At Christianity Today we try to cover festivals all over, as much as we can manage. Just in the last year, we've reported extensively from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah; the Berlin International Film Festival in Berlin, Germany; True/False in Columbia, Missouri; South by Southwest in Austin, Texas; the New York Film Festival in upper Manhattan; and the Tribeca Film Festival in downtown Manhattan.
We believe film festivals are a vital place to take the pulse of our culture and to sample the broad spectrum of creativity, imagination, and earnest questioning on offer. They're a great place to develop your palate as a discerning filmgoer while also supporting artists, many of whom poured years of their lives and their savings into their film. They're also an important place for aspiring filmmakers and critics to begin joining the “guild,” so to speak—to see the breadth of filmmaking that goes way beyond the Hollywood genre-movie factory and develop an imagination and a community. (Plus a lot of these movies will make their way to your local cinema or streaming service of choice.)
So with that prelude: BAM stands for Brooklyn Academy of Music—it's the oldest continually operating performing arts center in the country, home to some of the best performances in New York City every year, and, importantly, one of my favorite places to see a movie (that it's close to home doesn't hurt). Each year BAM puts on the BAMCinemafest (opening June 15), a small festival that hosts the New York premieres of a number of independent films, most of which made the festival circuit earlier in the year and a handful of outliers as well.
Perusing the list is a delight; the programmers obviously know what's what. I saw a number of them and picked a handful to consider seeing if you're in the New York area, or to keep an eye on if you're not. (Several I wasn't able to see—In a Valley of Violence, Newtown, and The Alchemist Cookbook in particular—seem like they may be of interest as well!)
Little Men (Opening Night)
Kids make friends in the most random ways, which is how Jake (Theo Taplitz) and Tony (Michael Barbieri) meet. Jake's grandfather dies, and his family (played by Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Ehle) move into his old apartment, located above a store owned by Tony's mother (Paulina Garcia), a Chilean immigrant raising Tony alone. The rent on the store hasn't been raised in a long time, and as tensions heighten between landlord and tenant, Jake and Tony struggle to keep their friendship intact.
The Brooklyn you run into in a lot of media—including the non-glamorous Brooklyn depicted in shows like Broad City, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and even Girls—is populated mostly by hipsters with a financial safety net. After a decade here, I know that's just a tiny slice of the borough, which is full of families and old people and children, plenty of people living paycheck-to-paycheck, and folks (even artists!) who aren't anything like the easy stereotypes you see on TV.
Little Men captures that Brooklyn perfectly while quietly meditating on some universal experiences: the anxiety of discovering who you are as you grow up; the trouble of preserving friendships when the things that kept you together fall apart; the fraught parent-child relationship where nobody is really to blame. The performances are great, to be sure, but it's really the careful observation underpinning this script that stays with you. Writer and director Ira Sachs actually bothered to see the world around him and turn it into a story, and the result is gentle, with staying power.