Since 2009, BAMcinemaFest has grown into one of New York’s most exciting and curated annual collections of independent cinema. Calling BAM Rose Cinemas home for 13 years, the festival has become an exciting and essential part of not only the New York indie scene, but with names like Bill and Turner Ross, Dan Sallitt and Rick Alverson calling this festival home. home for years. past, it has become an integral part of the wider American independent film landscape.
So what about the latest iteration? With the 2022 edition of this unsung gem of a film festival taking place June 23-30, the lineup includes over a dozen feature films and two separate short film programs, all highlighting some of the experiences the most compelling American cinema that pushes the boundaries. I will see this year. Here are some of the highlights of this year’s lineup:
From writer/director Kit Zauhar comes this thoughtful and oddly moving portrait of a young woman in her final week of college. This gossipy, dryly comedic neo-Mumblecore comedy-drama introduces viewers to Riley, an aspiring graduate who is only a week away from the rest of her life. And for Riley, as for anyone facing a major life moment, that “rest of his life” seems awfully abstract and uncertain. Zauhar also stars here, putting on a surprisingly kinetic performance, that of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and is more likely to play the role of destroyer of worlds for those who come in contact with her. There is also a refreshing texture to the narrative. While measuring everything through a specifically modern lens, the intergenerational dialogue here is, albeit over the nose and literal (which in its own way feels generational), singular and conversational. Surely meant to test the mileage of any movie buff, real people is an impressive rumination on a generation as mocked as it is lucky.
Nothing lasts eternally
Moving from neo-realist cinema to pure documentary, Nothing lasts eternally is in itself a singular piece of narration. Director Jason Kohn throws a thriller at his viewers, plunging his audience headfirst into a world of crime, fabrication and glamour. Ostensibly centered around a militant gemologist, the film tells the story of a world and an economy, that of diamonds, on the verge of economic collapse. As labs begin to flood the market with “fake” diamonds that cannot be distinguished from natural ones, markets begin to implode, with the question of value itself becoming difficult ground to tackle. Kohn’s film feels decidedly modern in its chilling, post-modernist cinematography and angular editing, only working to amp up the tension at the heart of the narrative. At a pinch under 90 minutes, the editing here is deservedly propulsive, never losing the viewer despite a dynamism rare for documentary cinema, especially that of the democratized modern market. This movie is sure to be one of the most talked about non-fiction works of the year due to both its true crime story but also its beefy cinematic and gripping themes. One of a kind.
Speaking of one-of-a-kind films, there’s not a single image shown at this year’s festival that fits that bill better than Tyler Taormina’s evocative and haunting rumination on suburbia. Happer’s Comet. Taormina may be familiar as the filmmaker behind the beloved and *brilliant* rye ham, and with his latest, he’s arguably as close as anyone to getting to the very heart of what has made the past 2.5 years utterly terrifying. Perhaps a pinnacle of what will come to be known as pandemic cinema, Taormina’s cheeky photographic cinematography jumps off the screen from the first frame, looking more like a Gregory Crewdson photograph than a feature film. The dialogue-free 62-minute descent into the hell of isolation and modernity is a beautifully surreal work, connecting these seemingly separated stories of terror through an unrelenting commitment to humor more than storytelling. No two tales are alike here; with stories ranging from that of a woman reclining on a sofa to a man plucking his eyebrows, all set in unison by an atmosphere of existential doom. Perfectly suited to our specific moment in time, this, through its use of timeless iconography, cemented this moment in history arguably better than any before.