Thursday, June 8th, marked the first night of the seventh annual Lower East Side Film Festival (LESFF). The films are being shown at the notable Sunshine Cinema, for the last time before the theater closes. The LESFF creates a special experience for both the filmmaker and the audience through film screenings, neighborhood engagement, and industry panels.
The LESFF is a 501(c)3 Non-Profit which supports underdog filmmakers who know that huge budgets do not equal great film. The festival has come a long way from it’s humble beginnings, in which the LESFF crew turned a LES pop-up space into a unique and intimate theater. Since then, the festival has been featured in major presses and even expanded to the greater venues which has and will continue to secure distribution for its up and coming independent filmmakers. The popularity and success the festival gained in its early days has brought it to where it is today, with people from all over the country waiting for tickets to go on sale. Past judges have included Denis O’Hare, Laverne Cox and Dolly Parton. This year’s festival judges included Sasheer Zamata (SNL), Jeremy Allen White (Shameless), cinematographer Sam Levy (Frances Ha, Mistress America), Stephen Schneider (Broad City) and Paola Mendoza, Documentary Filmmaker and Artistic Director of The Women’s March, among others.
The opening night of the festival premiered the film Avenues, written and directed by Michael Angarano, who also stars in the movie. The film also stars Nicholas Braun (How To Be Single), Juno Temple (The Dark Knight Rises), Adelaide Clemens (The Great Gatsby), Ari Graynor (Nick & Nora’s Infinite Playlist) and Maya Kazan (Frances Ha). The picture was produced by Michael Sherman, Matthew Perniciaro, Michael Angarano, Elyse Seiden and Jonah Quickmire Pettigrew. Before the film showing, guests were welcomed to a lounge with an open bar, snacks, and an opportunity to take pictures with the LESFF backdrop.
Avenues tell the story of when Peter (Nicholas Braun) arrives in Manhattan to visit his best friend Max (Michael Angarano), and the two go out for a day on the town, hitting the tourist spots and all the while hilariously working through the baggage of their friendship. When they meet two young women, day spills into the night and takes an unexpected turn. Angarano creates a portrait of contemporary New York City in his directorial debut that harkens back to the classics of the 1970s and is alive to new possibilities.
The film was charming, funny, and relatable. The depiction of struggling mid-life crises, a relationship falling apart, a woman seeking to settle down, this movie had characters and events that anyone can share. There were themes of friendship, love, and loss. The direction of Avenues was very indie-spirited, something many people want more of in films nowadays.
Following the film showing was a Q&A with Michael Angarano and Adelaide Clemens, where attendees were able to learn more about the writing and filming process and get to know more about the stars. The Opening Night Party, presented by Vimeo, took place at DROM, where guests were welcomed to another open bar and live music. The rest of the festival included not only tons of more fantastic films and film shorts, but also themed nights with ice cream socials, Christmas parties, and Ladies’ Night with reduced prices for Feminists ($16 for Feminists and $8,632 for Non-Feminists to adjust for the median annual earnings difference between men and women).
The Lower East Side Film Festival is an incredibly enjoyable experience for any film lovers. For more information, or to become a member of LESFF, please visit www.lesfilmfestival.com. As an LESFF Donor you will be supporting a community of passionate, creative, innovative, filmmakers and helping us create awesome screenings, events, and parties that celebrate their work.
Special thanks to Bianca from Shark Party Media. Photographs by Cory Goldberg.