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Tribeca Cinemas continued showcasing a variety of independent movies at the Big Apple Film Festival. While the audience appreciated certain movies more than others, the Big Apple Film Festival continued to give great exposure for upcoming filmmakers and actors.
In a set of documentaries grouped together, the audience was able to see into the lives of unique individuals set against a New York City and New Jersey backdrop. Director Guy Shahar created two different four-minute-long documentaries entitled “Poets In Person.” The first poet focused on was Pulitzer Prize winner Philip Levine.
Cast against his artistic neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights in Brooklyn, New York, Levine speaks of how it is a great neighborhood for inspiration and writing poetry. Levine is also a United States Poet Laurete, and believes Walt Whitman is one of the greatest poets that has ever lived.
“Poets In Person” continued by highlighting poet Stephen Dunn, who described his process of writing poetry while playing a competitive game of ping-pong in his suburban garage. Dunn is also a Pulitzer Prize-winner. It was a simple, well-done documentary, and a good way to get a feel for these poets’ lives.
“Equality, I Am Woman,” directed by Al Sutton, was the next documentary played for moviegoers. Set in New York City in the 1970s, the documentary shows a movement for the equal rights of women. 50,000 women gathered on the streets to celebrate their gender and to embrace the idea of gender equality.
“I did the footage and put it on my shelf for a long time, like 30-something years,” Sutton explained. “We got Gloria Steinem to weigh in on it and all of a sudden it was quite inspiring.” The gender equality movement took off in full force after this gathering of women in New York City. “I’m really happy with it. For me, it was a feel-good movie,” Sutton said.
The Bridge Academy, a charter scool from New Jersey, was showcased in the next documentary. Directed by film student and graduate of the Bridge Academy, Alexander Epply-Schmidt, the seven-minute-long film took a very positive approach to showcasing the aspects of the school.
Although there was a sound problem where the voices did not match the people as they spoke, it was still successful at portraying its message. Epply-Schmidt explained his feelings toward attending the school as a “drastically life-changing moment.”
“Odysseus’ Gambit,” directed by Alex Lora Cercos, was a beautifully done documentary about a Cambodian man who spends his life playing chess in Union Square in New York City. Dramatically uprooted from a turbulent Camodia and brought to the United States as a child, his heart-wrenching story was masterfully compared to a strategic game of chess, where every move holds strong importance.
The final documentary was also the longest, at 58 minutes-long, and was what most of the theater’s audience came to watch. “Our Hawaii,” directed by Kryssa Schemmerling, was set against the backdrop of Rockaway Beach, a sleepy coastal section of Queens, New York. The film depicted a group of men, now in their 40s and 50s, who spent their lives surfing the waters of Rockaway.
Even though the lifestyle of surfing is never associated with New York City, this documentary showed how important it was, and still is, to the beachside neighborhoods in isolated Rockaway. Through anecdotal pieces and a great deal of film and photo archives, surfing in Rockaway was successfully told as a compelling story.
The men explained where surfing has taken them in their lives and how much they love the sport, as well as the neighborhood they come from. “I was always curious about Rockaway riding the subway about what goes on there,” Schemmerling stated. “They had wonderful stories and they were all interesting. They were trying to create the California lifestyle in a place that was so hostile to it.”
These documentaries at the Big Apple Film Festival were a unique way for the filmmakers to tell stories through detailed documentaries.