The Brooklyn Museum of Art has been the
place to be of late for filmmakers of all sorts - the moguls
and the indies - to hobnob and party.
The Brooklyn International Film Festival (BIFF), under the direction of Marco Ursino, screened its selections there for a week, and at its own fundraiser, the Museum encouraged gala goers to go on a scavenger hunt through its "Star Wars" exhibit before watching New Line CEO Michael Lynne bestow the Augustus Graham Medal he received in 2001 to this year’s honoree, Keyspan Chief Robert Catell.
Despite being bullied by Robert DeNiro’s TriBeCa Film Festival - which took BIFF’s dates (and wouldn’t give them back, according to Ursino) - the festival went on with its shows in its new, swanky venue.
On April 29, BIFF opened with the U.S. premiere of Maurizio Sciarra’s "Off to the Revolution by 2CV," a very sexy Italian film, which had a quite unexpected love scene. (It certainly helped to fuel the full-throttle dance party that followed in the Beaux-Arts Court.)
Mixing and mingling at the party were the festival’s filmmakers, and host of WNYC’s "Radio Lab," Jad Abumrad, but the scheduled speaker, movie producer Irwin Yablans ("Halloween I-III"), a Williamsburg native, was a no-show.
Borough President Marty Markowitz, on hand to deliver one of his proclamations, was closer to cinematic superstardom than any of the attendees that week. He recalled for the audience a conversation with Steven Spielberg, who was on location in front of Borough Hall - which Markowitz called, "my house" - in which the beep demanded that a movie premiere be held in Kings County. Markowitz said that Spielberg agreed.
The film festival wrapped on May 5 with an award ceremony. "Operation Midnight Climax," directed by Gadi Harel and Will Keenan and shot in Williamsburg and the East Village, took home the Audience Award for Best Feature Film.
"Black Picket Fence," directed by Sergio Goes and culled from two years of footage, took home both the Spirit Award (a film in which the festival recognizes its own spirit) in the documentary category and Outstanding Achievement Award for its score by Woody Pak and Amar Pep. [The rags to potential riches story focuses on the life of rapper Tiz (Tislam Milliner) in East New York.]
Williamsburg resident Anne Paas - who won best new director at the festival last year - returned this year with another short, "Gas Up & Save!" Hers is an incredibly stylish black comedy about a woman on a cross-country journey who has a creepy fascination with Liberace and divine aspirations for her son. Clearly a festival darling, this year she swept the Best Overall and Best Short film awards.
The Brooklyn Museum held a memorable, Brooklyn-themed fundraiser, the Brooklyn Ball, at its home on April 25. The event featured cocktails among the Rodins on the fifth floor and a scavenger hunt through the "Star Wars: The Magic of Myth" exhibit.
The "Star Wars" show is an assortment of costumes, models, props and artwork from both the "Star Wars" trilogy and "Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace." Costumes from the newest film, "Attack of the Clones," which opens this week, were just installed on Wednesday May 15. [The exhibit is on display through July 7. For tickets ($10, $8 seniors and students, $4 children) call (866) 606-R2D2. ]
Among the ball-goers joining Lynne and Markowitz were author Tama Janowitz ("Slaves of New York," "A Certain Age"), and a good-humored actor clad as Darth Vader who posed for Polaroids with the revelers.
Another actor, suited up as Liam Neeson’s Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn from "Episode I," offered to help guests cheat in the scavenger hunt.
Also on hand were Wendy Keys, director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s May 7 tribute to Francis Ford Coppola, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Ken Adams, Brooklyn Children’s Museum executive director Carol Enseki, Brooklyn Botanic Garden president Judith Zuk and Prospect Park Administrator Tupper Thomas.
A highlight of the evening was a special performance by renowned cabaret singer Mary Cleere Haran in the Beaux Arts Court. It was a given that the diva, who’s played illustrious spaces such as the Algonquin Hotel, would dazzle the crowd with her Gershwin set and black fringed dress, adding the necessary injection of glamour to the soiree. (After the event, GO Brooklyn caught her slipping out incognito and on foot, admitting she lives nearby the museum and visits often.)
Elissa Cullman and Barbara Manfrey Vogelstein were co-chairs of the event that honored Sunset Park-raised Robert Catell for his support of the Brooklyn Museum. (Catell is chairman and CEO of Brooklyn-headquartered Keyspan Energy.)
The ball’s theme was Brooklyn, with programs and T-shirts featuring photographer Lynn Butler’s vibrant, kinetic "Coney Island" series. The Jon Fiore Orchestra kept the dance floor filled and the dancers perspiring. The engaging evening raised $680,000 for the Brooklyn Museum’s educational and public programs.
Catered by Great Performances, the gala dinner, served beneath tent poles strung with lights so that it resembled a sparkling block party, included "pizza two ways" served in pizza boxes (Markowitz assured the crowd who paid at least $350 a ticket, "Don’t worry. The pizza is an appetizer, not the main course!"), followed by sliced filet of beef with Peter Luger Steak Sauce (likely a donation from Cullman’s Williamsburg restaurant) and for dessert chocolate cream pie and egg creams.