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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

2018 Next Wave Preview—Stories = Life

The Good Swimmer. Photo: James Matthew Daniel
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” —Joan Didion, The White Album

One of the hallmarks of the Next Wave Festival, now in its 35th year, is blurring lines between traditional arts. And the shows comprising the 2018 Next Wave (Oct 3—Dec 23) test the elasticity of genre definitions more than ever, in the final Next Wave Festival curated by outgoing executive producer Joseph V. Melillo. The 27 events, while each unique, all tell a story or reflect some aspect of being human in the world today, sometimes through an ancient filter, and other times using modern technology (or both).

Monday, July 9, 2018

Beyond the Canon—Girlfight + Raging Bull


Girlfight courtesy of Screen Gems/Photofest; Raging Bull courtesy of United Artists/Photofest

It is no secret that the cinema canon has historically skewed toward lionizing the white, male auteur. Beyond the Canon is a monthly series that seeks to question that history and broaden horizons by pairing one much-loved, highly regarded, canonized classic with a thematically or stylistically-related—and equally brilliant—work by a filmmaker traditionally excluded from that discussion. This month’s double feature on July 21 pairs Karyn Kusama’s Girlfight (2000, 110min) with Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull (1980, 129min).

By Monica Castillo

If weighing in for a cinematic showdown, Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull (1980) and Karyn Kusama’s Girlfight (2000) would be seen as radically different contenders. Visually, the films are like oil and water. Scorsese mythologized his star boxer’s legacy on black-and-white film—even the blood and sweat pouring down his character’s face look painterly. His is an epic story of a man’s fall from grace. In contrast, Girlfight doubles down on the grimy sheen of a boxing gym. No corner looks like it’s ever been mopped. The walls are punched in or collapsing. The place surely has a caked-in stench of sweat and moldy gym equipment. The film’s color scheme looks as worn and neglected as the gym. Girlfight is the story of a fighter’s journey up the ranks to an uncertain future.

Kusama’s electric debut stars Michelle Rodriguez as Diana Guzman, a scrappy high school girl in Brooklyn whose fists are ready to punch out the anger she doesn’t speak aloud. Her father pays for her brother to box but forbids Diana from pursuing the masculine sport. Hard-headed and determined to put her temper to good use, she pursues boxing despite the sexist assumptions from the men around her.

Monday, July 2, 2018

BAMcinématek and The Racial Imaginary Institute: On Whiteness

Steve Martin and Richard Ward in The Jerk (1979), courtesy of Universal Pictures/Photofest
by Ashley Clark

“If whiteness gains currency by being unnoticed,” writes academic Sara Ahmed, “then what does it mean to notice whiteness?” The series On Whiteness (July 11—19)—a collaboration between BAMcinématek and Claudia Rankine’s The Racial Imaginary Institute—attempts to wrestle with this knotty question. Comprising works that address issues of ethnic identity, assimilation, racial grievance, passing, and privilege, this collection of films—augmented by talks and guest introductions—invites audiences to consider how whiteness has been deliberately and subconsciously constructed, ignored, and challenged in the history of American film.

The series begins in the heart of Hollywood’s dream factory with Julie Dash’s beguiling, World War II-era Illusions (1982), about an African-American movie studio executive passing as white, and the black singer she hires to dub the voice of a white actress. A profound deconstruction of Hollywood’s power to shape racial mythologies, Illusions screens with the acerbically funny short Free, White and 21 (1980), in which artist Howardena Pindell assumes the identity of a blonde white woman to discuss the racism she experiences as a black woman. Elia Kazan’s Pinky (1949), meanwhile, is one of Hollywood’s earliest attempts to grapple openly with racism. It’s a fascinating melodrama in which a light-skinned black woman (Jeanne Crain, complicatedly, a white actress) passing as white tempts crisis by falling in love with a white doctor.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

“We have to keep on fighting”—Music and Activism at the R&B Festival at MetroTech

The lineup for this year’s outdoor R&B Festival at MetroTech includes new voices and established masters alike, from the worlds of R&B, funk, gospel, soul, jazz, and world music. Performances take place every Thursday at noon through Aug 9, and each concert is FREE and open to the public. Here, Marketing Intern Nadege Nau explores sociopolitical commentary in the work of a few of this summer's featured artists.

