Being as it is the eastern (many would say cooler, and not just meteorologically) hub of filmmaking, New York City is ever awash with cinematic offerings. This weekend, the tide will have a distinctly smoky flavor as whisky manufacturer Bulleit Bourbon presents First Time Fest, a showcase for
first-time filmmakers. Specifically, the festival exhibits work from first-time directors, actors, writers, producers, editors, cinematographers, and composers, and also invites established filmmakers to screen their debut movies and participate in panel discussions. Julie Taymor, Michael Moore, Peter Bogdanovich, Lake Bell, Tom McCarthy, and Jennie Livingston of the recently resurgent doc Paris is Burning, among others, are all on deck to participate in the latter, super-cool aspect of the festival.
As for today’s neophyte artists, ten of their films will screen in competition. Below, we’ve included a brief summary of each feature vying for the title of “Bulleit Frontier Film.”
What does the mantle Bulleit Frontier Film mean, you might wonder? Which characteristics must the winner possess? A sense of progressivism: the film must demonstrate a willingness to push the boundaries of cinematography, writing, directing, etc.
Next week, we’ll announce which film we believe deserves the award, and expound upon our reasons for thinking such-and-such a title has proven itself a pioneer, the cinematic equivalent of a prospector out for gold in the formerly untamed wilds of the West. Except, successful.
We’ll be live-tweeting tonight’s Bulleit event, a dinner and, naturally enough, whisky tasting featuring a Q&A with actor (The Station Agent, Spider-Man), writer and now director, Jayce Bartok (photo above). Bartok’s film Fall to Rise looks like a sound contender for the Bulleit Frontier Film award.
Take a look at the ten movies screening in competition, and be sure to follow us on Twitter tonight using the hashtag #Bulleit!
1982: A family drama set in Philadelphia at the onset of the crack epidemic, 1982 follows a father's efforts to protect his 10-year-old daughter from her drug-addicted mother, while trying to steer her towards recovery. Winner of the grand prize at the U.S. in Progress Showcase in Paris, 1982 premiered to acclaim at the Toronto Film Festival.
Bittersweet: Move over, Rocky. In Marieke Niestadt’s documentary, the Australian boxer Diana Prazik accepts a seemingly impossible challenge: a match with World Champion Frida Wallberg. The undefeated champion is a beautiful blonde, a favorite of media and sponsors. Prazik has little more going for her than her fearless passion and her secret weapon, the Los Angeles trainer and six-time world champion Lucia Rijker. The mentor-student relationship between them becomes the heart of the film.
Butter on the Latch: After a personal breakdown, a Brooklyn performance artist and her friend head to California to become immersed in a rustic camp atmosphere and to learn folk music and dance. But the intended escape devolves into a psychosexual drama that pushes their friendship – and sanity – to the edge. Butter on the Latch had its international premiere at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival, with Decker's second film, Thou Wast Mild and Lovely.
Class Enemy: A drama that unfolds like a thriller, Rok Bicek’s film follows a group of high-school students who rally against their demanding new German professor following the suicide of one of their classmates. An undercurrent of tension and potential violence runs through the film, which combines intimate closeups and widescreen compositions. The film premiered at the 2013 Venice Film Festival, and was Slovenia's official entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars.
Fall to Rise: This drama follows a renowned principal dancer whose injury forces her out of her company and uncomfortably into the role of motherhood. She realizes that her identity depends on dance and she struggles to return with the help of another former company dancer. The film includes turns by ballerina Katherine Crockett (featured in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and Daphne Rubin-Vega, revealing the conflict between art and life, between marriage and independence.
Farewell, Herr Schwarz: A brother and sister survive the concentration camps but are separated in 1945. She migrated to the Middle East; he returned to Germany, where he became a Communist and lived near the camp where he was imprisoned. Their grandchildren are haunted by family secrets; the two families, in Germany and Israel – not knowing each other for years – are strangely mirrored. Yael Reuveny’s documentary is a journey spanning three generations, two countries and one fateful decision.
Getting to the Nutcracker: Every year, The Nutcracker is performed by ballet companies around the world. Serene Meshel-Dillman’s documentary takes us inside the immense effort involved in gathering the resources, assembling the volunteers, casting the dancers and rehearsing and staging the performances of this classic ballet. Taking us inside the Los Angeles-based Marat Daukayev School of Ballet, the film shares the auditions, the rigorous rehearsals, and the joys and pains of the young dancers, who give their everything to the ballet.
Love Steaks: Infused with the chaotic energy of its main character, Lara – an alcoholic chef at a luxury hotel – Love Steaks is an unlikely love story that erupts as sparks fly between the fiery Lara and a sensitive masseur named Clemens. As deliberately off-key as Lara’s guitar-playing, this black comedy was filmed in an improvisatory style amidst a real hotel staff. Love Steaks was the winner of the Lions Film Award at the Rotterdam Film Festival.
Miss Julie: This drama transports August Strindberg’s 19th-century play about lust, love, class and the battle of the sexes to a 1920s country mansion. Miss Julie has recently broken her engagement to her wealthy fiancé; her father was relying on the new groom to rescue the family from their financial troubles. One night, with her father out of town, Miss Julie and her best friend throw a party for their friends; on the same day, a newly hired servant arrives, and it quickly becomes clear he is looking for more than a job. Miss Julie builds in tension until its shattering finale.
The Sleepwalker: Kaia and her boyfriend Andrew are enjoying a quiet, secluded life while restoring her late father’s rural Massachusetts estate. Their tranquility is shattered by the unexpected arrival of her sister, Christine, and her affluent fiancé, Ira. The sisters’ troubled family history begins to unravel as tensions mount between the two men. The Sleepwalker premiered in competition at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.