By Annie Iezzi
This weekend, April 11th-14th, the Bowery Film Festival is returning to the Bowery in Southern Manhattan for it’s groundbreaking second year of displaying radical films. BFF’s flagship mission is to further the art of storytelling by promoting films and videos showcasing the work of writers, filmmakers, and artists who create in visual language. Specifically, the festival displays radical films that depart via content or technique from stereotypical Hollywood productions to push back on commercial and audience expectations. Honeysuckle spoke with Geoffrey Guerrero, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the festival to learn about exciting developments to watch out for this weekend and to learn more about the radical nature of the festival.
ANNIE IEZZI: Can you elaborate on the website’s description of the Bowery Film Festival as featuring “radical films”? How does this type of radical filmmaking further the art of storytelling?
GEOFFREY GUERRERO: We feel that radical films, by their very nature, are highlighting stories where mainstream Hollywood fails – whether they are by female filmmakers, filmmakers of color, or the LGBTQ community. By taking bold actions and delving deeply into stories and themes that you wouldn’t normally see in the bigger festivals or Hollywood releases, some of the films really tackle important issues head-on with a fresh perspective and unique voice. In addition, we also have a soft spot for really edgy, unorthodox and challenging films that don’t necessarily make narrative sense, but you can totally appreciate the artistry and passion the filmmakers put into their works.
On the website, I noticed a quote praising the “local flavor” of the Bowery Film Festival. As the Bowery is such a culturally rich area here in New York City, where do you think this flavor is most evident and how so?
I would say right above Houston and Bowery there’s just so much history with CBGB and the punk rock scene of the 70’s. I mean, you go back to the Ramones, and the legacy they left behind was just indelible. The Bowery is also where Martin Scorsese grew up, and a lot of his earlier films were shot in the neighborhood, so there’s just a strong artistic and creative energy that’s unparalleled from the rest of NYC. We really wanted to capture that period in history by creating a film festival that taps into that raw energy and cultural period in the heart of the Bowery.
In this same vein, BFF’s method of audience voting departs from the closed award-selection methods of other film festivals; how do you think this method helps to define the Bowery Film Festival?
Simply put, we want to give power back to the people and let the audience choose what’s the best films out there instead of having some closed-off judging method. BFF strives to discover new works that our audiences will resonate with and where they can also play a pivotal role in launching the careers of budding filmmakers.
Finally, in today’s culture, the radical is often, itself, mainstream. How does the Bowery Film Festival keep content fresh and challenging to commercial expectations? And now that it’s in it’s second year, how do you see it evolving?
We don’t care where you’re from, how you look, what your background is- we simply look for new stories that no Hollywood studio would dare touch. BFF is always on the search for radical filmmakers and fearless storytellers. We also believe that radical means new faces and new voices… We see BFF evolving with a focus on filmmakers of color and giving them a platform to showcase their talents. We want to see more of the real world reflected on the big screen. Let’s be honest here, Hollywood is not radical enough… They can package films, sell them, repackage them; call it radical, edgy, and cool, but the real cutting edge is on the Bowery, and BFF is more than ready to revolutionize the industry.
Geoffrey’s co-founder, Kenneth Anderson, adds that the Bowery Film Festival intentionally selects venues and screening spaces that differ from the typical festival locale and are “off the beaten path,” which certainly contribute to the fest’s “local flavor”. Past screening venues include: museums, gallery spaces, east village theaters and underground bars and hookah lounges, which compound the edgy vibe and add character to the festival.
This year, the festival is kicking off with its first screening block on Friday, “The Female Gaze“. The selection for this block was carefully curated by three female screeners of diverse backgrounds who watched the films, reviewed them carefully, and gave considered thoughts and feedback. In accordance with the Bowery Film Festival’s expanding viewership and footprint in the festival circuit, this screening block is already sold out!- but grab tickets soon to attend Radical Recollections, Make Your Move, LatinX & LGBTQ Visions, or American Dreams during the rest of the radical weekend!
Annie Iezzi is a second-year student at Barnard College of Columbia University, studying English and Political Science and writing in her scarce (and cherished) free time.