Family Instinct
Documentary Feature
$10 online or at the door.
Sunday Jun 26, 2011
8:00PMDoors Open
8:30PMLive Music
9:00PMFilms begin
10:00PMQ&A with filmmaker Andris Gauja
11:30PMAfter Party in the Courtyard
In the event of rain the show will be rescheduled for a later date ~ No refunds ~ Seating is first come, first served. Physical seats are limited. This means you may not get a chair. You are welcome to bring a blanket and sit picnic-style, but no alcohol is permitted.

The Old American Can Factory
(on the roof)
Roof and Courtyard
232 Third St. at 3rd Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11215
F/G to Carroll St. or R to Union


This Show Presented in Partnership With
XO Projects
New York Magazine
NY Premiere
NY Premiere

Luridly fascinating and darkly comic, Family Instinct is unlike any film you have seen before: a verite pseudo-documentary comedy about an isolated town in rural Latvia and a young mother’s patient wait for her lover/brother to return from prison.

“Riding a razor edge between exploitation and art, Family Instinct is the documentary that Harmony Korine wishes he’d made.”
--David Wilson, True/False Film Festival

One part Borat, two parts Eastern Bloc Gothic, and three parts documentary tragicomedy, Andris Gauja’s feature film debut never lets you relax. If you don’t feel a little uncomfortable watching this film, there is something dead inside of you. And yet Family Instinct remains undeniably engaging throughout, making for an unforgettable and surprisingly entertaining movie-watching experience. Filmmaker Andris Gauja from Latvia will be at the show in person to answer for a Q&A after the film.


Family Instinct (Andris Gauja | Latvia | 60 min.)
At first glance, Family Instinct is a documentary about incest. Zanda is a 28-year-old woman, worn out by hard work, trying to survive with her two children in a god-forsaken Latvian village. Her hardships can be traced back to her romantic relationship with her brother Valdis. When Valdis is put in jail, the local community forces her to make a difficult choice: to wait for him to return, or to do what she must to take care of herself and her family.

Zanda’s living arrangements are precarious at best. Her community was probably never particularly stable, but post-Soviet rural Latvia has been entirely abandoned by the government and there are precious few opportunities for work of any sort. The local men have not responded admirably, and their disastrously irresponsible drunken misbehavior frequently borders on the absurd: one man steals a chicken from a back yard and walks door-to-door trying to trade the squirming bird for a bottle of beer; another pledges his devotion to Zanda in a fit of romantic rage and breaks into her house with a corkscrew sticking out of his chest; someone leaves a door open during a party and a neighborhood dog wanders in and devours a kitten.

One is tempted to say that it would be funny if it weren’t so sad, but the truly disconcerting thing about Family Instinct is that it is sad, but it is also still funny. Moments that could be horrifying are repeatedly played for laughs and as a viewer it is impossible not to feel a little disappointed in one’s own bemused reaction to the subjects’ insanely messy lives.

But as we continue to watch, certain scenes begin to jump off the screen, and we become a bit suspicious: Some shots just seem too well-blocked, others too cleverly composed. And how could Gauja possibly have been lucky enough to have captured some of these perfect, hilariously poignant moments of desperately unhinged behavior? And yet Family Instinct still seems very much “real” in so many substantial ways…

If this film were actually a pure documentary—which it isn’t—it would be a non-fiction miracle. If it were entirely scripted—which it isn’t—it would be a powerful drama. How much of Family Instinct is “genuine” and how much is “fabricated” is tantalizingly unclear, but despite our unavoidable questions about the production, Gauja’s film offers a powerful, tragicomic, but highly authentic insight into the reality of the Latvian countryside today.

Crooked Beauty (Ken Paul Rosenthal | San Francisco, CA | 30 min.)
"Crooked Beauty is that rare breed of film that is both a socially relevant documentary while at the same time a work of artistic beauty. The combination is breathtaking and inspiring."
- Jay Rosenblatt, filmmaker, Human Remains

Crooked Beauty is a poetic documentary that chronicles artist-activist Jacks McNamara’s transformative journey from childhood abuse to psych ward patient to pioneering mental health advocacy. She survived trauma from an alcoholic mother and battled her own substance-abuse issues when diagnosed as ‘bipolar’ at age 19 and incarcerated.

Destined to overturn the stigmas usually associated with madness and develop authentic healing models for individuals diagnosed ‘mentally ill’, she co-founds The Icarus Project, an international support network and grassroots media project. Jack’s mission becomes an intense personal quest to live with courage and dignity, and a powerful critique of standard psychiatric treatments. Her poignant and revealing testimonials reach beyond the stereotypes of mental health problems to suggest that extreme sadness and sensitivity is not an illness, but a part of human experience to be explored with creativity and compassion.

Crooked Beauty’s lyrical visual style is integral to its subject matter, connecting the fissures and fault lines of human nature to the unstable topography and mercurial weather patterns of the San Francisco Bay Area. Montages of urban and natural landscapes convey the fluctuations of mania and depression described in Jack’s narration. Her presence is further embodied through her paintings and collages, and excerpts from her poetry and journals. Thematically progressive and formally beautiful, Crooked Beauty reframes the diagnosis and treatment of madness as a tool of insight and integration for individuals who openly struggle with their mental health, and anyone who might feel ‘crazy’ in today’s chaotic world.

US Super 8 Film & Video Festival, NJ – Grand Prize, Documentary Short
Human Dignity Film Festival, Sonoma – Best of Fest
Mendocino Film Festival, Mendocino, CA – Best Documentary Short
Athens International Film Festival, Athens, GA – Second Prize, Documentary Short
Szeged Super 8 Film Festival – Best of Fest and Audience Choice Award
Superfest International Disability Festival, Berkeley, CA – Award of Merit
Artivist Film Festival, Los Angeles, CA – Spirit Award


Big Spider's Back
"The past few weeks have heard me relentlessly blasting Big Spider’s Back Memory Man from bedrooms, fire escapes, and cuddle puddles, and our ecosystem is better off for it. Since Yair shared his Warped EP in 2009 we’ve been huge appreciators of the blankets he so delicately threads and the smiles they bring to our cheeks, and were so grateful for his presence at our end of the year party last December. Memory Man is the debut record we’ve waited patiently for, and these pieces develop a journey carefully traversed through mind explorations. A short glance provokes that of jogging a familiar face while a deserving exposure plants these sounds within background thoughts and daydreams. “Black Chow” has provided me with an anthem, whether the days that pass are sun-drenched or thunder-laden. The drops Yair creates leave room for environment to fill, and his comforting vocals wash into an audible hug for everyone. We love you Yair."

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Rooftop Films is a New York based non-profit whose mission is to engage diverse communities by showing independent movies in outdoor locations, producing new films, coordinating youth media education, and renting equipment at low cost to artists.

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