Delgres.
By Nadege Nau

If the work of J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and Childish Gambino is any indication, recording artists are seizing the moment to grapple with injustice and musically highlight the downtrodden realities of America. It follows that multiple artists at this year’s R&B Festival at MetroTech are channeling social dissonance in their music, too. Marcus Miller composed the score for the film Marshall (featuring this track performed by Andra Day and Common), while others are leveraging soothing harmonies and live instrumentation to express their grievances.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

BAMcinemaFest 2018

Madeline’s Madeline. Photo courtesy of Visit Films.
June 2018 sees the 10th edition of BAMcinemaFest, an essential selection of new American independent cinema from emerging and established filmmakers. The annual festival, which originally began as a partnership with the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, has blossomed into a force of its own, with critics describing it as “the best barometer of the climate of independent filmmaking in America” (The Village Voice).

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

2018 BAM R&B Festival at MetroTech

Ranky Tank. Photo courtesy the artists.
By Danny Kapilian

Way back on June 15, 1995, the BAM R&B Festival at MetroTech opened with the great Percy Sledge:

“When a man loves a woman
Can’t keep his mind on nothing else
He’ll trade the world
For the good thing he’s found”

Those universal words of love are where our journey began—and now, 240 live performances later, the BAM R&B Festival has sustained that musical message of love with the same deep soul throughout.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Beyond the Canon—Maliglutit + The Searchers

It is no secret that the cinema canon has historically skewed toward lionizing the white, male auteur. Beyond the Canon is a monthly BAMcinématek series that seeks to question that history and broaden horizons by pairing one much-loved, highly regarded, canonized classic with a thematically or stylistically-related—and equally brilliant—work by a filmmaker traditionally excluded from that discussion. This month’s double feature pairs Zacharias Kunuk and Natar Ungalaaq’s Maliglutit (2016) with John Ford’s The Searchers (1956).

Maliglutit (courtesy of Isuma) + The Searchers (courtesy of Warner Bros.)
By Jesse Wente

"I wanted it to be a western genre movie made entirely the Inuit way.” —Zacharius Kunuk

Despite rather obvious similarities, namely the title and central kidnapping plot, it is overly simplistic to describe Inuit directors Zacharius Kunuk’s and Nataar Ungaalaq’s Maliglutit (Searchers) as a remake of John Ford’s iconic western The Searchers. Even calling it a reimagining falls short of capturing how Kunuk’s film upends the very tradition that birthed a film such as Ford’s. To understand the key difference between the two is to confront the disparity in world view that exists between Indigenous peoples and the colonial nation states that now occupy their lands.

Friday, June 1, 2018

In Context: Love and Intrigue



Russia’s Maly Drama Theatre, led by the incomparable Lev Dodin, stages German playwright Friedrich Schiller’s 1787 tragedy of class warfare and courtly intrigue. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of related articles and videos. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #LoveandIntrigue.

Remembering Robin Holland

Robin Holland. Photo courtesy the artist.


BAMcinemaFest pays tribute to photographer Robin Holland, who passed away early in 2018. Holland was a prolific and respected portrait photographer whose subjects included American and international independent filmmakers, award-winning actors, musicians and composers, dancers, artists, and more. Her work was featured on the Sundance Channel and at George Eastman House, MoMA PS1, the Berlin Film Festival, and New York Film Festival. From 2013 to 2017, Holland donated her time and incredible talent to BAM as the official portrait photographer for BAMcinemaFest. View her work at BAMcinemaFest, below.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

DanceAfrica Evolves

Abdel R. Salaam. Photo: Jack Vartoogian

By David Hsieh

For 40 years, the DanceAfrica Festival meant Baba Chuck Davis. As the founder and, until 2015, sole artistic director of the festival, he represented the festival, body and soul. With his 6-foot-5 height, booming voice, and regal dashikis, he was hard to miss on and off stage. Baba Chuck passed away at the age of 80 just before last year’s festival. His successor Abdel R. Salaam, is now writing the next chapter of this beloved tradition.