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This year’s Tribeca Film Festival includes the world premiere of two feature films with Brooklyn connections: "Brother’s Shadow" and "The Big Bad Swim."

Directed by former Carroll Gardens resident Todd Yellin, "Brother’s Shadow," is the story of Jake Groden (Scott Cohen), a down-and-out prodigal son who returns to Brooklyn after his brother’s death. He tries to patch things up with his curmudgeonly father (Judd Hirsch) and skeptical sister-in-law (Susan Floyd), while forging a relationship with his teen nephew (Elliot Korte), who didn’t even know he existed.

While the clan agonizes over selling their furniture biz, Jake steps into his twin brother’s shoes - and bed - with incendiary results.

To create a realistic woodworking shop and believable craftsmen, Yellin, 40, told GO Brooklyn that he turned to East Williamsburg designer Scott Braun - only to find that life really did imitate art.

"He inspired some of the main character," Yellin recalled. "He does really interesting designs and is the ’anti-machine’ guy that I was trying to make Jake into."

Braun said that although documentary filmmakers have approached him in the past, this is the first time his insight was sought for a narrative film.

"[Yellin] wanted an opinionated, iconoclastic, Brooklyn, Jewish furniture maker and it turns out there was one and it was me," said Braun with a laugh. "There’s a whole scene about the difference between planing and sanding - that’s all my shtick.

"That’s what appealed to me: the way they were trying to make furniture-making a character in the movie, like what ’Sideways’ did for wine," said Braun, the president of Furniture New York. "For me, it was exciting to have a voice in the way the public looks at furniture-making."

In addition to his techniques and theories, some examples of Braun’s furniture were shot for the film as well as works by Jonah Zuckerman of DUMBO’s City Joinery and Susan Woods of DUMBO’s Aswoon.

Yellin shot on location all over the borough; in one scene, a dejected Jake lies near the water in DUMBO - with the River Cafe as a backdrop.

While his hero, er, anti-hero may be down and out, there’s nothing but celebration on tap for Yellin, who dubs himself "a gritty survivor" who navigated the competitive movie industry’s "endurance test" for years before arriving at the festival’s "NY, NY Narrative Feature Competition."

"I am thrilled," said Yellin. "Almost all of the actors are New York-born. I think it’s appropriate that the world premiere should be here."

Yellin’s film is competing with 12 other movies, including William Tyler Smith’s menage a trois flick, "Kiss Me Again," also set in Brooklyn.


Good to be ’Bad’

Showing in the festival’s "Discovery" section, which highlights "up-and-coming directors," is "The Big Bad Swim" (pictured, top) by Park Slope filmmaker Ishai Setton, 26.

"It’s nerve-wracking," said Setton of the honor bestowed on his feature film debut. "It’s overwhelming right now - but in a good way."

In Setton’s work, a diverse group of adults gather at a suburban recreation center to learn how to swim from unflappable hunk, Noah (Jeff Branson of "All My Children"). Over the next six weeks, the students make friends, quarrel, hook up and confront their fears with varying degrees of success.

Between classes, Amy (Paget Brewster), a high school calculus teacher enduring a bad break-up with her husband, reaches out to confident beauty Jordan (Jess Weixler, a Carroll Gardens resident) for some girl talk - while Jordan paddles her way towards Noah.

In the meantime, Jordan’s little brother, David, decides to make his sister the subject of a documentary for a class assignment, which threatens to reveal the unconventional career path Jordan’s chosen in order to pay the bills.

Jordan’s brother is played by Setton’s real-life sibling, 19-year-old Avi, an alum of "Wet Hot American Summer" who’s currently enrolled as a freshman at New York University. The experience seems to be a positive one, as the Setton Brothers are currently collaborating on a screenplay that Ishai describes as being "about a conservative Jewish family vacationing in a place rife with spring-breakers."

Also screening at this fifth annual Tribeca Film Festival are "Saint of 9/11," Glen Holsten’s documentary about Father Mychal Judge, the Brooklyn-born FDNY chaplain who died in the terror attacks; and the directorial debut of Bushwick native Rosie Perez, whose documentary is called "Yo Soy Boricua, pa’ que tu lo sepas! (I’m Boricua, just so you know!)."


The Tribeca Film Festival runs April 25-May 7. Tickets can be purchased at the festival box office, 13-17 Laight St. at Varick Street in Manhattan. For information about box office hours, film schedule, festival passes and ticket prices, visit the Web site www.tribecafilmfestival.org or call (866) 941-3378.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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