Popular art shapes and reflects the times in which it’s created and produced, in terms that are both explicit — the ongoing Shakespeare in the Park controversy over its Donald Trump-like Julius Caesar — and subtle, yet deeply felt, ways.
This year’s BAMcinemaFest, the latest annual iteration of New York City’s greatest festival for independent film, is the first to arrive during the Trump era.
Even if you won’t find a caricature of the 45th president among the more than two dozen features on offer, the movies projected here offer a compelling portrait of the national mood in an uncertain time.
One of the two world premieres heading to the Brooklyn Academy of Music between Wednesday and June 25 is a neo-realistic masterwork set and shot entirely in Sunset Park. It stands as a powerful corrective to one of the most prevailing narratives of this moment in American history.
“En el Séptimo Día,” the first feature in more than a decade from acclaimed independent filmmaker Jim McKay, follows an undocumented Mexican immigrant named José (Fernando Cardona) who works as a delivery man for a Carroll Gardens restaurant, lives with countrymen working similar jobs and hopes to one day bring his pregnant girlfriend to the United States.
It’s ostensibly about the minor crisis José faces when his boss asks him to work on the same Sunday his soccer team plays in a championship, but in the understated way McKay captures his characters as they go about their days and dream their dreams, it serves to powerfully reclaim a larger narrative from the forces of political demonization.
For some of the other movies, a strain of profound alienation serves as the operating principle behind them. They collectively capture a tangible and familiar sense of unease.
“Columbus,” the directorial debut of Kogonada, finds characters played by John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson mired in spiritual paralysis in the town of Columbus, Indiana, which happens to be home to a series of modernist architectural masterpieces.
It evokes an elaborate connection between these people and the buildings they admire, with the great artwork surrounding them amplifying the sense of being held prisoner to emotional forces beyond their control.
The opening night film, Aaron Katz’s “Gemini,” operates in sleek LA noir tones, with notable David Lynchian vibes coloring the story of a personal assistant (Lola Kirke) trying to clear her name in the murder of the movie star (Zoë Kravitz) that employed her.
“A Ghost Story,” directed by David Lowery and starring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck, follows a recently deceased husband as his ghost returns home to console his wife.