Cinema in a Time of COVID

tagsPerformance Centre Chairs

The Lower East Side Film Festival was initially unremarkable in a pop-up space, with 30 folding chairs and a drop-down projector screen, and later gradually grew into iconic venues such as Crosby Street Hotel, Soho House and Sunshine Cinema. Although the COVID pandemic has stopped live celebrations, which include pool parties, self-driving theaters, walkers on stilts, and firefighters, audiences can still play all 37 movies at home until June 29.

Roxy Hunt, the director and co-founder of the festival, said: "We have many excellent filmmakers, and many great films are part of our plan. We don't want to let them down." The 33-year-old East Village resident explained that LESFF was born because it needed to give emerging filmmakers with low budgets the opportunity to show their work.

In their 10-year history, they have been among the famous judges Ethan Hawke, Susan Sarandon, Rami Malek and Rosario Dao. With many stars including Rosario Dawson, hundreds of new short films and feature films were celebrated. This year's focus is to recognize the first and second generation of American filmmakers, including Indya Moore in FX's "Pose" and Samantha Bee in "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee".

Hunter's husband, Tony Castle, also serves as co-founder and festival director. The couple, both natives of Colorado, moved to New York in 2009 and founded a film production company BFD Productions outside of Williamsburg.

The idea came from my holiday companions, Shannon Walker and Damon Cardasis, who made a functional simulation model for less than $10,000. They didn't see many places where movies like this were shown, because there weren't many festivals to hold such cheap movies. It was born out of a love of low-budget miniature movies, and they needed a festival to call themselves. It's in a pop-up space on Norfolk Street. It was just a small shop with 30 folding chairs and a drop-down projector screen. There is a popcorn machine behind us. It's BYOB. We did it for almost a month; it sold out every night. It creates a very intimate environment. Our audience was forced to sit next to each other, and the filmmakers were there. It creates an interesting atmosphere, which we did not have in other film festivals before.

For the autonomous driving cinema, we took over a parking lot in the Lower East Side. New Yorkers don’t usually own cars, so we partnered with Zipcar and they provided a bunch of Mini Cooper convertibles. Our parking lots are lined up, and people can basically rent cars as theater seats. We are projecting on the building, there are some food trucks, some performers and some DJs behind the pickup truck. That's really fun. We held a pool party at the 60 LES hotel in the pool. Similarly, we projected on the wall adjacent to the swimming pool. People are floating in the swimming pool while watching movies.

We asked the filmmakers directly whether they identified them as immigrants or first generations, so we have many different people identifying themselves in this way. These films are all over the festival, but one of the nights is more specific. This is our "This Is America" ​​short film gallery. These are just some great short films and a different part of American culture. We have a pair of "I love New York" shorts; they are always popular among the audience. "Mindf**k" shorts are one of the things we all know; people come back year after year, just very crazy, experimental, chaotic movies, but in a good way. We have a showroom called "Me, Me and Myself", the movie is about self-reflection, growth and adulthood. We try to make sure that everyone has something. Moreover, if you are not a huge movie fan, you are still approachable, and you can find out what might be of interest to you from the schedule.

We cooperate with the Writers Association of the Eastern United States; we cooperate with them to hold some industry seminars every year. This year is the second season of "Rami"'s "In the Writer's Room", so it is him and many other writers in his writer's room. This was hosted by Rowaida Abdelaziz of the Huffington Post, a terrific reporter who specializes in covering Islamophobia and social justice issues. We talked a lot about the different representations of Muslims on TV and the media, and the role of Lamy in all of them.

With the current movement and widespread calls for systemic changes in cultural structures and institutions (especially in New York City), we feel that we need to study ourselves and our programs and really acknowledge that many people of color have more There are more obstacles to entering the holiday circuit than anyone else. We hope that we can help with films that have already been produced. Sometimes this is over and your funds are used up. You will not be able to get the final mix or color, and you will not be able to pay the festival commission. Moreover, we have seen that many filmmakers are facing these problems, asking us to reduce fees, and we will provide assistance where possible, but we really want to try to focus on pushing these films to the end and remove some obstacles, especially It is aimed at BIPOC film producers.

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