Tucked away in the tungsten-lit memories of yesteryear is a little known filmmaking venture from some of Bushwick’s most promising young directors. Brooklyn Love Stories, which arrived on VOD earlier this month, is a collection of six tales of lust and longing, set against a recognizable flurry of neighborhood backdrops and haunts. In a joint project from Tandem Pictures, Circle of Confusion, and Big Green Alien Pictures, six filmmakers were each tasked with creating a short film with the unifying theme of “unconditional love.” Most impressively, the short movies double as an accidental time capsule for the “before times” in Bushwick.
A short introductory montage shows Maria Hernandez Park and her sundrenched patrons, the maskless ordering indoors at Gaby’s Bakery and the non-socially distanced food truck customers off the Jefferson L. So if you have the night off with your Valentine this Sunday, the film is available for rent or purchase here. Grab a bottle of wine or whisky, pick up takeout from your go-to pandemic spot, and settle into a snapshot of what love and life was like in the fabled year…2019.
1. “Long Time Distance” dir. James Sweeney
Its opening short, “Long Time Distance,” chronicles a couple toughing out their “long time distance” relationship. An obvious tribute to the infamous Sandra Bullock/Keanu Reeves rom-com The Lake House, actor and filmmaker James Sweeney also manages to take its signature bit a step further and creates a world where this is a widely known and accepted phenomenon. Justine Lupe (Willa in “Succession,” Frances Ha) plays the archetype of the mature girlfriend, waiting on her immature and often truant boyfriend, Ronan Rubinstein (“9–1–1 Lonestar”) to “catch up” both literally and figuratively. Sweeney’s debut feature film, which he stars in, Straight Up, is also available to stream on Netflix.
Notable Bushwick haunts in “Long Time Distance” include: The Narrows, and the Morgantown lofts.
2. “Love Trumps Hate” dir. Sonejuhi Sinha
The film’s second installment, “Love Trumps Hate” subverts the vampire genre by adding a political slant. Filmed over summer 2017, Sonejuhi Sinha’s sapphic Bushwick romp comments directly on Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric. Britt Baron (Justine in “GLOW”) feeds on animal flesh and not the human variety, yet she cannot overcome the stigma attached to her unchangeable vampirism. In the short, she finds herself enraptured by a human, played by Britne Oldford (CW’s “The Flash.”) Inside the neon strobe of a Brooklyn nightclub, the two let the social pressures of the outside world fall by the wayside.
Notable Bushwick locales: by all appearances, the nightclub is the House of Yes.
3. “No Matter What” dir. Chloe Sarbib
In the movie’s final supernatural entry, Chloe Sarbib delivers a funny and touching portrait of a widow not willing to let go. Nadia Dajani plays Geri, a middle-aged woman who has just cremated the love of her life. Unbeknownst to her, the ashes of her deceased paramour will soon prove to be very much alive. Geri chases the spirit of her lover through the chaotic underbelly of the JMZ tracks — fruit stands and brunch plates alike. An excellent performance between pain and release, Sarbib deftly navigates all of the emotional nuance attached to that. You can watch Sarbib’s latest directorial work here on her website.
Notable Bushwick locales include: Myrtle Avenue, Ingraham Street and the Borinquen Memorial Funeral Home.
4. “Toy Tag Break” dir. Sayeeda Moreno
In this coming of age short, Tyra, played by Kayla Gonzalez, discovers the hidden and overt rules associated with graffiti tagging in New York City. Bogged down by her kid brother Matteo (Angel Romero), Tyra finds herself at a crossroads when her crush invites her to tag with him. Boasting an impressive young actor pool, Sayeeda Moreno crafts an immediately relatable tale out of a niche art. You can keep up to date with Moreno via this Tribeca Film Institute page.
Notable Bushwick locales include: Irving Avenue.
5. “Celeste” dir. Brian Shoaf
Titular character Celeste (Karine Plantadit) is battling ALS and, in tandem, is losing her ability to parent her young son, Nicholas (Gabriel Moore Johnson) Through a series of surrealist dance scenes, we discover Celeste’s longing for movement, mobility, and motherhood. A gut-wrenching love story about the affection mothers have for their sons and the intensity performers feel for their craft, Celeste serves as a cocktail of passion for all fronts. You can also rent Shoaf’s debut feature, Aardvark, which stars Zachary Quinto, Jon Hamm and Jenny Slate here.
The intimate tale is shot entirely indoors, so unfortunately no recognizable local locales.
6. “WOLVES” dir. Anu Valia
Stylistically stunning and meditative, Anu Valia’s wallflower-style short “WOLVES” captures a day in the life at a Bushwick high school. The technical aspects of the film both mesmerize and impress. The cinematography and costuming lean on each other in a way that allows Anu Valia to frame her subjects like paintings, watching from afar as they come to life. You can check out more of Valia’s work here.
Notable Bushwick locales include: Bushwick School for Social Justice.
Top image from Sonejuhi Sinha’s “Love Trumps Hate”
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