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This year, Brooklyn’s All An “Enigma”

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By Andrea Meyer

IFC News

Throw a beer bottle in New York and there’s a good chance you’ll damage the skull of a filmmaker &#151 or an aspiring one, or a film industry worker-bee, or at least a backseat critic who’s sure he knows movies. That might explain the myriad of film festivals popping up throughout the city, many of which vaporize as quickly as they appear. But those with a little luck, pluck and funding have managed to stick around — and the Brooklyn International Film Festival (BIFF) is one of them.

The first international competitive film festival ever to hit screens in New York is now entering its ninth year, showcasing a diverse program of films &#151 15 narrative features, 11 docs and a slew of shorts from 15 countries &#151 from June 2-11 at the regal Brooklyn Museum.

The event kicked off on Friday night with Italian director Libero De Rienzo’s melodramatic and zany love story “Blood, Death Does Not Exist.” It’s fitting that such an enigmatic display would open a festival that has the enigmatic title Enigma-9. I’m not sure why a festival needs a title or why it’s not just called the Brooklyn International Film Festival, but the intent is apparently to declare the festival’s quest to cinematically confront “the most delicate and difficult questions of our times.” An executive summary explains the event’s goal to “stimulate the intellect and inspire conversation among people of diverse backgrounds. It is about attempting to connect the dots and can be viewed as a vast puzzle where opposite viewpoints, inconsistencies, ambiguities strive to coexist.”

While the opening night film is puzzling at times, “Blood, Death Does Not Exist” does offer a refreshing departure from usual rules of narration and tone. At its center is a surprising brother-sister relationship, the incestuous frolicking seeming to naturally spring from an intimacy as playful as it is fraught. While the film’s formal experimentation is occasionally gratuitous, the film is entertaining and provocative.

Another twisted relationship is the focus of French director Diane Bertrand’s “The Ring Finger,” about a factory worker (Olga Kurylenko) who, after slicing off a bit of her finger into the lemonade she bottles, finds a new job at a mysterious laboratory that creates specimens of objects that trigger clients’ most painful memories. In no time, the wounded waif is wearing the red shoes her new boss gives her &#151 and occasionally enjoying sweaty romps with him on the bathroom floor. While the film’s metaphors are both clunky and hazily out of reach (is that possible?), dreamy cinematography and pacing and an irresistible, measured performance by the gorgeous Kurylenko make the film a hypnotizing watch.

Steamy sex has clearly invaded the summer zeitgeist. Evidence comes with the East Coast premiere of Bent Hamer’s “Factotum,” in which Matt Dillon and Lily Taylor rock the rusty old bedsprings as rough-and-tumble writer Charles Bukowski’s drunken alter-ego, “Hank Chinaski,” and Jan, his favorite fuck-buddy. Dillon gives the downtrodden, blathering performance of his career. Between this film, “Crash” and, of course, “There’s Something About Mary,” it might be time to admit the guy is not just another pretty face.

Other highly sexed fare includes Brazilian director Sérgio Machado’s “Lower City,” starring “City of God”‘s Alice Braga as a hooker with a heart of gold who comes between a couple of petty hoodlums (Lázaro Ramos and Wagner Moura), whose equally golden hearts are damaged when other body parts get the best of them. The stars of the indie road-trip flick “Road,” by director Leslie McCleave, roll around a beaten-up backseat together, but they also have other things on their mind in this suggestive, ecologically-minded story about an ex-boyfriend and -girlfriend on a trip through the toxic waste sites of Canada, where they find that the world is out-of-whack. On a similarly frustrating journey is the protagonist of Iranian director Mohammed Reza Arab’s “The Last Queen of the Earth,” about an Afghani working in Iran who makes a desperate attempt to return to his wife before the Americans make their inevitable attack in the wake of September 11th.

While “Factotum” and “Lower City” will get limited releases in the States, most films rely on festivals like BIFF to for exposure in communities that might otherwise not have the opportunity to see them. One example of a film that is unlikely to hit “theaters near you” is Azazel Jacobs’ kooky “The GoodTimesKid,” about two guys named Rodolfo (Jacobs and Gerardo Naranjo) circling an oddly attractive Echo Park Olive Oyl (Sara Diaz) while trying to figure out what to do with their lives. The film is absurdist, wistful and sweet, so don’t miss your chance to see it.

While the narrative program is compelling, BIFF’s best films are found among the documentary selections. Especially noteworthy is Joseph Mathew and Dan DeVivo’s “Crossing Arizona,” a look at the immigration debate that gathers the opinions of the humanitarians to the ranchers to the Minutemen, all doing heated battle along the Arizona/Mexico border. My personal favorite, Amy Nicholson’s “Muskrat Lovely,” is further proof that truth is more mind-blowing than fiction. The film follows the contestants of a dual-purpose event in Dorchester County, Maryland – the National Outdoor Show, where teenaged girls put on their evening gowns to compete to become Miss. Outdoors, and on the same stage the best local muskrat skinners try to rip the hides off the little furry critters faster than the next guy. Nicholson never knocks us over the head with a message, just lets the footage of bloody hides contrast images of primping and twirling and curling — and what a dizzying and dazzling display it is.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….


IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.


IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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