Cinephiles will flock to Kings County for the annual Brooklyn Film Festival set to kick off Friday, May 31.

Now in its 22nd year, the ten-day festival will run through June 9 and take place at five venues including Syndicated in Bushwick, Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, Windmill Studios NYC in Greenpoint and Alamo Drafthouse in Downtown Brooklyn.

The festival’s theme “The Gathering” is a call “to all those people who are searching for clarity and intelligent exchanges,” said BFF Executive Director Marco Ursino.

“More than ever before, we wanted to empower all those filmmakers who are thinking and working in critical systems, outside of the box, and against all odds,” Ursino explained. 

Larger than ever, this year’s festival is comprised of 133 features and shorts from over 30 countries, including 37 world premieres and 15 USA bows. The 2019 BFF will also welcome the largest presence of female directors since the festival’s inception, Ursino said.

“Understanding that for women the ‘system’ is always critical, and inspired by the acceleration of the women’s movements, this year BFF will feature the largest presence of female directors within a single festival edition to date,” he said. “I’m also proud to say that four out of our six festival programmers are women and the festival is run mostly by women.”

The festival will open on Friday with the World Premiere of Claudia Myers’ “Above the Shadows,” starring Olivia Thirlby, Alan Ritchson, Jim Gaffigan and Megan Fox. The supernatural tale follows a young woman, Holly, who has faded from the world to the point of becoming invisible. After more than a decade existing in the shadows, Holly meets the one man who can see her, Shayne Blackwell, a disgraced MMA fighter Holly discovers that it was one of her tabloid photographs that caused his downfall, and that she must restore him to his former glory if she wants to regain a foothold in the world around her.

Brooklyn Film Festival
Above the Shadows, starring Olivia Thirlby, Alan Ritchson, Jim Gaffigan and Megan Fox. Photo: Brooklyn Film Festival

Other highlights in the category “Feature Narrative,” include “Alaska is a Drag,” the story about a tough, but diva fabulous, aspiring drag superstar who is stuck working in a fish cannery in Alaska; “Collisions,” which portrays the devastating impact of U.S. immigration policy on one family, when the mother is detained by immigration police; and “Bushwick Beats,” which features six stories, six directors, six unique short films, all under the backdrop of Bushwick, each a different look into the theme of unconditional love.

The eclectic selection of documentary features includes the US premiere of “Reggae Boyz,” which follows the journey of the Jamaican national soccer team trying to inspire unity among their fellow countrymen by qualifying for the World Cup; “Silent Forests,” an intimate portrait of conservationists and activists who are fighting against all odds to stop forest elephant poaching in Africa’s Congo Basin region; and “Right to Harm,” the riveting stories of five rural communities and  the devastating public health impact factory farming has had on them.

Brooklyn Film Festival
Jamaica Boyz. Photo: Brooklyn Film Festival

Founded in 1998, the Brooklyn Film Festival has been staging International, competitive film events in an effort to draw international attention to Brooklyn as a center for cinema, while encouraging all Brooklynites to access and experience the power of independent filmmaking, and promoting artistic excellence and creative freedom of artists without censure.

As in previous years, the BFF will also be accompanied by a host of special events, beginning with an opening party at the Wythe Hotel on May 31, “The Gathering” dance party on June 8 at Brooklyn Bazaar and a farewell party at Windmill Studios on June 9.

For a complete list of screenings and events, go here.

***Updated 5/29/19

We previously stated falsely that the festival will feature more than 150 submissions; the 2019 Brooklyn Film Festival will present more than 133 narratives, documentaries and shorts. The story has since been updated to reflect the correction. 

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