Brooklyn Film Festival is already up and running, and a locally-shot film will close out the festivities this weekend.

Ovid, New York from former Greenpoint resident Vito Rowlands, will debut on June 9 at 5:30 p.m. at Windmill Studios (300 Kingsland Ave.)

As the name suggests, Ovid, New York takes place partially upstate in the tiny town of Ovid, New York but the name also refers to Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The anthology film, the director’s first feature length, presents “[s]even tales of transformation [that] poetically reimagine Ovid’s Metamorphoses and paint a picture of violence and catharsis, anchored in mythical landscapes.”

Both Ovids might be the focus, but Greenpoint played an important part in bringing this film to life as well. We spoke to the Belgian-born filmmaker to hear all about it. 

A still from “Ovid, New York.”

Tell us about the inspiration behind your new film. How did you come up with the idea?

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I have always been interested in films that have a timeless feeling to them and that can function as myths for modern times. Films in which time and space operate by their own logic, like in a surrealist painting or magical realist novel. Ovid’s Metamorphoses contains hundreds of stories that try to make sense of the world around us. They highlight the mystical aspects of nature and animals, and dive into the folly of human nature. It’s populated with incredibly complex and utterly flawed characters, often receiving directives from the gods of the cosmos through statues or critters. The text is also poetry, so it is incredibly lyrical and immersive. My love for Ovid’s Metamorphoses was coupled to the very real challenges of making a feature, but I knew that if we had a dedicated skeleton crew we could imbue the film with the lyrical spirit of the text. I wrote seven tales of transformation that were very loosely inspired by the text. We then followed the different seasons and shot across the span of a year, in short bursts, on expired 35mm Agfa film from the 1990s thanks to the incredible help of Mono No Aware, Panavision New York, and Colorlab. The film’s stories are mysterious, playful, romantic, often violent, and feature a host of enchanted statues and animals that are out to confront the characters with their mortality in one way or another.

What does it feel like to show it in a neighborhood that you’re familiar with?

It feels great! The film gets a hometown world premiere, which is absolutely wonderful because that means that so many friends and collaborators will be able to make it out to see it on the big screen. I also absolutely love Greenpoint. A lot of time was spent schlepping gear up and down our fourth floor walkup on Green Street while making the film, and while most of it was shot in the mountains, valleys, and lakes of New York State, we shot briefly in Transmitter Park, Newtown Creek Nature Walk, Tula House, and the former Apollo Laundry. We also had help from the Blue Light Speak Cheesy (thanks Andy and Moonui!) and Grace and Grit Flowers, and were additionally fueled by Achilles Heel, Café Alula, Dandelion Wine, Archestratus, and Paulie Gee’s. It was a real neighborhood love affair.

A still from “Ovid, New York.”

The Brooklyn Film Festival has been around for well over two decades. What do you think is the state of the Brooklyn film scene today?

It’s hard to argue with the quality of work coming out of Brooklyn, whether it’s film, music, or visual arts. I think it’s known as an incredibly creative borough for a reason, and you can see that reflected in some of the outstanding films playing at the Brooklyn Film Festival and at festivals around the world. Brooklyn also has a number of incredibly cool neighborhood film initiatives that are hard to replicate elsewhere, especially when it comes to analog filmmaking. I am a proud film instructor at cinema-arts non-profit, Mono No Aware (at 33 Flatbush), for instance. Without their trust, expertise, and guidance, I couldn’t have made Ovid, New York or many of my other films.

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