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Arts Watch: LES Film Festival Returns for Round Four

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LES Film Fest Drive In 2013


The quirky celebration of independent cinema that is the Lower East Side Film Festival returns to local venues this month for its fourth year in the neighborhood.

Festival directors Damon Cardasis, Shannon Walker, Roxy Hunt and Tony Castle, all filmmakers in their own right, started out showing low-budget films in a tiny pop-up storefront on Norfolk Street in 2011. The team made sure they were relaxed events, with the filmmakers in attendance, but without the stuffy VIP atmosphere.

Screenings were BYOB and there was always a fun party afterwards.

They’ve since moved on to bigger venues but “the idea is still about finding weird places to watch movies with friends,” says Castle.

Building off ideas like last year’s drive-in movie screening in a parking lot on Broome Street–which featured Zipcar seating, circus performers and DJ duo AndrewAndrew mixing tunes out of the bed of a pickup truck–this year’s schedule touts a Friday The 13th Pool Party at the top of SIXTY LES, the hotel formerly known as the Thompson LES. The audience is invited to enjoy the hotel’s Andy Warhol filmstrip pool while watching the featured short, “Dragula,” a musical comedy starring Barry Bostwick, Rob Riggle, Missi Pyle, Cheyenne Jackson and Carmen Electra. As with most LES Film Festival events, the team promises surprise guests and wacky live performances throughout the evening.

This year’s festival will open with the hot Russ & Daughters doc currently touring the circuit, The Sturgeon Queens.

The festival always includes prominent judges with Lower East Side ties and this year is no different: drummer Marky Ramone from The Ramones will preside over the new music video category.

Other 2014 celebrity judges include actor Dennis O’Hare, “The Social Network”producer Dana Brunetti and Vanity Fair editor Chris Rovzar.

How has the team grown?

“We used to have to carry our own equipment to the venue, set it all up ourselves, pour the drinks, take it all down and carry it home. This year we have a bigger team, so we’re hoping someone else will be setting up all the stuff for us so we can focus on connecting the filmmakers to the audience and distributors,” says Castle. “But we’ll probably still be pouring the drinks,” he laughs.
The Lower East Side Film Festival opens at the Sunshine Cinema on June 12 and continues at venues around the neighborhood through June 22. Go here for details.

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