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The Art of Brooklyn Film Festival celebrates a decade with a digital edition

May 29, 2020 Jaime DeJesus
The Art of Brooklyn Film Festival celebrates a decade with a digital edition
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Celebrating 10 years of film in a unique way.

The Art of Brooklyn Film Festival (AoBFF), an event that brings the borough’s celebrated film and media makers together with their peers across the country and around the world, will be taking place this year, but in a digital format due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s AoBBF, starting on Monday, June 1 and ending Friday, June 12, is said to be a robust, interactive, virtual event. It will feature a full schedule of films protected by studio-grade DRM software, live-streamed filmmaker Q&A’s, and interactive webinar panels and workshops. The festival will also share a portion of ticket sales with the filmmakers.

Executive Director of AoBFF Joseph Shahadi discussed the importance of the festival.

“Art of Brooklyn is the only festival in the world that screens in neighborhoods across the entire borough — including those often ignored by arts and culture events — for thousands of people every year,” he said. “Over the past decade, over a dozen of our premieres went on to get distribution and one became an HBO series. But I think the thing that makes us really stand out is our audience. When you come to AoBFF, you see famous film industry folks rubbing elbows with people from the neighborhood. That’s how it should be.”

With this year being unlike most due to the coronavirus, canceling AoBFF was never an option, according to Shahadi.

“Our mission is to bring the best of Brooklyn’s indie film scene into conversation with their counterparts around the world and missing an entire season would be disastrous for our community,” he said. “We’d already spent six months planning live screenings and events in multiple neighborhoods across Brooklyn for our 10th anniversary when coronavirus first threatened.

“By February it became clear that those plans would have to change, although we couldn’t have known how much. At one point, before the lockdown was announced, we were planning two festivals at once — one with modified live screenings and one that was virtual. It was a massive amount of work, but we knew we had to find a creative way to deliver the festival no matter what. We ended up working with a company called Eventive who’d designed a brand new Virtual Festival platform.”

“The organizers of AoBFF didn’t want to put a bunch of films up on a YouTube or Vimeo channel. Then Eventive approached the group and they were excited by the possibility of producing our festival in this new format.

“Their platform is really easy to use and super-secure for both audiences and filmmakers. It’s one-step, so you don’t have to download or learn anything new. It’s great. With everyone stuck at home, entertainment options have been limited so we’re happy to offer interesting new choices to audiences here in Brooklyn and around the world. We have over 70 films this year and there really is something for everyone.”

With the entire movie industry being impacted by the pandemic, this format may be something films big and small to look to in the future.

“I do think this will have a lasting impact,” he said. “Independent movie theaters were struggling before this happened, and now even giant corporate chains face an uncertain future. So live screenings may be complicated for a while yet. But I don’t believe they will disappear completely. People love to go to the movies! Once we are all able to be in the same place again you’ll see live screenings again, at least with us.”

AoBFF has always been interested in new technology and how to utilize it in its events. The group developed its own streaming channel called Brooklyn On Demand. In 2016, they won Brooklyn Creative Group of the Year. This helped with the digital event.

“When we figured out that we could produce an interactive Art of Brooklyn Film Festival online, we were excited by the possibilities,” Shahadi explained. “It’s been tough, but we’re proud that we’ve been able to adjust to this terrible situation and produce the best version of our festival despite everything.”

The group also believes this year’s experimentation will help audiences abroad.

“People all over the world who wouldn’t have been able to join us in person can attend our festival and interact with filmmakers during livestreamed Q&As,” he said. “We’re already hearing from this audience that despite everything, they are glad that we are accessible to them this year. Of course I hope locals will join us too, like always. The idea of a film festival as a snooty or elite event feels very old fashioned to us. We always say that if AoBFF is a party then everyone is invited.”

This year, the festival opens with the world premiere of the drama “The Subject,” starring Jason Biggs from “American Pie” and “Orange is the New Black.”

For a list of films and ticket prices and packages, which start at $10, visit https://www.theartofbrooklyn.org.


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