Bronx World Film Cycle Winter 2016
Publicity Postcard Design: Alma Leiva
Audiences at Bronx World Film Cycle Winter 2016
BRONX WORLD FILM CYCLE 2016: ARTHOUSE FILM LOVER’S PARADISE GROWS
AT ONE OF MANHATTAN’S LONGEST-RUNNING COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS
by Walter Krochmal
A PANORAMIC VIEW OF CUTTING-EDGE CONTEMPORARY WORLD CINEMA
Bronx World Film, Inc. celebrates 2016 as a culmination of six satisfying years fulfilling our core mission -- to move world art house film forward -- with the nurturing support of La Nacional, the organization founded by Spanish immigrants in New York City in 1868 that has been our host. Our Winter 2016 Cycle, the widest-ranging yet, screened 27 films of all genres from 22 countries over 2.5 days and 3 nights. 17 were world, US or New York City premieres. Women filmmakers helmed and wrote 10 out of 27, or 33%, and women’s themes figured prominently in films directed by men. We struck a balance of drama/comedy, farflung/local and experimental/naturalistic, with strong doses of dance and animation.
The Cycle searches far and wide across world cultures for innovative artists, often young filmmakers whose voices can easily stray in the festival circuit’s increasingly commercialized fray. Out of a crazy quilt of new cinema we curate compelling, coherent programming that film professionals praise. It is immersion learning through a panoramic view of cutting-edge contemporary cinema. In 2016 it solidified its format and artistic line, while proving its flexibility in local and international offshoots created through our Roving Cinémathèque program.
WITH OUR FIRST GUESTS FROM ABROAD,
A LEAP FORWARD IN WORLD CINEMA CIRCLES
In 2016 we received our first-ever guest delegation from abroad, lead by 2 filmmakers whose work I saw at Festival de Cannes (Short Film Corner) in May. After watching Cupids, I approached director Gilbert Mhanna to express my admiration. We chatted briefly and I took his card. Months later, I invited him to screen Cupids with us and watched his social media light with thousands of messages. His followers and family in Lebanon and beyond acclaimed him as a cultural hero! After months of planning he landed in the city a week before the December 9th opening to fully savor its charms (and acclimate to the cold.) No sooner had the program gotten underway when Tumi Sejoe suddenly walked in unannounced, almost straight off the plane from Botswana and beaming from head to toe as she announced her presence for the New York City premiere of her short, The Awakened Spirit. Her travel preparations had left her no time to confirm her attendance to me!
Both filmmakers enriched the Cycle with poetic cautionary tales of love, affirmation of cultural identity and the need to belong. They traveled here at their own expense, electrified our international audiences and helped move us closer to our goal of becoming an international hub for cultural exchange in film. As an artist-founded, artist-run entity, we believe talent development supported by film communities can spur the creation of new vocabularies, and these in turn keep art house alive and viable. We invest in youth mentorship to generate new opportunities for armies of creatives. Our growing international network offers them a valuable support system to help spin their talent into gold over time.
A CULTURAL TRADE MISSION
WITH OUR HONDURAN COUNTERPART, SAN PEDRO SULA [RESET]
Another international delegation would soon join our distinguished filmmakers, this one from Honduras. In fall 2016, I traveled to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, to found San Pedro Sula [RESET], a nonprofit film/arts incubator inspired by a theater workshop I lead there in 2014. This time, supported by friends, students, volunteers, private sector collaborators and the local media, I visited several cities of the region to screen films from the Bronx World Film catalogue, culminating in a Cycle-like event at a downtown San Pedro Sula hostel. It drew a full house, with prominent arts personalities praising it for its richness and accessibility. The success of that tour led to our first counterpart cultural exchange, with a delegation of 6 flying from San Pedro Sula to New York City for the Cycle a few months later.
Our guests of honor included Sandra Urrutia, Kevin Garmendia (Sandra’s son and Krochmal’s student), and his infant brother Ken, all San Pedro Sula [RESET] co-founders; Daniel Moncada, social media /sponsorship coordinator for my San Pedro Sula tour; and craftswomen Irazema Brito (IB Handcrafted) and Argelia Cruz (Hilos y Trapitos), who brought exquisite handcrafted home confections for display and sale. They all traveled at their own expense, too, and gave the Cycle the feel of a bustling arts marketplace. Although Irazema and Argelia made few sales, they deserve praise for their pioneer work helping us widen the avenues for Central American arthouse film and cultural expressions that we have already paved, and laying the cornerstone for a cultural trade mission with us.
HONDURAN VISUAL ARTS AT THE FOREFRONT:
ESTABLISHED AND BUDDING TALENT
Our visual arts module exhibited three works by Ubaldo Sánchez, a näif painter who specializes in the easternmost department of Honduras along the Caribbean, called La Moskitia. It is home to various indigenous groups, has remained largely untouched for millennia and most likely will go extinct within 20 years. Sánchez’s vivid palette betrays a note of mourning. He is the artistic heir to näif/primitivist Antonio Velásquez, who painted mountainous central Honduras.
Our second event, the Youth Arts Laboratory Exhibit, spotlighted 9 young artists from El Progreso, Yoro, Honduras, who produced works in 4” x 4 format expressly for the Cycle. Brian Palma, a young artist from that city, selected works from his colleagues based on a spontaneous suggestion from me, and in record time curated the entire collection. He handed it to Kevin Garmendia, who brought it in his luggage to NYC, where visual artist Pablo Caviedes mounted it at La Nacional. The work of these young Hondurans thrilled our audiences, and the prestige of a New York City exhibit thrilled them in turn. For several, this was their first exhibit ever. Mentoring and showcasing young and emerging artistic talent in the other arts disciplines builds film communities in which art house thrives and prospers well into the future.
BUILDING PROFESSIONAL COMMUNITIES ACROSS THE ARTS SPECTRUM NOW
The Cycle adds another layer of magic with multidisciplinary live events. In 2016 we presented an original dance theater piece based on ancient poems of Andalusia and dedicated to civilian victims of war, directed by Hossein Fassa with Sabrina Hayeem-Lahdani, Michele (Meesha) Tayoun, Jimena Carías, percussionist Rex Benincasa and myself. Poet Silvia Siller read and danced a new poem, and Michelle Ortiz, a young Honduran-American, sang rhythm and blues between screenings. The newly minted ABBADÓN NEW YORK TANGO quartet closed the program with a rousing virtuoso display of traditional tango. New York’s community of artists has always been present as we build communities across the spectrum of the arts.
The Cycle always includes samplings of Central American gastronomy, and this year we welcomed two experts in Garífuna cuisine. Restaurateur Melissa Velázquez of Melissa’s Pan, the first upscale Garífuna restaurant in New York and possibly the country, contributed several baskets of her tasty, hearty coconut bread. César Róchez, “The King of Casabe,” distributed samples of his cassava chips, made from the ancestral flatbread of Caribbean peoples. He made the Cycle presentation his official market launch. Elsewhere, delicacies made mostly from corn and cheese from the interior completed a veritable feast paired with Café Arimel, an organic product brought fresh from the western highlands of Honduras.