Brooklyn Film Festival 2014 Transcends Formula To Deliver Fascinating Films From Around The World

Featured Critic; New York City, New York
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The Brooklyn Film Festival, the largest and longest running competitive, international film festival in Brooklyn, will run its 17th annual edition from May 30 through June 8 in Williamsburg, at indieScreen and Windmill Studios NYC. Don't let the festival's title mislead you; although Brooklyn filmmakers of course have a prominent place at the fest, its scope expands far beyond the borough to include films and filmmakers from around the world. Over 100 narrative and documentary features and shorts will screen during the festival, guaranteeing an impressive eclecticism in its selections.

Each year's festival is given a titled theme; this year's theme is "Formula." The festival's press release articulates their thinking behind this theme:

BFF Executive Director Marco Ursino said of the 2014 edition, "Our theme this year deals with an enigma: Is there a winning Formula to communicate with the audience and ultimately create a successful independent film? We ponder this complex question by thinking about the chemistry that might ultimately achieve such a formula. Do formulas apply exclusively to big budget filmmaking, are there formulas for independent filmmakers, and is there such a thing as formula-free filmmaking? How does a project preserve its independent spirit when the story is told by adopting proven storytelling formulas? And what has the independent film movement done in recent years to adapt new methods of filmmaking? We encourage our filmmakers, audiences, industry guests, Brooklyn, all New Yorkers and the rest of the world to stir the ingredients in this potent and perplexing formula." 

If the films I was able to preview are any indication, it will be very difficult to identify any sort of formula in these films; their filmmaking styles and approaches to their subject matter are truly original and often quite surprising.

Click through the gallery below to read my takes on a few of this year's selections. For more information on these and other festival films, visit the Brooklyn Film Festival website.


This film, one of the festival's two opening night films, deftly transcends the clichés often inherent in Meyerhoff’s chosen modes of storytelling – the coming-of-age story and the road movie – by its intriguing use of autobiography and its affectingly personal feel. Davina (Natalia Dyer) is a teenager stuck in a sleepy town, having to care for her disabled mother (Toni Meyerhoff, the director’s mother).

One day she catches sight of Sterling (Peter Vack), an older punk rocker and skateboarder whom she instantly identifies as the man of her dreams. They soon hook up, and she loses her virginity to Sterling. Although he is initially cold towards her afterward, he soon warms to her again, and they set off on a road trip, the destination being “anywhere but here.”

Davina often retreats into a fantasy world of unicorns, princesses and dragons (rendered in the film by whimsical stop-motion animation), but as they travel together and their money dwindles, and Sterling reveals darker and more volatile sides of himself, Davina longs to return home. Strong performances by both Dyer and Vack, as well as its appealingly dreamy atmosphere, prevent this film from being unbearably precious, and instead render it a compelling portrait of a young girl’s emotional rites of passage.

(May 30, 8pm)

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Brooklyn Film FestivalEsy CaseyI Believe in UnicornsIntimate SemaphoresJeepneyLeah MeyerhoffMladen KovacevicT.J. MisnyUnplugged
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