Over the weekend, I attended the first day of the first Picture Farm Film Fest and I greatly enjoyed it. The team at Picture Farm, long used to holding art exhibitions and other community events at their space at 338 Wythe Ave, decided to launch a free film festival this year. The schedule mixed features, shorts, and documentaries.
Locomotive, directed by Jeremy Waltman and written by Adam Lucas, kicked off the festival. It’s a narrative feature and the debut for Waltman, Lucas, and their team of collaborators. The film was a look into the life of a DJ who had previously been in a band and who does not seem very well connected to any solid plan for what he’s doing. Essentially we are thrown into a few days of his life and watch as he meets new people and reconnects with old ones. DJ Dicey is perhaps not the most sympathetic character, but more importantly, he is someone Waltman, Lucas and actor Frank Williams present to us without judgement, forcing us to decide his motivations and culpability based on our own perspectives. This point is driven home by ending the film with a glimpse at some characters that crossed paths with Dicey, rather than the man himself. I thought it was interesting how many scenes were constantly adjusting focus, which could represent Dicey’s loose grip on his own trajectory or how difficult it can be to judge someone in general.
Following this was a batch of seven short films: The Big Bends by Jason Marlow, which brought two immigrants into the path of an angry dying man in West Texas; Peter Beard – A Wild Life by Derek Peck, a documentary that let us into the fascinating life of that photographer/collage artist; Possum by Eleanor Wilson, a powerful look at a couple grappling with an unexpected loss; Positive Reinforcement: A Relaxation Meditation for Animals by Agnes Bolt, a sort of visual yoga guide that features two human practitioners and a canine one; Sometimes I Lie by Vincent Skeltis, a portrait of two men whose internal struggles draw them to each other; Smallish Bouts Of Moving Image And Sound by Todd Stewart, a collection of experimental shorts; and Seek Harbor by Cale Hughes, a horror film that finds two friends choosing the wrong foreclosed home in which to crash.
Each was different from the last, but all were united by a strong sense of craft and a bold exploratory spirit. All of the directors except Agnes were present, and in the panel after their works were shown, they were available to take questions from the audience and from each other, which was interesting. Derek told us more about the compelling Peter Beard, including how he began the interview while using his outdoor shower. We learned that Jason and Eleanor’s films emerged from highly personal places, even if neither is truly autobiographical. We also found out that Todd’s vignettes were part of a larger project to make a film a day using a cheap digital camera, that Cale’s film was part of SpookyFest, a prompt-driven effort for him and a bunch of friends to make stuff and have a party to show it, and that Vincent’s film grew out of a self-portrait art project. And that he doesn’t like the end result. It is this kind of candor and insight from artists that really enhances a viewer’s appreciation for their works and for the creative process in general.
My hope is that this becomes an annual event, because I very much appreciated the chance to see an eclectic range of cinematic works from very talented independent filmmakers from NYC and beyond.