BAMcinemaFest 2022

Lily Gladstone in Morrisa Maltz’s The Unknown Country (2022)

Hosted by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, BAMcinemaFest returns as an in-person event to the BAM Rose Cinemas for the first time since 2019. The showcase of new independent films gleaned from festivals around the world opens tonight with the New York premiere of Aftershock, the winner of the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award at Sundance. Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee’s film focuses on the families left behind by two Black women who died shortly after giving birth. Aftershock is “a distressing portrait of Black maternal mortality in the United States,” writes Lovia Gyarkye in the Hollywood Reporter. “It’s a clear-eyed, but by no means exhaustive, documentary that investigates this underreported crisis without losing sight of the people processing the depths of their loss.”

Among the six films from the lineup recommended by contributors to the Film Stage is Jason Kohn’s Nothing Lasts Forever, which Jordan Raup calls “an entertaining, occasionally shocking exploration of all facets of the diamond industry.” Other highlights include new restorations of Ayoka Chenzira’s 1984 short film Hair Piece: A Film for Nappyheaded People and her 1993 feature, Alma’s Rainbow; Andrew Infante’s lo-fi rom-com Ferny & Luca; and Sirens, Rita Baghdadi’s portrait of Lebanon’s only all-woman metal band.

Lily Gladstone came close to stealing Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women (2016), playing a lonely rancher who yearns for the night-school teacher played by Kristen Stewart, and we can look forward to seeing her again in Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon. In this year’s The Unknown Country, directed by artist and documentarian Morrisa Maltz, Gladstone plays Tana, a woman driving across the country toward the border between Texas and Mexico, where she will reunite with her estranged Oglala Lakota family. “Maltz, aided by cinematographer Andrew Hajek, has a fantastic eye,” writes Filmmaker’s Scott Macaulay, “and Gladstone has an entirely natural and empathetic presence that integrates beautifully with the film’s quasi-documentary supporting characters.”

Tyler Taormina (Ham on Rye) spent the first few months of the pandemic in his suburban family home, where he rounded up family and friends as well as cinematographer Jesse Sperling to shoot Happer’s Comet. Dispatching to Filmmaker from Berlin, where the film premiered, Darren Hughes called the film “a sixty-two-minute experiment in tone.” Happer’s Comet wraps with “a subdued but satisfying and mysterious climax that suggests the necessity of human connection—or at least a good romp in a cornfield. I have a weakness for films in this mode. The sound design, which was constructed entirely in post, recalls David Lynch, and the observational style reminded me of José Luis Guerín’s In the City of Sylvia (2007) and Stéphane Lafleur’s You’re Sleeping, Nicole (2014).”

2nd Chance, the first documentary feature from Ramin Bahrani (Man Push Cart, The White Tiger), will close this year’s edition on June 30. Bahrani tracks the rise and fall of Richard Davis, a flashy gun nut who fashioned a bulletproof vest that he marketed to police departments around the country before it was discovered that one of the vest’s key elements, a fiber called Zylon, deteriorates. The flaw resulted in the death of at least one officer. For Paste’s Jacob Oller, “even if it feels a bit too neat and tidy and predetermined a metaphor, one has to appreciate 2nd Chance’s ogling commitment to dissecting a perfectly American parasite.”

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