The First Annual Greenpoint Film Festival

Yesterday evening marked the beginning of what appears to be a promising new presence on the New York film scene: the opening night of the first annual Greenpoint Film Festival,  launched by Brooklyn based arts organization Woven Spaces.

Films screened for the rest of the weekend will be a promising melange of documentaries, features and shorts with experimental tendencies, as well a good helping of repertory programming. The festival takes places at the Broadway Stages studio this weekend at 222 West St, which offers views of Manhattan and the East River in a loft-style screening space. The venue also happens to be beneath one of Brooklyn’s first rooftop farms, Eagle Street Rooftop Farm (and you know how we feel about Rooftops). Festival programmer and photographer Scott Nyerges spent 2010 documenting the farm’s growing season, so it comes as little surprise that they have chosen regeneration as the program’s organizing theme.

The festival began last night with a cinematic regeneration of a now defunct East Village landmark. The film, My Mars Bar Movie, was created by Jonas Mekas, the founder of Anthology Film Archives. The film is composed of footage taken by Mekas over the course of his 15 year ‘adoption’ of the legendary dive. Though Mekas’ film takes the form of a eulogy for the passing of another part of the old NYC landscape, it also gives the promise of a cinematic afterlife for the bar and its unique characters:

“For some twenty years Mars Bar, on the corner of First Street and Second Avenue, Manhattan, has been my bar. That’s where we went for beer and tequila whenever we had to take a break from our work at Anthology Film Archives, and it was also a bar where most of those who came to see movies at Anthology ended up after the shows. We always had a great time at Mars Bar. It was always open, there was always the juke box, and very often there was no electricity, and it was old and messy and it didn’t want to be any other way — it was the last escape place left downtown New York. So this is my love letter to it, to my Mars Bar. Mars Bar as I knew it.” – Jonas

The film, which screens again tomorrow at 6:00 pm, is one among many  that Mekas has contributed to the festival’s Paradise series. Saturday’s schedule will be filled with his unique visions, filmed over the course of his life in New York. Highlights include a rare view into the world of 1950s Williamsburg, scenes of some of his famous friends (Allen Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, and Salvador Dali) and a collection of footage of the World Trade Center pulled from his own finished and unfinished films, dubbed World Trade Center Haikus.

Sunday’s programming includes three series that will focus primarily on the environment. One of the day’s headlining events will be the screening of Josh Fox’s anti-hydrofracking exposé Gasland, which screened at the Rooftop Summer Series in 2010. The Growth and Re-Growth series begins a bit earlier at 4:00 pm, and will include three films by Rooftop Films alumni.

First of these will be Sarah Christman’s Broad Channel, a beautiful documentary short that combines a year’s worth of footage of an oft-forgotten piece of NYC shoreline with a somewhat hauntingly ambient soundtrack, filled by the sounds of the water and wildlife, industry, and the area’s visitors and inhabitants.

Following will be Penny Lane’s The Commoners, an essay film which offers another piece of the NYC ecosystem, Manhattan’s Central Park. Lane’s film focuses on two moments in the park’s history that are united by a public and cruel demand for the removal of the area’s ‘undesirable’ residents. The displacement of a large portion of New York’s poor when the land was initially re-purposed is juxtaposed with the city’s attempts to control the population of the European Starling, unique in its the ability to communicate and mimic human speech.

Last but not least will be Rock/Hard Place by alum Roger Beebe, which focuses on the picturesque Morro Bay. Postcards of the area often feature the Morro Rock, but omit the enormous power plant that sits just a few feet away. Beebe employs cinema’s unique voice to re-frame the image in an attempt to reconcile the meaning and impact of these two massive objects.

The theme of regeneration takes its most literal cinematic form in tonight’s Re-Use series, comprised of appropriated/found footage from the 1990s to the present. Tomorrow night’s Solus Collective series offers a slate of films with international perspective on “rethinking city living and negotiating urban space.”

The presence and influence of legendary filmmaker Jonas Mekas gives some excitement and cinematic ‘street cred’ to the festival’s inaugural program. And if nothing else, the festival offers the opportunity to see a number of rare David Lynch shorts, and to catch his classic Eraserhead on the big screen. Day passes are available (only) at the beginning of each day for just $25, and tickets for individual screenings are a modest $5. Don’t miss it!

Tickets and more information at