Bronx International Film Festival
By Moises Bierd
Bronx Journal Staff Writer
The Bronx International Film Festival celebrated its 10th anniversary in December in the Lovinger Theatre. The festival featured narratives, documentaries, animations and experimental productions from all over the world. Festival producers Robert Graham and Hector Olivieri said that the festival aims to promote upcoming artists.
Of the 30 films featured, Robb explained that many were world and U.S. premieres. “Films from this festival go onto bigger film festivals,” said Robb. “Some of our filmmakers have actually gone out to shows at Tribeca and we are very proud of that.”
Most were shorts, ranging from three to 22 minutes, with the exception of one full-featured film, Vole Comme Un Papillon. One short, Gabi, tells the story of a single Puerto Rican woman whose family castigates her because she is not married at the age of 30.
In another, Robot Man, a young actor supports himself by performing as a silver robot statue/mime on the streets of New York City.
International shorts include a film based in Germany called The Runner and a story of a young boy from a Cape Town who struggles to gather money for his mother’s vital surgery.
The year’s collection includes several productions with scenes or actors from the Bronx, like Docket 32357 and Gabi. “Filmmakers do not have to be from the Bronx in order to be in the festival,” said Robert Graham, also known as Black Robb. “It’s something we’ve always stressed because we want films from around the world to come to us. We showcase them in the Bronx because people feel as if the Bronx has no culture. But one thing we could definitely say is that we have a film festival.”
Black Robb said that they changed the name of the non-profit arts organization from the Bronx Independent Film Festival to the Bronx International Film Festival to appeal to multicultural melting pot of New York City.
Audience member Edward Falu said he came to support his fellow artists, during a Thursday showing of Vole Comme Un Papillon, (Fly Like A Buttefly). The full-length French film tells the story of a vicious attack on young man from multiple perspectives. Falu explained that he is a member of a group called Bronx Filmmakers, which meets at the Bronx Documentary Center on 149th Street. “I am a beginning filmmaker and I want to create a short,” he said.
Debbie Erisnor said she enjoyed the international aspect of the festival. “I like that it is from different cultures,” she said. “I like seeing how somebody’s idea comes together,” she added.
Most of the films are narratives, says festival producer Hector Olivieri. “One thing we try and not to do is set a theme with festival because if you set yourself with a theme, you have to narrow down your choices even more.”
Festival producer Black Robb said he is working hard on the marketing and the promotion side to get out the word and raise funds. Current sponsors include Yelp, Fuze, Lehman College, Lehman Stages, Bronx Net, Bronx Documentary Center, Norwood News, the Bronx Tourist Council, and the Bronx Council on the Arts.
“Getting sponsors for film festivals at our level is a challenge,” he said. “The quality of our films is that of any huge festival, whether it be Tribeca, Toronto, or Miami. They are at that caliber, but we don’t have their budgets. The challenge is making it happen with a lower budget, but still bringing the audience the quality they expect from a larger film festival.”
David Lumley agreed that the French feature was good. “It kept me interested at all times,” he said. “I liked how they gave the perspective of each of the people involved in the film, and showed what they were doing at the time of the incident.”