BAMcinemafest highlights American indies and more

Andrew Bujalski's "Computer Chess" is one of the best films at this year's BAMcinemafest. Credit: BAMcinemafest/Kino Lorber
Andrew Bujalski’s “Computer Chess” is one of the best films at this year’s BAMcinemafest.
Credit: BAMcinemafest/Kino Lorber

Now in its fifth year, the BAMcinemafest, like any relatively new film fest, is still working through image issues. The focus is largely on American independents — narrative and documentaries — both upcoming heavies with big names and obscurities that languish without a distributor. A few outside voices still get in, from the likes of Uganda and Pakistan, but we can all agree that’s a good thing. There are also films from Brooklyn, including the Crown Heights-set “Mother of George” and “It Felt Like Love,” filmed in South Brooklyn (and reviewed below). Here are some films to (maybe) put on your schedule.

‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’
A lot of pomp for precious little, David Lowery’s Sundance fave lathers up a Terrence Malick-y storm for a tale that always feels too slender for such fanfare. Casey Affleck is an outlaw who busts from jail to reunite with his beloved (Roomey Mara) and their child. The film has been compared to a folk song, but even three-minute songs have more meat on ‘em. Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.

‘Computer Chess’
A decade ago, Andrew Bujalski’s microbudget “Funny Ha Ha” helped create the so-called “mumblecore” genre. His fourth is a new kind of film, too, one that’s genuinely, thrillingly rich and strange. A study of disconnection at a titular competition in the ’70s or ’80s (like much in the film, it’s never clear) is shot with video cameras created in 1969, and that’s only the tip of the weirdness iceberg. Sunday, 6:45 p.m.

‘Drinking Buddies’
Bujalski’s more prolific compadre Joe Swanberg goes the other way with his latest, which finds a filmmaker prone to deliberately sloppy camerawork getting an actual cinematographer, as well as a name cast. Olivia Wilde plays a brewery worker in love with her engaged bestie (Jake Johnson). Swanberg has done illicit love before (notably “Alexander the Last”), but it’s a “sell-out” that retains his better qualities. Thursday, June 27, 2013, 8:30 p.m.

‘I Used to Be Was Darker’
Matt Porterfield follows up his stunner “Putty Hill” with another survey of people struggling to ignore personal tragedy. Here, it’s the divorce of musicians (Kim Taylor and Ned Oldham), seen trying to move on as they look after her runaway Irish niece (Deragh Campbell). Less experimental than “Putty,” it goes deeper into the void of lives violently uprooted, both in youth and, even scarier, middle age. Friday, 6:45 p.m.

‘It Felt Like Love’
Straight out of deep south Brooklyn, Elisa Hittman’s debut concerns the teenage anxieties of a young loner who spends the summer trying to fit in with the neighborhood hooligans. Sexual inexperience leads to near-tragedy, but what’s affecting is how she, and the film, are always in an uneasy middle ground — on the precipice of disaster, but never falling over. Friday, 9:30 p.m.

‘Northern Light’
Though concerned with rural life in wintry economic times, Nick Bentgen’s debut documentary captures all of life, not just the bad stuff. Told in short, stolen snippets, it’s one beautiful image after another, showing its Michigan subjects trying to win at various competitions. Ups and downs are captured, but the impression that comes off is people just keepin’ on keepin’ on. Thursday, June 27, 7 p.m.

‘Remote Area Medical’
It plays almost like sick sketch comedy: For four days, a truck plants itself in the NASCAR speedway in Bristol, Tenn., offering free medical, dental and vision care to the area’s low-income residents. Even more than a political thumb in the eye, what emerges is a strong sense of community, even as they struggle to get the too-few spots. Sunday, 1:30 p.m.

If you go

BAMcinemafest
June 19-28
BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave.
www.bam.org/bamcinemafest


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