re given a unique and visceral film that’s as intelligently crafted as it is playful and risk-taking—a refreshing and exciting new work from a director who gets better with each new cinematic world he chooses to inhabit.

Get your tickets HERE

THE END OF THE TOUR, dir. James Ponsoldt
Screening Wednesday, June 17

As noted in our list of most-anticipated summer movies:

There’s a sincerity and genuine touch to the films of James Ponsoldt. Whether he’s telling the story of a young alcoholic woman struggling to maintain her career and marriage or exploring the murky and confusing territory of being a high school student unsure of the future, he manages to invade these small and specific worlds with authenticity and tenderness. With his latest film, The End of the Tour, we again see feel that unique touch in the way he examines a brief period of time in the life of beloved writer David Foster Wallace.

Starring Jason Segel as Wallace and Jesse Eisenberg as writer David Lipsky, The End of the Tour begins when Lipsky decides to profile Wallace for Rolling Stone and joins him on the road for the last leg of his book tour. Mainly consisting of intimate conversations between the two men as they eat candy, chain smoke, and debate everything from artistic integrity and the pain of loneliness to Wallace’s rumored heroin addiction and his sartorial choices, Ponsoldt crafts a well-rounded and human portrait of one of the literary world’s most celebrated artists. 

Get your tickets HERE

KIDS, dir. Larry Clark
Screening Thursday, June 25

It’s been twenty years since Larry Clark’s Kids first shocked the world. It all began in the early 1990s Clark discovered Harmony Korine skateboarding in Washington Square Park and asked him to write a script about NYC culture, skaters, and the teen AIDS experience. Their resulting film has gone on to be one of the most important films of the decade and remains an iconic portrait of a generation. Hailed by The New York Times as “a wake-up call to the world,” Kids gives an unflinching look at urban adolescence and the senseless, haphazard freedom of youth. 

Focusing on skaters Telly and Casper, Kids centers on their daily life in Manhattan on their endless quest for sex and drugs at the height of the AIDS epidemic. Starring Leo Fitzpatrick and Justin Pierce, alongside Chloë Sevigny and Rosario Dawson, Kids not only launched the careers of its star but made Korine one of the most fascinating characters in independent film. Now two decades later the film feels just as potent and raw as when it debuted.

Get your tickets HERE

QUEEN OF EARTH, dir. Alex Ross Perry
Screening June 22-28

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In the last year, director Alex Ross Perry’s career has skyrocketed. Coming off the success of his sardonic sensation Listen Up Philip, not only is he now working on an adaptation of Don DeLillo’s The Names but he’s been hired to write the live-action feature adaption of Disney’s Winnie the Pooh. Yet his latest film, Queen of Earth, bares little resemblance to his previous films nor his more mainstream future. As a haunting psychological drama set at a lakeside cabin, the film feels like a departure or an experiment for Perry into new territory—and to our delight, it’s one of his finest features to date.

Starring Elisabeth Moss, in a role that showcases her tremendous range and talent, alongside newcomer Katherine Waterston in an excellently-controlled performance, Queen of Earth centers around what happens when two friends reunite for a summer holiday. Indebted to anxious psychological thrillers and dramas of the 1970s, the sun-dappled and anxious film plays out as Virginia (Moss) begins unraveling her memories of the last year. Melding the past and the present, we watch as she spirals into a spine-chilling state as the two women’s life strangely begin to intersect. Queen of Earth highlights Perry’s versatile and unwavering talent, giving us characters as well-rounded and rich as the stunning 16mm cinematography they’re lensed through. 

Get your tickets HERE

A POEM IS A NAKED PERSON, dir. Les Blank
Screening Saturday, June 27

As we noted in our list of most-anticipated summer movies:

Although legendary documentarian Les Blank’s A Poem is Naked Person was filmed between 1972 and 1974, the previously unreleased film didn’t have its world premiere until this year’s SXSW film festival. But this summer Blank’s incredible time capsule, and first feature-length work, will have the proper theatrical release it’s due. The intimate and immersive film acts a beautiful time capsule of a generation, focusing on songwriter Leon Russell. Brimming with music from beginning the end, we’re given another taste of Blank’s fascinating cinematic style with performance footage (featuring Willie Nelson and George Jones) and fly-on-the-wall observations, all shot on gorgeous 16mm.

Described as an, “ineffable mix of unbridled joy and vérité realism,” A Poem is Naked Person, “lets us into the world of Russell and his friends and fellow artists in and around his recording studio in northeast Oklahoma, capturing intimate, off-the-cuff moments and combining them with mesmerizing scenes of Russell and his band performing live. This singular film about an artist and his community never got an official theatrical release and has attained legendary status; now after more than forty years it can finally be seen and heard in all its rough beauty.”

Get your tickets HERE

HENRY GAMBLE’S BIRTHDAY PARTY, dir. Stephen Cone
Screening Thursday, June 25

At the heart of director Stephen Cone’s new film Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party lies a rare and genuine sincerity. As one of the most interesting films of the festival, Cone’s latest explores everything from sex, religion, and the intersection of private and public life to the suffocating pressure of adulthood and the confounding experience of being a teenager—all set within a 24 hour period surrounding a suburban pool party. Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party centers in on its titular character, a 17-year-old preacher’s son at the crossroads of being a teen in an evangelical household and discovering who he is on his own terms.

