Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014: The Year in Festivals

My favorite picture from any film festival is this one from outside the NYFF screening of the Gone Girl poster with Broadway reflected in the glass covering it
Festivals have become the life blood of Unseen Films. We provided some sort of coverage/mention something or other to over 40 this year. In some cases it was a mention that the festival was happening, more often it was reviews of a handful of film and in the case of out favorites we provided coverage of most of a festivals titles.

At this time I take a look back at some of the high points of festival going and this year is no exception.

I have to begin by saying that after a largely unhappy time at NEW YORK COMIC CON in 2013, this year they got it right. This year they restored my faith in the con. Aside from taking an hour plus to get in on the first day, I had a blast. So much so that I just wandered the floor, talked to people and hung out. I had a blast and I'm looking forward to next year.

Let me start with the big festivals of the year---

The NEW YORK INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN'S FILM FESTIVAL is one of my favorite things every year. I can't say enough good things. If you've never gone you should. Even if you're an adult you should go because the films are simply that good. Eric Beckman and his crew are amazing in ways that I can't explain.

The real joy this year was I got to know Joe Bendel. I had talked to Joe at screenings over the last five years but this year the fact our interest in NYICFF matched up allowed us to spend a fair amount of time talking and hanging out this past March. He's become a good friend and the fact that we got to talk is proof that festival going is a social event.

TRIBECA may be my favorite festival of the year. It may not give me across the board great films but every year but it gives be great conversation and experiences that can't be beat. I will treasure being picked on by the photographer corps on the red carpet for  Kevin Spacey's NOW. Everyone knew I didn't belong there but somehow it was okay, more so because I didn't take it seriously. I also got to meet Mark Breland and just talk with him...because I didn't know who he was to start so I didn't get nervous.

I had a blast at the NEW YORK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL this year,but I'm left wondering if it's gotten too big. I mean its in multiple locations now and for one weekend its going in three locations at the same time.  Its too much now to ever hope to see it all. (and the fact they now do the Old School series and have now taken over the New York Korean Film Festival makes me wonder if they may end up fragmenting themselves) Still it's a blast and I'm ready to go again.

FANTASIA- Bliss bliss and heaven.  A glorious selection of genre films. Someday I'll physically get there. Thank you Ted for letting me join the madness.

THE NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL was a blast. If I hadn't gotten sick this would have been my biggest and baddest NYFF ever. Say what you will this is the festival that means the world to me, its been one I've been going to for decades. My only complaints with the festival is it needs to be more audacious  with some of its selections and it needs to get more world premieres-I mean this is the New York Film Festival.

DOC NYC amazingly continues to have no truly bad films. Yea there are some I don't like, yea there are problems with some but none are truly bad.

The SOUTH ASIAN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL is now officially one of my favorites. How can it not be? Its small but perfectly programmed. If I'm becoming a fan of South Asian Films, this festival is the reason. I also have to add that my interaction with the filmmakers at the festival has been a blast.

As for the smaller festivals-

BAM Kids Fest needs a new presenter. I went 3 years between visits because the woman in charge of the festival and who introduces the films is so damn condescending to the audience.  This year she got laughed at at the screening I attended.  The films are great, the presenters need to be changed.

FILM COMMENT SELECTS is a hidden gem. This year it was full of films that months later had revealed any number of big films way before anyone knew about them.  Dare I call this now one of the most important film series of any year? I spent all year trying to catch WE ARE THE BEST because word out of FCS was so strong.

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH this year may not have been as good as last year, but it maybe the best place to catch the films that will move you deeply.

This year's JAPAN CUTS may have been the best I've attended. How many great films  (WOOD JOB, GREAT PASSAGE and WHY DON'T YOU PLAY IN HELL) can you run in one 10 day period?

KINO's show case of German films was a delight with BANK LADY and WEST leading another strong line up of amazing films. I can't wait for next year.

NEW DIRECTORS NEW FILMS once again showed an eclectic group of films with some great ones and some less than watchable ones-this year especially- but either way its a great deal of fun waiting to see how each film falls into the categories.

Lastly the really cool thing about film festivals in 2014 was I got to see Carroll Spinney and Oscar the Grouch several times and was turned into a little kid each and every time.

And that's it for this year- but already we're looking ahead to 2015-I'm 25 films into the New York Jewish Film Festival (look for it on this list next year), I think I've arranged some Sundance coverage and I'm already credentialed for Tribeca so expect lots of reports from lots of festivals.

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