Aiming high, with a low budget

Photo courtesy of the filmmaker  A longtime local merchant gets his overdue doc treatment, in “The Birdman.”

Photo courtesy of the filmmaker
A longtime local merchant gets his overdue doc treatment, in “The Birdman.”

B.Y.O.B. film fest lubricates life on L.E.S.

 BY SCOTT STIFFLER | Shoestring filmmakers, and cinephiles wrestling with a similar shortage of coinage, are poised to find some common ground — when the reasonably priced Lower East Side Film Festival returns to its namesake neighborhood to “continue the tradition of showing great low-budget films from around the world.”

The sprawling June 13-23 event takes place at venues including Landmark Sunshine Cinemas, Anthology Film Archives and The Crosby Street Hotel. Feature, short, documentary, experimental, foreign, LGBT and animated films populate the festival’s roster — which also offers music, visual art, installations, a block party/Drive-in and a June 17 panel discussion featuring Tamara Jenkins, Ira Sachs and Craig Zobel.

In addition to the self-professed “inexpensive tickets,” the screenings will, festival organizers proudly declare, “be BYOB as always.” Curated with attention to the demands of the well-lubricated as well as those more prone to sober contemplation, we’re especially interested in seeing the following:

Director Chioke Nassor’s “How To Follow Strangers” is based on the true story of a woman who died in her apartment, and was found a year later (decomposing, but still looking snappy, in a crisp Chanel suit). When a young man becomes obsessed with this urban tragedy and disappears, a young woman who shares his commuting schedule inserts herself into his life after he resurfaces.

Joanna Arnow’s “I hate myself :)” charts her dysfunctional relationship with racially charged poet-provocateur James Kepple (including a scene where Kepple razzes her about her online profile pic, while the filmmaker questions why her Romeo needed a wingman for his OkCupid date).

Jessie Auritt’s “The Birdman” looks at the life, and livelihood, of Rainbow Music’s 70-year-old proprietor. Still going strong at its St. Marks Place & First Ave. location, the store’s floor-to-ceiling inventory of CDs, VHSs and old cassettes could easily be mistaken for the lair of a world-class hoarder — but the quirky owner’s mastery of the soft sell and ability to find exactly what you want amidst the clutter makes him a treasured neighborhood character (as well as a mom-and-pop shop survivor whose very existence is helping to protect the East Village from total immersion into a Starbucks and Subway mentality). “If you’re not afraid to come in,” he vows, “you’ll probably end up buying a lot of stuff.”

June 13-23, at Landmark Sunshine Cinemas, Anthology Film Archives, The Crosby St. Hotel and other Lower East Side venues. For a full schedule of events, visit

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