Willifest is three days of peace, film and music

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Don’t let the name fool you — the Williamsburg International Film Festival is more than movies, and it isn’t just happening in Williamsburg.

The meeting of art, music and film — dubbed Willifest — is the brainchild of Brooklyn Films, a production company based in Williamsburg — and it runs Sept. 23-26 at various locations in North Brooklyn.

Opening night features a screening of “Pool Party” at Galapagos Art Space in DUMBO. The documentary by Beth Aala, about the famed Williamsburg outdoor summer concert series — when it actually took place in a pool — captures performances by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sonic Youth, MIA and Yo La Tengo at the McCarren Park Pool before it closed. Before the screening, Tatiana Moroz, Anwar Robinson and Mark McAdam will perform.

Other film screening highlights include the New York premiere of the Chinese film “Empire of Silver,” which closes the festival, and the premiere of “As Good as Dead,” starring Andie MacDowell and Carey Elwes, on Sept. 25 at El Puente in Williamsburg, complete with the red carpet treatment.

These are just a few of the 170 films selected for the four-day festival, which festival director Michael Helman sees as New York’s answer to Sundance, but with more to offer.

“Sitting there day after day in a movie theater watching film after film after film can get kind of boring,” said Helman. “You can go crazy when there’s nothing else to do but sit in a theater.”

So Willifest is an all-around arts festival, complete with film, as well as free music outdoors at Washington Plaza on S. Fourth Street, stand-up, workshops by industry professionals, a Moth Storytelling Slam at Brooklyn Bowl, and a photo exhibit by Enid Farber at the Knitting Factory. For inspiration, he took from the best tradition he knows — the block party.

“The whole concept,” he said, “is the world’s biggest block party.”

Willifest from Sept. 23-26 at various locations. A one-day festival pass costs $20 ($50 for a full festival pass). For schedule, visit

Updated 5:20 pm, July 9, 2018
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