Year three for the New Faces, New Voices film festival was a testament to the strength of New York City’s post-pandemic artistic comeback. On July 28, filmmakers, event organizers and patrons of the arts filled the Brooklyn Alamo Drafthouse Cinema for an evening of screening a collection of unique films, each representative of the inclusive and diverse standards the festival sets. A total of sixteen films by women, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ filmmakers were shown over the course of two two and a half hour blocks, with each film block ending in a short Q&A session for the filmmakers and audience to be able to participate in.
NFNV included films from local, national and international filmmakers, all of whom had the opportunity to showcase their individual creativity and unique experiences. The festival also featured a collection of films that were created both pre and post-pandemic, each entirely unique in its subject matter.
Lisa Romagnoli’s How to Open A Clam focused on a group of three friends after a clamming expedition and traversed the complexities of grief through the struggle to open a clam. Ari Shapiro’s Lambda was an intimate exploration of college sexual assault. Lambda writer and actress Brooke Weisman described the film as exploring “the relationships and grey areas” that emerge and are irreparably altered by sexual violence. Ricardo Varona’s Hector’s Woman told the story of a young Puerto Rican mother whose personal sense of abandonment is analogous to the island's own desertion in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
Some films incorporated the pandemic, like Biz Jones’ Finally which tells the story of two characters’ first in-person meeting after falling in love via the internet during lockdown. Less overt but still recognizable, Hannah Marie Fasick’s Built to Howl was set in the midst of the 2020 California wildfires with a married couple debating a retreat to an underground condominium in light of the world being literally and figuratively on fire.
Each of the films fit the criteria set by the NFNV festival and its sister festival, Katra Film Series, to include “diverse, multicultural and inclusive works by talented local, national and international filmmakers and episodic creators,” according to the Katra film series' website. The unique ways in which each creator presented their ideas exposed collective trauma or the filmmaker’s own views of love, loss and personal evolution; there was space created for every viewer in attendance.
It is safe to assume that most New Yorkers have had their fill of media since the pandemic hit, but the simple and unique pleasure of sharing a viewing experience in a theatre was not lost on the audience. Filmmaker Biz Jones described the implication of his film Finally as a testament to “the catharsis of getting together post-pandemic.” This catharsis took on a new meaning in moments of shared laughter, shocked gasps or the roaring applause at the close of each film. Especially visceral was the audience's reaction to director Kasian Rei’s Gifted, which included graphic scenes of sexual assault and physical violence within the black community. Later, Rei said his film was an exploration of trauma in the Black community. These moments served to remind every patron in the theatre that no longer were they confined to their bedrooms or apartment living rooms in an insular viewing experience. Community took on an indelible meaning after the isolation of last year; every attendee was reminded of the moments that were stolen by the pandemic.
At the end of the first Q&A session, one audience member used her allotted time to commend the filmmakers. She said their ability to persevere creatively through the last year and emerge on the stage before us, earned them a round of applause. It was the loudest of the evening.
Photo: Courtesy of New Faces, New Voices Film Festival