Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 in Review the Festivals or it's all about the friends

For me Film festivals aren’t just about the films they are about friends. It’’s through film festivals that I’ve met many great people some of whom are now some of my best friends.

Years ago I connected with Mondocurry because of and at the New York Asian Film Festival. Mondo is one of my favorite people and because of him I met Mr C and through them I met Chocko (both at the NYAFF) and a whole slew of people I would never have otherwise.

The progression of friends continued this year with my meeting of Peter Gutierrez on line around Tribeca and in person at NYAFF.  Peter has become a good friend who has given me the heads up on  people to talk to, films to see and advice on how to stay out of trouble. More importantly he's just damn good company.

At this years  NYAFF I met the Hubert Vigilla at the Donnie Yen interview. Hubert is also someone  who has become a good friend who has made seeing many of the screenings at NYFF and elsewhere much more interesting. He too, is good company.

Through MrC and Chocko I also met Brian Geldin who managed to steer me toward and through KAFFNY and DOC NYC and several dynamite films...

Yea the movies are important, but I like that in this age of texting and social media that when you get down to it that there are still people, who despite having a love of sitting in a darkened theater, still like to be social in the real world and not just the virtual.

I have to say that the festivals this year were, with the exception of one, across the board great fun. The films all seemed to be for the most part top flight (hell my worst of the year list is really small this year). The one exception, to the good festivals was the New York City International Film Festival, who botched something and well there is story here but I’ll save it for another time. I will say I’m still waiting for my refund and that my contact with the festival at several locations made me think it’s not particularly well organized.

Enough bad stuff on with the good.

We at Unseen managed to cover well over 20 film festivals and series. New Directors New Films, The Korean Cultural Service screenings, The Romanian Film Festival, Spanish Cinema Now, Open Roads Italian Film Festival, The South Asian Film Festival and on and on....

There were some wonderful discoveries this year.

Thanks to MrC and his befriending of Brian Geldin at the Montclair Film Festival We discovered the Korean American Film Festival New York (KAFFNY) this wonderful film featured works by Korean American filmmakers. Thanks to it we discovered the wonderful (Ultimate Christian Wrestling) the marvelous Dirty Hands and one of my favorite happy films of all time and my pick for best film of the year Girl Walk//All Day. The discovery of a treasure such as that was one of the high points of the year.

The other huge discovery this year was DOC NYC. This was the festival’s 3rd year and our first time attending. The best thing I can say about the festival is that while I used to say that there were four must attend film festivals in New York (see below) there is now a fifth, DOCNYC.

Not to put too fine a point on it this small treasure of a festival showcasing any number of truly great films and providing several evenings of great entertainment and some of the best post film discussions I’ve attended (Driver’s Wanted and Eddie Adams:Saigon’68). The festival provided one of my most favorite films of this or any year: Far Out isn’t Far Enough:The Tomi Ungerer Story.

As of now this is now one of my must attend film festivals and I can’t wait for next year.

As for the other members of my BIG FIVE festival, all of them didn’t disappoint.(they are arranged in order of occuring)

This year the New York International Children’s Film Festival snapped back after a mixed year in 2011 to put on one of their best festivals ever ( and having gone to all of them I can say that). This year the festival managed to run some stunning films, from the fantastic The Painting aka La Tableau (co-presented with Rendezvous with French Film) which is one of my favorite films from this year, to the completely under the radar must see Cinderella Moon, to one of the best times in the theater all year The Monkey King which has some of the best uses of 3D you’ll ever see- which is weird since it was shot 2D... in 1962. NYICFF is one of my most favorite pleasures of any year and I can’t wait until the announcement of this year's titles in a couple of weeks.


What can I say that Oh wow, please let us come back doesn’t? In the course of the three years that I’ve attended this went from something where I saw 10 films of decidedly mixed quality to a full on gangbusters festival where we at Unseen saw something close to 100 features and shorts. We went to a concert (Rodriguez before he hit- and one of my favorite memories of this years festival), attended panels, did interviews and covered the red carpet. Best of all I made a several of friends.

This years festival was a prime example of what is Tribeca’s strong point, it showcases a ton of films, many of which you wouldn’t normally give a second glance to, but which, if you try, will most likely turn out to be a favorite. My Best of the Year list is full of films which I stumbled into with low expectations but staggered out overwhelmed and in love with. I know some people live for Sundance, for my money give me Tribeca.

The New York Asian Film Festival and it’s sister Japan Cuts are manna to anyone who loves Asian film. Showing everything from everywhere across Asia, with a concentration on Chinese Korean and Japanese films, this continues to be the best programmed festival. What do I mean by the best programmed? I mean simply that even when you see a bad movie you still completely understand why the film was being shown. The fact that the festival continues to do this when the programmers were almost all completely new says a great deal about the people who are behind the festival.

I would like to express one complaint with the NYAFF proper, and that is they programmed a festival that was so good across the board it made it damn near impossible to discuss the ups and downs because there were only ups. For me the ups included getting to talk to Donnie Yen and watching Choi Min Sik spend his cigarette break signing autographs (that is another one of the best moments at the cinema all year).

This year’s New York Film Festival was magical. While I saw a good number of great films what will stick with me will be the endless film discussions. I had a blast talking to everyone from  John, Peter, Hubert, Mondocurry, Chris Bourne and any number of other people both journalists and members of the public who broadened my enjoyment and understanding of what I was seeing. I loved that I got to see Oliver Stone talk about history and Ricky Jay prove to be human. I learned about African Punk and saw what digital restoration should be.

Say what you will about the New York Film festival and its relevance since a certain upstart festival in Toronto has stolen some of it’s thunder, the New York Film Festival is still the New York Film Festival. It’s the one that has been around 50 years and set the standard for all the others. Gloriously still more about the films and less about the commerce, it’s still a place to discover unexpected treats (Final Cut: Ladies and Gentleman or You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet or Celluloid Man or…)

The New York Film Festival means the world to me. It’s the first film festival I ever attended. It’s a festival I’ve been going to off and on for 20 something years. While there are ups and downs in the past, this year’s 50th anniversary was full of ups. As exhausted as I was when it ended I was so sad because it meant I had a another year to wait for its tents to unfurl and it’s treats to be displayed. I’m hoping that the changes that will come with the departure of Richard Pena are all for the better since the NYFF is sone of my favorite ways to spend a fall evening.

And what of the others? They were great too, but I have only so much space and so much time, as is I have three more end of the year lists to get through....speaking of which, tomorrow I give you the worst films of 2012.

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