Bringing the art of film to all of Brooklyn.
For seven years, that has been the goal of the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival (AoBFF). It has achieved it each time, and this year’s iteration, which begins on Saturday, June 3, will be no exception.
The festival was founded in 2011 in an attempt to engage both local fans of films and talented filmmakers in all parts of the borough.
Executive Producer of the festival Joseph Shahadi discussed how the successful event began. “The thing that makes us different from any other festival in the world is that it is the only film festival in the entire world exclusively devoted to the Brooklyn independent film scene,” he said. “That’s why we started the festival. We are an artist-run festival. We are all Brooklyn folks and realized we were living in the middle of this huge cultural explosion and most of the people in the borough didn’t have the opportunity to participate in it.”
Shahadi along with co-founder Anthony DeVito asked themselves what would happen if they created a film event, invited everyone and made sure everyone who lived in Brooklyn knew that they were invited to the festival as audience members but also as filmmakers.
“We are going into our seventh year and we always have more than enough films to complete the festival that is entirely populated by filmmakers who are from Brooklyn or now live or work in Brooklyn. There is a significant Brooklyn connection to every film we screen,” Shahadi said, adding that there is something for every attendee to enjoy. “If you look at the program we put together this year, it’s pretty broad. There’s something that would interest everyone. I think the fact that we try to reach out to neighborhoods that are really underserved so that they know that this is their event too is really meaningful.”
The festival entertains around 2,000 guests each year, with most people coming from around Brooklyn. According to an audience survey conducted in 2012, people from every zip code in the borough had come to the festival.
This year promises to host special events and screenings that reflect this year’s theme, the “Future of Brooklyn.”
“This year, we are going to be screening ‘Certain Women by filmmaker Kelly Reichardt, who is probably one of the most important filmmakers to emerge to the Brooklyn scene in the last decade,” Shahadi said, adding that the festival will also pay homage to Brooklyn’s past. “We are marking the 25th anniversary of a film called ‘The Search for One-Eye Jimmy,’ which is a classic lost Brooklyn street comedy that stars Steve Buscemi, Jennifer Beals, Michael Badalucco, and John, Aida, and Nicholas Turturro. All these people were filming this movie for peanuts and it was shot entirely on film in a pre-gentrified Red Hook 25 years ago.”
Director Sam Henry Kass is going to be at the festival and talk about Brooklyn here and now.
The festival’s main hub is the Founders’ Theater in St. Francis, due to its accessibility to other neighborhoods.
AoBFF is also bringing its program to Bay Ridge and Sunset Park.
“We’re returning for the fourth year in a row to Bay Ridge, which doesn’t get much love from art and culture,” Shahadi said. “I must say that it has been a weird gem for us. It was more successful than I thought it would be. We had eight films that have gone on to get distribution after screening at our festival. The film we screened last year in Bay Ridge is one of those films.”
Sunset has also been a pleasant addition. “This is the first year that we are going to be opening the festival with a free screening on the lawn of Sunset Park,” he said. “We do a Best of the Festival screening from the previous year as a gift to the neighborhood because it is underserved. A lot of residents are really scared about the neighborhood changing in a way that leaves people behind so we want to show you can come into a neighborhood and give instead of taking stuff.”
A main highlight of the festival is an appearance by Michael Zam, screenwriter, NYU instructor and co-creator of the hit show “Feud,” who will join guest festival director and award-winning screenwriter Dave Chan to talk about his writing process.
AoBFF begins on Saturday, June 3 and concludes on Sunday, June 11. All access passes start at $40. For a list of screenings and events, visit www.theartofbrooklyn.org.