From music to film, the Bowery area of Lower Manhattan is full of life and creativity. While this neighborhood holds a seedy past it also has an eclectic history of lively concerts and film festivals like the Bowery Film Festival. The event focuses on furthering the art of storytelling by showcasing the work of writers and filmmakers who create in visual language and use content and techniques that can be defined as “radical.”
Katra Film Series partnered with Digital Ocean to host its fifth annual Bowery Film Festival on November 15-19, 2022. This festival featured forty premieres across four days including eight NYC premieres, one North American premiere, and one world premiere.
Katra Founder and Executive Director Geoffrey Guerrero and New School Alumni and Director Kenneth (Ken) Anderson co-founded this beloved film fest. Since its inception in 2018, it has not only brought life to the Bowery area, but honored local and international film and music creatives.
“It’s obvious the same stories are being rehashed, retold, and recycled,” Guerrero says. “It’s time for new and diverse storytellers to have their say.”
Bowery Film Festival champions women in film on and off screen.
Over 50% of the selections for this year’s fest were made by a female writer, director, or producer like Katra’s Director of Programming, Shakilya Lawrence. Lawrence’s team went through over 700 films and videos to find the best of the best.
Katra showed over 40 films between Block one, Block two, and the finale. The screenings took place at Spyer Hall in the University Settlement House, Regal Essex Crossing, DCTV, and The Bowery Electric.
Here’s our favorite films from Block One the Bowery Film Festival.
“After seeing a dog will itself across the road to survive after a car crash, Goth teenager Geraldine has to answer the question for herself: Will she get up and fight to live or lay her head down and die?”
This film premiered for the first time in NYC for Block One. You can never go wrong with an intriguing yet dark plot. The intensity of the conflicts for the main character made for a great watch.
“HomeBound is the story of Jamie Rockwell, a woman burdened by severe agoraphobia. After losing her therapy dog, she must muster the courage within, not only to find her dog, but ultimately, to find herself.”
This film had some great aesthetics to it representing the unraveling of beauty and sanity. As the main character suffers agoraphobia she’s afraid to go outside and exist with other people. HomeBound was a beautifully crafted film displaying a relatable disease and feeling.
“A handyman in Cape Cod becomes embroiled in a scandal involving an influential family he's known since childhood.”
Cape Carl is hands down one of my favorite films I’ve seen from the most recent NYC film festivals. This feature length film premiered in NYC for the Fall Series of Katra Film Festival and won Best Feature. It was a pleasure to see this film shine again with its new award for Best Feature Film from the Bowery Film Fest.
Our favorite films from Block Two of the Bowery Film Festival.
“While navigating a busy work day, a woman reflects on a profound personal decision. “Polished,” directed by Colleen Dodge, is a sensory vignette tracking a vulnerable woman through a difficult day in New York City.
If you live in New York this film is relatable. From the hustle and bustle to the tough work days, NYC is a hard place to live in and this film explores that. As a woman living in NYC, I connected with the main character making it even better to watch.
“When her bestie Madeline commits a heinous crime, Adele must do what white women do best -- absolve her of all responsibility.”
This film explores the tests and limits to friendship. We also get a sense of white fragility and the common theme of white women blaming others. Citrin is known for her dark comedies and dramedies and Ride or Die is definitely dark with points of comic relief. What a great watch!
“It’s the year 2081.... Chrono-refugee Ethan 'Zero' Lock is offered the chance to visit his home time in 2019. To do it, he’ll race against the clock to complete a dangerous time crime and risk his partner’s trust, all for a taste of a life he can never get back.”
Zero Method stands out from the other films as it is a futuristic sci-fi narrative. Most of the films we saw this time around were realistic, this film takes us to another realm where time travel exists. Between the action and effects this film takes us on a wild ride and is a great film if you’re into futurism.
After a few days of screenings the Katra team, filmmakers, screenwriters, and fest attendees took part in a fun celebration of music to top off the amazing fest.
The After Party at the Bowery Electric Featuring Jagermeister, Music Video screenings, and Live Performances.
The finale of the film fest took place at a Bowery staple, The Bowery Electric. This night was all about the music and mingling with the creatives that made the festival a huge success.
Podcast power-duo Gavin Mevius and Louie Rendon hosted the event. With their bi-weekly show, The Mixed Reviews, they discuss all things film from movie history to pop-culture.
“It's really fun,” Mevius says. “It's really gay,” Rendon adds.
The funny duo shared more about their podcast and invited the filmmakers to come on their show for “free advertising” as Mevius calls it.
Following their podcast promo, Mevius and Rendon introduced the talented Geoffrey Guerrero and Ken Anderson to the stage.
“I wanted to do something cool—something underground,” Anderson smiles. “I wanted to do something no one has ever seen.”
The festival ended not only with some complimentary Jagermeister shots and dancing, but some music video screenings. Anderson and Guerrero wanted to focus on the filmmakers that make music come to life.
Here’s the Trending Music Videos Selected by the Katra Team shown at The Bowery Film Festival Finale:
“The intergalactic music nerds August and Elfi conquer the opera stage and orchestrate their final adventure in an opulent manner.”
