The summer is supposed to be one enormous, well-deserved brain fart, but there’s always one good reason to return to sentience: Brooklyn’s annual BAMcinemafest, which drops a couple handfuls of hotly-anticipated or at least vital indies and art house fare into the middle of every June.
This year’s lineup was just announced, and sure enough it includes biggies like Todd Solondz’s “Wiener-Dog” — with Greta Gerwig taking over the role of “Welcome to the Dollhouse”’s Dawn Wiener from Heather Matarazzo — and “Little Men,” another look at the vagaries of New York living spaces from “Love is Strange”’s Ira Sachs. Elsewhere there’s Ti West, a proponent of chatty, slow-burning indie horror (“House of the Devil,” “The Innkeepers”). He tries his hand at low-budget Westerns with “In a Valley of Violence,” which finds Ethan Hawke’s drifter battling James Ransone’s gunslinger. Jenny Slate’s in there, too, somewhere, somehow.
Solondz, Sachs and West have long-established cred, but BAMcinemafest is also about coddling those who will one day have it, too. And so you get newbies from singular talents still making their names, including “Dark Night” by Tim Sutton, last seen with the immersive, musical-themed “Memphis.” This time Sutton follows a group of strangers unaware they’re about to be part of a multiplex shooting modeled on the one from Aurora, Colorado four years back.
Also worth getting excited about is “Kate Plays Christine,” one of two films about Christine Chubbuck — the news reporter who attempted suicide on the air in 1974 — that hit this year’s Sundance. (The other was Antonio Campos’ “Christine,” starring Rebecca Hall.) Filmmaker Robert Greene (also a first-rate editor, including on Alex Ross Perry’s last two films) likes his documentaries with large chunks of fiction and artifice. His latest goes even farther into the abyss than his terrific “Actress,” following actress Kate Lyn Sheil as she preps for a narrative take on the story that doesn’t exist.
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Please also get pumped for “Morris from America,” Chad Hartigan’s follow-up to the excellent “This is Martin Bonner,” starring Craig Robinson and “Wetlands” super-game Carla Juri. Joel Potrykus, of the disarming “Buzzard,” returns with “The Alchemist Cookbook,” concerning another outsider trying to eke by on the far fringes of society (in this case the woods). Documentarian Jeff Feuerzeig, of “The Devil and Daniel Johnston,” once again tackles an elusive figure, with “Author: The JT LeRoy Story.”
BAMcinemafest runs from June 15 through June 26. Check the site for the full-lineup.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge