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BAMcinemaFest features indie highlights starring Awkwafina, Nick Kroll and more

Awkwafina plays the lead and shows off her

Awkwafina plays the lead and shows off her dramatic acting chops in "The Farewell."  Photo Credit: A24

The signature event on BAM’s annual movie calendar returns this week with its independent spirit fully intact.

BAMcinemaFest, which begins Wednesday and runs through June 23, offers 22 features from across the indie spectrum.

These range from the family dramedy “The Farewell,” starring Awkwafina, to an experimental movie shot in an Olympic village (“Olympic Dreams”), and plenty of New York centric-fare, such as the Catskills-set “South Mountain” and the documentary “The Hottest August.”

They are united only in their shared status as independent movies in a real sense, not mainstream Oscar bait made for an eight-figure budget that masquerades as something it really is not.

Here’s a rundown of some of the more noteworthy movies premiering at the festival, though you can’t go wrong by taking a chance on any of the selections:

‘The Farewell’

The festival opens with this eagerly anticipated Awkwafina vehicle, in which the comedian plays the granddaughter of a woman (Zhao Shuzhen) who is diagnosed with cancer but kept in the dark about the information by her family. The film from writer-director Lulu Wang offers the chance to see a new side of the terrific comic actor.

‘Olympic Dreams’

Speaking of seeing a new side of an actor, Nick Kroll (yes, that Nick Kroll) stars as a dentist who forges a relationship with a cross country skier named Penelope (Alexi Pappas) during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Again, the movie by Jeremy Teicher was shot on location, which is a fascinating detail.

‘South Mountain’

Talia Balsam stars in Hilary Brougher’s drama about a Catskills woman facing an intense personal crisis. There’s a lot of buzz around the performance from Balsam.

‘The Hottest August’

Documentarian Brett Story interviewed everyday New Yorkers throughout the city during the summer of 2017 with the goal of determining their thoughts on a future that has rarely ever seemed more unsettled, thanks to forces such as global warming.


The festival does an extraordinary job of capturing the true diversity of stories that define life in NYC. That’s on full display here in this black-and-white picture about a Korean man (Kwangmin Lee) who comes to the city to visit his girlfriend (Woohyun Kim).

BAMcinemafest runs Wednesday through June 23 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Visit for full schedule.


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