The Brooklyn Film Festival’s 21st Season is Upon Us: Get Ready for Love, Loss, Triumph and Controversy

The Brooklyn Film Festival is back with a vengeance – an artistic, thought-provoking reprisal – in the form of documentaries, features, narrative and animated shorts meant to strike a nerve, inform and leave audiences with a welcomed or unwelcomed – shock to the system. The film festival kicked off its 21st season at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn with a treasure trove of documentaries produced by The New York Times and a mix of animated and experimental films from the Brooklyn Film Festival. The 10-day festival is comprised of approximately 125 features and shorts from 30 countries spread over all continents, except Antarctica. The lineup includes 19 world premieres, 21 from the USA – 37 east coast debuts and 30 first-time screenings in New York City. The festival will present in total 36 short narrative films, 16 short documentary films, 25 animated films and 20 experimental films. There is bound to be a film for all tastes in this roster of diverse presentations from around the globe.

I’m a film buff and constantly seek out new and exciting films – especially independent films that will stake a claim on my brain and will leave me deep in thought for days. Two films that have ambushed my psyche so far: “Lieutenant of the Alt-Right” and “The Story of Esraa.” As the title suggests, “Lieutenant of the Alt-Right” is about one of the members of an extremist, white nationalist group. At first, I scoffed at this documentary, but as I was watched the film’s subject, Eli Mosley, a rising white supremacist leader, whose deep-rooted white male inadequacies was becoming the focus of his drive to spew hate and present himself as an American hero – was quickly challenged in the film. Bravo! To filmmakers, Emma Cott and Andrew Michael Ellis for letting the narrative take shape and expose Eli Mosley and his group’s false, albeit dangerous beliefs, and shed light on to an unfortunate rising movement.

Lieutenant of the Alt-Right, Credit THE NEW YORK TIMES

Photo: Courtesy of Times Documentaries

The second film that left a lasting impression on me is: “The Story of Esraa” – a young 20-something woman who challenges Egypt’s system by attempting to live her life free of her country’s constraints on family, religion, and personal freedoms as she embarks to rent an apartment with her like-minded friends, only to find obstacles and disappointment. This film will resonate with everyone who’s struggled to find their identity and establish themselves on own their own terms. I felt sorrow and hope for this woman, and as I chatted with one of the filmmakers, Mona El-Naggar, Mark Meatto, and Yousur Al-Hlou, I learned about Esraa’s story further. It made me question the freedoms and choices I currently have in the U.S., but for how long? With this administration at the helm chipping away at our Democratic freedoms daily, who’s to say, we can’t find ourselves like Esraa one day?

The Story of Esraa, Credit THE NEW YORK TIMES.png

Photo: Courtesy of Times Documentaries

The accompanying films on opening night were fantastic as well. The animated short from Italian director Fausto Montanari, “Weird” about girls being different and perceived as odd is a painstaking glimpse of society’s judgmental lens on how we see each other and ourselves. “Deportation Deadline’s” subject matter, by directors Brent McDonald, John Woo, and Jonah M. Kessel is straight from our current news cycle, as many families are continuously torn apart by ICE agents with deportation orders enforced by the Trump administration. The relevancy is strikingly accurate and telling of the injustices currently happening to undocumented immigrants in our country.

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Photo: Courtesy of Brooklyn Film Festival

The Brooklyn Film Festival’s (BFF) theme this year is: “Bad times make great art.” And I for one can’t wait to see what’s in store for the duration of this provocative festival that has been staging international and competitive films and independent production of films and drawing worldwide attention to Brooklyn as a center for cinema. BFF promotes artistic excellence and creative freedom without censure, and has done so since 1998. To see an encore of The New York Times produced documentaries and the Brooklyn Film Festival’s stellar films, click here for ticket info, venues, dates and times. Viva la Cinema!

 

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Review: ‘Sancho: An Act of Remembrance’ Emotional, Provocative and Timely

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Photo: Robert Day

If Paterson Joseph’s name doesn’t automatically invoke the phrase “thespian of our time”, then the acknowledgement is long overdue. Joseph’s career trajectory spans over two decades with a vast array of Shakespearean and other notable stage performances, film and television series (The Beach, Aeon Flux, NBC’s “Timeless,” and “Doctor Who,”). The talented and versatile British actor brings to life Sancho: An Act of Remembrance to the National Black Theatre in Harlem with an undeniable vibrancy and a steadfast energy. Written, conceived and performed as a one-man show, Joseph commands the audiences’ attention as soon a he steps on stage.

Paterson Joseph begins with a brief intro to his entertainment background and seamlessly segues into the character he’s portraying: Charles Ignatius Sancho. Sancho, an African man born on a slave ship – who was able to rise from poverty and servitude in 18th century England and become an educated social satirist, composer, abolitionist and ultimately a man of refinement evidenced by his portrait – painted and immortalized – by renowned artist, Thomas Gainsborough. I can’t recall mention of this prominent activist in school and welcomed the education lesson of this character’s vital role in becoming the first British-African to cast a vote in England in 1774; quite a feat for a man of color in this era in history. Joseph does a phenomenal job in reenacting Sancho’s birth, early childhood, and life-changing influences that led to his financial independence as a businessman within the oppressive environment bestowed upon him. Joseph transitions between the narrative with comedic and emotionally charged dialogue with ease. And as a theater patron, you can’t help but glance around the intimate setting, and notice other patrons are captivated by Paterson Joseph’s storytelling ability.

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Engraving by: Francesco Bartolozzi

The theme of oppression and strength of conviction to affect change is so timely in our current political system. This play is more than homage to a man who paved the way for British Africans, rose above unimaginable adversity and triumphed in light of the circumstances surrounding him; it’s a testament to the spirit of man and the belief that change and acceptance of marginalized groups is possible. Sancho: An Act of Remembrance will be playing at the Black National Theatre through May 6th. For more information on the performance and to get tickets, click here:

Conceived, written and performed by: Paterson Joseph; Co-Director: Simon Godwin; Music and Sound Design: Ben Park; Designer: Michael Vale; Lighting Designer: Lucrecia Briceno; Costume Designer: Linda Haysman.