One of our favorite festivals of the New York City film calendar gets underway tonight. For the next 12 days, BAMcinemaFest celebrates American independents by showcasing some of the best films making the festival rounds today. This year’s slate, which includes 24 features, consists of American stories. Notably, many of the films draw attention to an American subculture, or particular city or place. From Los Angeles to Columbus, Indiana to a Native American reservation in Wyoming, the 2017 edition of BAMcinemaFest takes audiences on a trip across the country.
For those who want to explore, but also want to stay close to home, there are a number of films at this year’s fête that examine life in the big apple. Jim Strouse’s relationship comedy The Incredible Jessica James (June 16) is about an aspiring Bushwick-dwelling playwright, played by Jessica Williams (The Daily Show, 2 Dope Queens), who is struggling to get over a breakup. Gillian Robespierre’s Landline (June 17) is a comedy about a circa-1995 Manhattan family that features Jenny Slate, Edie Falco and John Turturro. Alex Ross Perry encircles a group of insecure Brooklynites in Golden Exits (June 24), a meaty, Whit-Stillman-meets-Ingmar-Bergman-style black comedy. And, two films at the festival look at undocumented immigrants living in New York; Ana Asencio’s SXSW Grand Jury Prize winner Most Beautiful Island (June 21), and festival centerpiece, Jim McKay’s En el Séptimo Día (June 18).
Festival goers are easily transported to Los Angeles with two films in the lineup. Aaron Katz’s Gemini (June 14), which screens opening night, is a stylish LA-set murder mystery that stars Lola Kirke and Zoë Kravitz. Matt Spicer also exposes Southern California in Ingrid Goes West (June 23), a story of a social media obsessed woman played by Aubrey Plaza who ingratiates herself with her Instagram crush, Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen).
After hitting up both coasts, a slice of middle America could be a good thing, which is where Kogonada’s Columbus (June 17) comes in. The film is set in Columbus, Indiana and unites actors John Chu and Haley Lu Richardson in an unlikely friendship.
Wondering what life is like on a Native American reservation in Wyoming? If so, Taylor Sheridan’s murder mystery Wind River (June 18) should figure into your plans. The film, which won Sheridan a directing award at Cannes, stars Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner, and features a haunting score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.
Montana’s mountains loom large in Alex and Andrew Smith’s Walking Out (June 20). The film, which had its premiere at Sundance earlier this year, is a father/son survival tale.
There are two other documentaries in the BAMcinemaFest program worthy of note for representing a cross-section of America. In his documentary Escapes (June 24), Michael Almereyada looks at the life of Hollywood legend Hampton Fancher, a man who came of age during the twilight years of the studio system. And, then there’s Nanfu Wang’s I Am Another You (June 18). Wang, who was born in China and came to the US in 2011, becomes charmed by a homeless drifter named Dylan during a visit to Florida. She turns her camera on him and the resulting documentary unfolds like a mystery as she follows him across America.
Another reason to hit up this gem of a festival is for the engaging post-screening discussions with the cast and crew of the films. You can find out more about who will be in attendance as well as how to score tickets at the festival’s website.
BAMcinemaFest is on now through June 25 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Photo above is from Matt Spicer’s Ingrid Goes West.