We observe how Henry navigates this the dichotomy between his spirituality and his sexuality, namely through relationship his friend Gabe, amidst the quiet chaos of his birthday party. The event brings together his parents, who’ve grown emotionally adrift from one another, and the religious community of adults and teens around them. The ensemble drama meets coming-of-age story is a beautifully crafted and compassionate portrait of one specific community yet feels universal in its themes and struggles thanks to Cone’s acute dramatic and emotional understanding. 

Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party will screen with C. Mason Wells’ Judy Judy Judy.

Get your tickets HERE

TANGERINE, dir. Sean Baker
Screening Sunday, June 28

As noted in our list of most-anticipated summer movies:

After premiering at Sundance back in January, Sean Baker’s Tangerine will finally head to theaters this summer. Following up 2012’s Starlet, Baker’s latest impressive film opened to a wealth of great reviews out of the festival and brings to light a unique look at world rarely explored in cinema—and it was all shot on an iPhone. Starring newcomers Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor with James Ransone, the film goes as follows:

“It’s Christmas Eve in Tinseltown and Sin-Dee (Rodriguez) is back on the block. Upon hearing that her pimp boyfriend (Ransone) hasn’t been faithful during the 28 days she was locked up, the working girl and her best friend, Alexandra (Taylor), embark on a mission to get to the bottom of the scandalous rumor. Their rip-roaring odyssey leads them through various subcultures of Los Angeles, including an Armenian family dealing with their own repercussions of infidelity.”

Get your tickets HERE

JASON AND SHIRLEY, dir. Stephen Winter
Screening Thursday, June 18

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In his first feature-length work since 1997’s Chocolate Babies, director Stephen Winter returns with the new film, Jason and Shirley. Teeming with anxiety and frenetic energy, Winters’ film gives us a fictionalized version of undocumented real events. Based on avant-garde filmmaker Shirley Clarke’s now-iconic 1967 film Portrait of Jason, the film explores what happened during the making of that documentary when the cameras weren’t rolling. Clarke’s feature-length interview with entertainer and hustler Jason Holliday was a radical and fascinating work that remains a seminal document about persona, race, and performance.

Here, Winter takes us on an exploration of the single day the film was shot and the dynamic between filmmaker and subject. Starring theater actor Jack Waters and author sara Schulaman as Holliday and Clarke, the film plays our with a booze-soaked manic fervor. We observe as Clarke begins to deconstruct Holliday’s carefully constructed exterior and whittle him down to capture what we now revere as the subject of her legendary film.

Jason + Shirley will screen with Michael Almereyda’s Mondo Cane.

Get your tickets HERE

COUNTING, dir. Jem Cohen
Screening Saturday, June 27

Coming off the critical success of 2013‘s Museum Hours, New York filmmaker Jem Cohen returns to BAMcinemaFest with his latest film Counting. After debuting at the Berlin Film Festival back in February, Counting will have its North American Premiere before Cinema Guild releases the film later this year. As a “master at evoking the fabric of urban life with richly textured combinations of sound and image,” Cohen’s latest brings us around the world, from New York and Moscow to Istanbul. Told through 15 chapters, Counting acts as a“tapestry that captures a range of ephemeral moments with an elegiac tenderness, from street protests to flickering lights and the movement of clouds across the sky.” 

Get your tickets HERE

THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION, dir. Penelope Spheeris
Screening Friday, June 19

As one of BAMcinemaFest’s special events, a new 2K restoration of Penelope Spheeris’ documentary The Decline of Western Civilization will screen  later this week. Filmed between 1979 and 1980, the now-cult-film captures the Los Angeles punk scene in the 1980s, giving us a… “front row seat to the mosh pits, violence, humor, and anti-establishment view of the world, as well as unparalleled access to some of the most influential and innovative musicians and groups of all time, including X, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Fear, and Germs. Largely unknown to the mainstream world at the time, many of the punk bands first seen here have become legendary. This time capsule of a singular moment in rock history is highly-celebrated and has been in demand for decades by fans worldwide.”

Get your tickets HERE

BONUS! BAMcinemaFest’s Secret Screening: Noah Baumbach’s Mistress America

As noted in our list of most-anticipated summer movies:

Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig are at it again. Following up the success of their 2013 black-and-white wonder Frances Ha, the cinematic duo has re-teamed for their take on the screwball comedy—once again featuring the multi-talented Gerwig in the starring role. Whereas in Frances Ha Gerwig played the hapless New York post-grad amidst an existential and emotional crisis, now we see her as Brooke, a scheming “gal about town.” The film follows as Brooke becomes acquainted with her soon-to-be stepsister Tracy (played by Lola Kirke), a college freshman, and takes her under her strange and alluring wing. As evidenced by Frances Ha in comparison to Baumbach’s While We’re Young, it seems the director is at his best these days when working with Gerwig, melding their talent for writing witty and intelligent dialogue with character details that swiftly lure you into their world and bring you along for the ride.

Get your tickets HERE