New York is a city of many festivals, large and small, but the small ones offer the greatest perks. New York Film Festival gives cinephiles a peek at some of the highlights from the international festival circuit, while BAM cinemaFEST gives audience a satisfactory glimpse at the emerging talent of the American independent scene. Now in its second year, cinemaFEST kicked off last night with a packed screening of Fox Searchlight's "Cyrus," the first "big" movie from the Duplass brothers. It was an appropriate choice, and not only because both cinemaFEST sponsor The Wall Street Journal and the studio behind "Cyrus" have the same corporate owner. The Duplass brothers hail from Austin, and over the next week, much of the festival's strong points (from what I've seen) premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March. These include Lena Dunham's amusing "Tiny Furniture," which I reviewed at SXSW, and Bryan Poyser's uniquely choreographed slapstick dramedy "Lovers of Hate" (I wrote program notes for this one, as it's also screening at Rooftop Films next weekend.)
Additionally, I absolutely love Aaron Katz's "Cold Weather," which I hope to see again. Then there's Geoff Marslett's inventive sci-fi animated feature "Mars," screening tonight, and "Putty Hill," the grim, moving story of town suffering in the wake of a young man's drug overdose, which owes much to the cinemas of Pedro Costa and Gus Van Sant. Of the movies I haven't seen, I'm hoping to check out two documentaries: Adrian Grenier's "Teenage Paparazzo," where the "Entourage" star turns the camera on one of his adoring fans, and "Cane Toads: The Conquest," because...well, you know. "Cane Toads."
I gave BAM cinemaFEST a shout-out in my wrap-up of the Tribeca Film Festival in April, and stand by my assertion that it "has already cultivated a clear-cut agenda with its collection of mainly low budget American festival hits." Whether they can retain that "hit" status beyond the festival circuit remains to be seen, but cinemaFEST ought to give them a solid boost.