Double Bill Benh Zeitlin and two online meetings with the Oscar-nominated director
The fourth edition of American Independent Film Festival returns between September 14 and 20, with a selection of recent American independent films, presented at major festivals around the world, such as Sundance, Cannes, New York, Tribeca, Telluride, Venice, Toronto, along with sections, special screenings and online meetings with well-known directors and beginners.
In the current context determined by the Covid pandemic, the American Independent Film Festival, which usually takes place in the spring, will organize its 4th edition this fall, between September 14-20. The screenings of the festival take place at the National Museum of Art of Romania, Peasant Museum Cinema Open Air, Deschis Gastrobar , Mercato Kultur, Cinema Drive-in Militari Shopping and Event Park Snagov.
This year, the festival organizes a special Double Bill Benh Zeitlin, dedicated to one of the most original and creative young filmmakers. Seven years ago, Beasts of the Southern Wild, his dizzying debut, brought him the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, the Camera d’Or for best debut at Cannes and two Oscar nominations. A success all the more surprising, as it was made with a minimal budget and with non-professional actors, mostly children. What followed was even more unconventional. Instead of capitalizing on the spot from the wave of admiration, Zeitlin slowed down: he got to work, and only stopped after seven years. Wendy, his second film, is a free reinterpretation of the Peter Pan fairy tale, with a cast full of children making their acting debut. “Filmed at the foot of an active volcano in the Caribbean, the film once again combines haunting and awe-inspiring rhythms to convey a child’s view of the world. The vision is so consistent with Beasts that it could have been made in its immediate aftermath. So why wasn’t it? The answer has much to do with Zeitlin’s meticulous approach, which demands patience and a willingness to experiment without draining the bank”, explains an article from Indiewire.
In an interview with The Atlantic, Zeitlin confesses: “The movies that we still watch are all addressing incredibly important, moral questions. That’s the most difficult material to take on and the most satisfying to make progress on. So, that’s the playing field I want to be on.” This is what he succeeded from the very first attempt, with Beasts of the Southern Wild, declared, in 2012, the American arthouse film of the year. “Beautiful, funny, relevant and tender,” writes Empire. “Beasts of the Southern Wild is pure cinematic poetry: an explosion of happiness in the midst of a stark poverty and one of the most visceral and original films of recent times,” touted Sify Movies. “A passionate and unruly explosion of Americana, that winks at skepticism, laughs at sober analysis and stares down criticism”, said The New York Times. The film tells the story of Hushpuppy, a six-year-old girl who lives in a fantastic land called Bathtub. Her father is diagnosed with a strange disease and a storm floods her house. And as if all this were not enough, a pack of “aurochs”, some ancient monsters, is freed from the glacial captivity at the South Pole. Zeitlin mentioned in the same interview with The Atlantic that his much acclaimed film is a political statement about people defending their homes, a description of the fantastical world in a child’s mind and an ironical take on meaningless indie film directing.
“I think that redemption, or enlightenment, or some sort of truth is found very close to destruction. It’s in the most extreme situations where you find this, where you get this abandon that allows you to understand yourself or understand other people. It’s part of what fascinates me about Louisiana. There’s just some sort of internal and external freedom that exists there that I don’t feel anywhere else in America. When I leave and go somewhere else I feel myself being judged in ways that I never am there. There’s some kind of enlightenment that exists in Louisiana. There’s a fearlessness in the culture down there that has everything to do with how close to death it is. To be there, you have to be brave. It’s not for timid hearted people to live down there because it’s dangerous, and it’s scary, and it threatens your life, and it threatens your children’s lives. I’m trying to make the connection between that and what makes people also so openhearted. And I think the ends of both movies have to do with exploring that territory.”, says Benh, according to a press release issued by the organizers.
The two screenings of his films will be followed by two online meetings with the director, a Q&A session on September 18 and an online masterclass, on September 19.
Benh Zeitlin is a writer, director, composer based in New Orleans, Louisiana.His films include the four-time Oscar nominated Beasts of the Southern Wild, Wendy, and the short Glory at Sea. He composes music for his own films and others such as Brimstone & Glory and Mediterranea. He also works to help emerging filmmakers make ‘impossible’ projects through the Court 13 collective – producing on films such as Give Me Liberty, No Kings, and the Tribeca-winning Burning Cane.
The program and news about the films and events of the festival will be available on filmedefestival.ro, on the Facebook page of the American Independent Film Festival and Instagram. Tickets will be available soon on Eventbook.ro and in the Eventbook network.
American Independent Film Festival is organized by Cinemascop Association, endorsed by Catena, with the support of Banca Transilvania. A cultural project funded by the Ministry of Culture and the Romanian Film Center.
Partners: Europa Cinemas, UPS România, National Museum of Art of Romania, Romanian Peasant Museum, Peasant Museum Cinema, Deschis Gastrobar, Mercato Kultur, Militari Shopping, Event Park Snagov, Eventbook.
Main media partner: Radio Guerrilla. Media partners: Radio România Cultural, A’List Magazine, Agerpres, Zile și Nopți, Nine O’Clock, Newsweek, Senso TV, Ziarul Metropolis, The Institute, Liternet.ro, IQads, Smark, Films in Frame, AaRC, Cineghid.