The L.E.S. Film Festival opened to a packed house last night at the Sunshine Cinema on Houston Street. Complimentary beer was flowing and downtown performance artist Justin Bond was in the audience. Bond is one the festival judges, along with actress Susan Sarandon, GQ Senior Editor Logan Hill, producer Jerry Kupfer, photographer Harvey Wang and writer Eric Ledgin. The lively crowd sipped beer and mixed cocktails with bottles they brought in (all film festival screenings are BYOB!).
Festival directors Shannon Walker, Damon Cardasis and creative team Roxy Hunt and Tony Castle welcomed guests to opening night and asked that all cell phones be shut off during the screening — “unless you’re tweeting about us,” Castle quipped.
The four minute film, Memory Tapes “Yes I Know,” by director Eric Epstein was a moody, magical, black and white start to the evening. Images of lonely figures moved through a silent city, combined with faded old photographs coming to life and people whose bodies morphed into see-through vessels — Epstein beautifully created longing and eerie landscapes.
The feature length film, A Little Closer, written and directed by Matthew Petock, was an ode to aimlessness and sexual exploration. The film stars Sayra Player, Parker Lutz, Eric Baskerville and Chris Kies. Set in Richmond, Virginia during one sultry summer, it follows a single mom struggling through her own solitary sadness to raise two young boys. The boys both have battles with boredom and loneliness, sitting through hazy days of summer school, distracted by the pretty young teacher’s tight skirts and their first desperate pangs of lust.
All three move slowly through their private worlds, sometimes sharing moments together but often consumed by their own hidden hurts. The screen was filled with shots of sunshine, big stretches of sky and train tracks endlessly winding into the distance.
Petock and actors Sayra Player and Chris Kles joined a Q & A after the applause had died down. Petock explained, “The idea of exploring sexuality at different stages in life intrigued me. I’m sure it will continue to.” As audience members laughed, he insisted “Not like that. In my films.”
The festival continues through March 18th, featuring films made for under $200,000. We’re counting down to the final night when the judges will weigh in and declare the winners.