Starting off the night strong we viewed a futuristic short film highlighting a contemporary opera score. While it was hard to keep track of the plot, the costuming and the score were beautiful and made for a great watch.
Next, we have this colorful video. Surprisingly, this film was shot and put together without a budget. The band and director put their hearts into this project so that they could display the song’s meaning of “Chong,” in an interesting manner.
“‘Chong’ is an unstoppable force of violent intensity and punches to the face,” says one of the band members. “Overall, we wanted to convey a fun, hallucinogenic series of images that invoke the likes of the old west, feudal japan, post-apocalyptic hellscapes, and mythological monsters.”
This music video took us into a world of 2D pencil and paper drawings that came to life. The art in its simplicity allowed for Ronnie Riggles, the music artist, to shine. This song “Times” was produced by Digital Crates and featured on Riggles’s rap album Cost of Living.
This music video was one of my favorites because the song had a great beat and the animations would move and mold to it. I felt immersed in the world Lerman envisioned—it was a great watch.
This is the Official Music Video for Jayne County and The Electrick Queers’ song “Imma Gonna Go To Hell When I Die.” This video went back to the basics of displaying the artists performing the song rather than inventing a story to go with the track.
From the close up shots of lead singer, Jayne Country, to the saturated filters applied to the transitions, this music video embodied a classic grungy feel. This video style and music genre is a perfect representation of the Bowery culture, which has come from grime and desolace to creativity and liveliness.
“Pécho” is a “A non-linear narrative drives the film’s plot as it paints the artists into an imaginative, hallucinatory vignette of love and betrayal.”
This bilingual music video represented various identities, races, and ethnicities. The director made it a point to highlight not only french culture but Asian, LGBTQIA+, and Disabled representation.
I found the music video to be intriguing and a great work of art that brings creatives from all walks of life together.
Leo Crandall wrote and sang “How” which is featured on the album Unknowable and Stunning Thing. This entire video was shot on a Super8 camera with 16mm film which brought a tangible feel to the song and story.
Papaioannu wanted to create a sense of constant moving so there are scenes, “in various rooms, roads, cars and planes, in Siena, Thessaloniki, Athens, Rome, Brooklyn, Syracuse; in between spaces, always on the move with the body or the mind.”
“Four characters inhabit cycles within cycles of contentment, discontentment, inertia, movement, desire, and betrayal. A story emerges—told through the marriage of music (Ex-Fiancée) and dance (ChrisMastersDance)—functioning as a set of nesting dolls, inviting you to uncover as many layers as you wish.”
This short film was such a pleasure to watch. From the beautiful wood cabin set and the mountain backdrops to the intimate choreography this video provided an entrancing experience.
As someone who danced most of their life, I found myself captivated by the choreography that not only highlighted the music but portrayed conflict between the characters without conversation. Hands down this was one of my favorites of the night.
“Forward and backward we move through this distorted reality. But is the fidelity that unlike our everyday ‘normal?’ IS THIS ALL A SIMULATION???”
Map takes us through a whimsical world filled with colorful makeup looks and flowery sets. As the audience, we’re not sure what’s going on, but the uncertainty adds to the appeal. This music video was a fun watch and even won Best Music Video.
This is the official music video for Zöe Fromer’s debut single, “Part Time Lover.” Fromer’s music is perfect for Gen-Zers and Tik-Tok addicts as she has a “slinky disco-pop” sound. The video features Fromer and their “part time lover” as a ghost. Rizzo and Creed brought this pandemic-dating story to life through neon lighting and 35mm film.
Fromer also performed their single live in an extravagant black gown and evening gloves. They were just as amazing live as they were in the music video. Fromer’s songs are killer and so is their style. I’m a huge Zöe Fromer fan now—if you couldn’t tell.
“Fairy tales aren’t made of true love, they’re made of fiction,” says songwriter/lead vocalist Jeremy Fury. “And the credits begin to roll right after the courting period ends.”
While the themes and music of the short film may create the idea of an idealized romance, the lyrics describe a more temporary kind of love. In today’s world most things are temporary, even our relationships. If you’re a frequent fling-lover or Tinder swiper, you’ll vibe with this video.
The Silk War’s new single “Blue Hour” is featured in this video. The song comes from their debut full-length album Come Evening. The short film has a vintage indie vibe with the use of classic cards and neo-noir inspired bathroom shots.
Aesthetically, this was one of my favorite videos. I adored the costuming, especially the sparkly see-through mesh dress which is all the rage on runways right now. I also love a good sunset/sunrise beach scene, they always bring a sense of hope which paired well with the build of the song. This is a great jam for jumping around your room or singing in the shower. And if you want to relive your 2014 Tumblr days watch this music video.
What’s Next for the Bowery Film Festival and Katra Film Series?
All of the music videos shown were chosen as the best submissions the Katra team received—and I couldn't agree more. The innovative set design and costuming, neon lighting, film, and animation made these music videos stand out.
Congratulations to all of the award-winners, submission finalists, and live performers. We cannot wait to see what these artists and filmmakers will create next, but stay tuned with the Katra Film Series for the next outstanding and inclusive film festival.