Thursday, December 29, 2011

DB Looks Back at the Festivals of 2011

Its the end of the year and time to look back. I'm going to be doing four posts covering the films and events that Unseen Films and I ran across. Tonight will be a look back at the festivals and other movie related events tonight. Tomorrow I'll do the worst of the year and then Monday and Tuesday I'll do the finds and then the favorites/best of the year. Outside of the worst of the year there probably won't be anything regular readers haven't seen but these posts will act more as a summing up for 2011.

First up the festivals.

Earlier I had written along rambling piece looking over the past year of film festivals and film series but it didn’t say much and it was kind of pointless since it just recapped everything. I’ve tossed that and I’m going to go with a few thoughts on the high points of the film festival year here in New York and one thing that really vexes me.

First and foremost I have to say that The New York Asian Film Festival is still the king of the heap. It’s a blast. Its two mad weeks of Asian film craziness and fun. I can’t thank Grady, Marc and everyone else enough for the incredible job they do every year. The festival has rocked for all the years I've gone and that now that it's at Lincoln Center with one of the best theaters in Manhattan at it’s disposal it's damn near perfect. Film Festivals don’t get better than this.

Right now the second best slot is a tie between the Korean Cultural Service (KCS) screenings and The New York International Children’s Film Festival.

The KCS screenings are as much fun as the NYAFF screenings but they happen every other week or so all through the year. If you want to find some real treasures of cinema you need to start going, because they are really high lighting some hidden gems. The only reason I’m not putting this not as high on the list as the NYAFF is that some of the films can be uneven and the schedule be erratic with the every other week schedule some times going weekly or monthly. If you don't stay on top of it you might miss something. It’s a minor thing but it makes planning sometimes difficult and I’ve missed a couple because of it. That said the next series starts on January 10th with a kick ass film The Frontline, which will be getting a review hopefully next week. (And keep reading us because we've mentioned and will continue to mention every screening before they happen)

New York International Children's Film Festival (NYICFF) was for a long time the equal of the NYAFF but this year things seemed to change. For the first time they scheduled a film that boggles my mind at its inclusion. Dreams of Jinsha is so dull and derivative that I can’t believe that anyone who would have seen it would schedule it, especially when it rips off so many Ghibli which they (under the GKids banner) are now releasing to theaters. The Festival also slightly censored a short documentary, a fact which didn’t sit well with me (as does the things they won’t run because parents might get upset, especially compared to some things they do run). I’m guessing its due to the fact that there has been a change over in management. The few new reservations aside, they are still among the very best NYC has to offer and I’m already jonsing for its month long series of goodies.

Talk about jonsing for goodies. I had a blast at this year at Tribeca Film Festival and I can’t wait to go back. I had a blast, I had a ball. I want to go back and do it all over again. This is movies as sensory overload. Simply put it’s too many movies in too short a time. I saw 54 features plus half that number in shorts. When it was done I had seen several of the best films of the year, a few of the worst and many many more I just can’t wait to see again. Everything I hated about the year before was corrected in spades. Best of all the volunteers are among the very best you’ll ever encounter. I can’t wait for the next one.

One of the finds of the year was the Brooklyn Film Festival. This is a wonderful warm fuzzy hug of a festival where everyone is nice and the movies are good or at least okay. I had a blast. How could I not have known about this before? This is the best kept secret of the New York film festival year. I got to meet Stephan Wassman and see his marvelous film Scrappers. I can’t wait for this years fest. It’s a glorious way to decompress after Tribeca. I’m really looking forward to doing this years festival from start to finish.

My home away from home is the Walter Reade theater at Lincoln Center. Over the past year I saw way too many movies in it’s warm confines and I always feel like I’m home when I walk in there. I have been to several screenings at the new Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center and its functional but its not as warm as the Walter Reed.

The Walter Reade is the home of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and I’m so glad I‘m a member. I love their programming. I love New Directors New Film, Scary Movies, Spanish Film Now, Film Comment Selects, French Cinema and pretty much everything else they do. Sure they occasionally misstep, but mostly if they program something it’s worth a look. I would include everything I like about them but it would be a way too long post just as to their wonders.

The one thing I’m puzzled by and the one thing that vexes me (as I mentioned at the top) is how the Film Society can get everything so right 50 weeks a year and then they go crazy for the New York Film Festival. I’m not saying the NYFF is bad, it’s not, its just that after attending the every film festival over the last ten years I can’t completely understand why the films at the NYFF vary in quality so wildly. Seriously after programming the great New Directors and Film Comment Selects and the French Series and the Spanish series and Scary movies all of which are filled with winning films, we get to the NYFF and suddenly we get a wildly eclectic selection of films that is all over the place in quality. This year you have say, the ecstatic highs of This is Not a Film and the lows of Mud and Soldiers. You have the finds of 99 Unbound and 444 Last Dayand the mainstream misses of Carnage. When you see more than a film or two its always like getting cinematic whiplash. Don't get me wrong the hits are always worth the misses, I just wish the Festival was more consistent as all their other offerings.

And with that rambling statement done and 2012 just days away it's time to look forward to 2012 and the Jewish Film Festival in mid January and the BAM Kids Fest in February. I hope you'll keep reading because we'll keep reporting.

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