After a successful first year, the team behind the One Take Film Festival has no intention of falling prey to the sophomore slump. They've added new venues and partnerships to turn the celebration of documentary filmmaking into four packed days of great movies, music, cocktails, and conversation.
Held this Thursday through Sunday (April 19-22), the festival is an extension of the fantastic year-round One Take Documentary film series, and just like that series, it's dedicated to bringing the best nonfiction films to local audiences. Programmers Linda Moroney and Bri Merkel have spent the past year searching for the kind of thought-provoking documentary films One Take has become known for. And the duo are excited to bring those films to Rochester, cultivating an exciting atmosphere for film lovers eager to broaden their horizons.
While the festival maintains a regular home at the Little Theatre, this year adds the Dryden Theatre to the fold, screening the highly-acclaimed "Ex Libris," from iconic director Frederick Wiseman. The festival will also see the return of the well-received VR Garden, offering a chance for attendees to strap on goggles and view immersive nonfiction films in virtual space. There's also the One Take Film Festival House Band, Guy Higgins and Friends, playing unique pre-film sets of themed music to set the mood.
Attendees can stick around after the evening screenings to chat about the movies and sip specialty cocktails, courtesy of festival's brand-new partnership with the Rochester Cocktail Revival, which will bring DJs and guest bartenders right to the Little Cafe.
"We worked really hard on curating a festival that allows you to see some great films, but also have fun," Moroney says. "There's music and fancy cocktails, but you're also learning, growing, and expanding your worldview."
This year's lineup will present a collection of films with much to say about America at this particular moment, and also how the issues currently facing our nation reflect and connect us with the rest of the world. Many of the films reinforce the festival's commitment to building a sense of community and finding local connections whenever possible.
"There were so many great conversations happening before and after our films last year," Merkel says. "That element of community is really strong in our festival, and I really hope that people will come and give these films a try because you'll be seeing stories that we can all relate to. And the discussion doesn't end when the credits roll."
One Take will also host a program of short films from Western New York filmmakers on Saturday, April 21, at 10:30 a.m. The festival lineup also includes the anticipated "RBG," about the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as well as art doc "Boom For Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat."
A taste of the festival's offerings follows. For more information and a full schedule of festival events visit otff.org
Back in 2016, Irish filmmakers John Murphy and Traolach Ó Murchú spent six months in Rochester interviewing a few of our city's many photographers -- from hobbyists to professionals -- about their personal relationship to their chosen medium. The resulting film, "Photo City" offers a fascinating look at Rochester's history as "the image capital of the world" and what that legacy looks like today. Talking with former Kodak employees, historians at the Eastman Museum, and artists (including CITY's own Frank de Blase) reveals a city with a rich history, an intense love, and a deep need for the visual art form. Both showings will also feature a post-screening Q&A with directors John Murphy and Traolach Ó Murchú. (Thursday, April 19, 6:30 p.m. with an encore screening on Saturday, April 21, 1:15 p.m.)
The vital "12th and Clairmount" powerfully chronicles the Detroit riots of July 1967. Director and Editor Brian Kaufman lends his journalistic eye, foregoing traditional talking heads to weave a complex narrative exclusively through archival footage, illustration, and voiceovers that meld contemporary interviews, oral histories, radio broadcasts, and dispatch recordings, giving necessary context to a revolution. It's a sobering, maddening, and sadly still timely tale. It's also one with many similarities to the upheaval Rochester experienced during the summer of 1964. A conversation with Kaufman will follow the screening. (Friday, April 20, 6:30 p.m.)
Eugene Jarecki's sprawling "The King" starts off as an entertaining cross-country road trip touring major locations in the life of Elvis Presley, from the backseat of a 1963 Rolls Royce owned by the singer. But as it goes on, the subject of the film continues to expand until it's about nothing less than the mythology of America itself.
Presley has come to mean many different things to many different people -- not all of them necessarily positive -- and as Jarecki parallels the rise and decline of Elvis with the rise and fall of America, he touches on ideas of cultural appropriation and race, the political career of Donald Trump, and the fallacies of the American Dream, to question how we became a country seemingly in freefall. He even finds time to include several music performances along the way (all performed in the backseat of the Rolls Royce!). And if the film sometimes reaches too far and tries to cover too much ground, that feels oddly appropriate. (Friday, April 20, 9:15 p.m.)
"Becoming Who I Was" tells the emotional story of Padma Angdu, a young Indian boy believed to be a "Rinpoche," the reincarnation of a high-ranking Tibetan spiritual master. Over the span of several years, directors Moon Chang-Yong and Jeon Jin document Padma's sweet relationship with UrgyanRickzen, the older man who is his tutor and doting caregiver. But when the boy's expelled from the monastery while waiting for members his former community to come and claim him, Urgyan decides to take Padma on the long journey to return him to Tibet. Bring tissues for this one. (Saturday, April 21, 4 p.m.)
Director Bing Liu spent years and years shooting the subjects of "Minding the Gap" before he ever knew he was going to make a film. Liu trains his camera on himself as well as his two closest friends growing up in the Rust Belt town of Rockford, Illinois. We see the group spend their time hanging out and skateboarding, and there's a sense that it's not just a way to pass the time, but a necessity for each of them to cope and survive their troubled home lives.
As the teens transition to adulthood, the film takes the form of a coming-of-age story, but evolves into a heartrending study of the cycles of abuse. Liu's close relationship to his subjects lends the film a natural intimacy, allowing us to see these young men face down whatever life has in store for them. A Skype Q&A with Liu will follow the screening. (Saturday, April 21, 9:30 p.m.)
In "Ex Libris: The New York Public Library" master documentarian Frederick Wiseman gives audiences an inside look at what it takes to keep an American institution running. Nothing if not thorough, Wiseman examines every facet of the New York Public Library system and its 92 branches throughout the city. From administrative meetings to book clubs and community meetings, Wiseman trains his camera on employees, patrons, scholars and the people who depend on libraries every day. Scene by scene, he builds a case for these building as the very lifeblood to an educated society. (Sunday, April 22, 2 p.m. Dryden Theatre)
"Unfractured" follows biologist and environmentalist Sandra Steingraber in her determined efforts to get fracking banned in New York State. It's a battle that takes her from Albany all the way to Romania, but along the way she sometimes struggles to balance her life of activism with being there for her children and husband, who we see hospitalized at Strong Memorial after he suffered a series of strokes. Despite the obstacles, the film becomes an inspiring story about the too often unsung activists around us who are fighting every day to make a difference. Both director Chanda Chevannes and Sandra Steingraber will be in attendance for the screening. (Sunday, April 22, 6:30 p.m.)