DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN – Several years ago, when the novelty of streaming videos and movies made “Netflix and chill” the ascendant option for socializing, filmmaker Geoffrey Guerrero decided to kick back against the zeitgeist. “I grew up in an age where you go out and chill, meet people and consume culture in the real world. And that’s essentially what I wanted to do—create a space and platform for independent filmmakers, artists and likeminded folks to go out, meet other creatives and share their work while making genuine connections,” he said.
The successful fruit of that inspiration was the Katra Film Festival, hosted annually since 2012 in the eponymous lounge in downtown Manhattan. A Brooklyn-based Sidebar Edition “launched this past September as part of a new initiative to support filmmakers from underrepresented communities and provide more opportunities for filmmakers to screen with us,” Guerrero said. The final screenings for the 2018 Sidebar Edition will be presented Tuesday and Wednesday (Nov. 13 & 14).
The Sidebar Edition’s focus on diversity includes highlighting works by women filmmakers, filmmakers of color and the LGBTQ community. But in a nod to the home of Katra’s spinoff festival, the programming team that reviews the hundreds of submissions keeps another factor in mind as well.
“For the Sidebar screenings we do make an effort to find films set in Brooklyn or created by Brooklyn residents,” Guerrero noted. “Although it’s not the final determining factor it’s a nice footnote when we can discover great works with a Brooklyn connection.”
“Being a Brooklyn native myself I feel that we don’t see enough of the world that I grew up with on the big screen,” said Guerrero, “so this is a chance for us to put a spotlight on these filmmakers and showcase their incredible talent.”
Brooklyn’s own diversity makes it a natural source for a festival looking to feature films by communities whose work is often ignored by the mainstream. “Brooklyn artists have a keen understanding and appreciation for the world we live in and are telling stories with a diverse cast and crew and highlighting inclusive, dynamic and original stories in a refreshing way,” Guerrero said.
Twenty-three short films will be screened on Tuesday and Wednesday, including six set in Brooklyn or created by Brooklyn residents. In The Talk, co-directed by Brooklyn native Keisha Richards LaFleur, parents James (Marlon Perrier) and Maddie (LaFleur) argue over whether to warn their nine-year-old son about police brutality in the wake of a police shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager.
The writer, director and producer of Divert Lea, Michael Abadi-Obiazi, settled in Brooklyn after earning a degree in Mass Communication in his native Nigeria. His sci-fi thriller tells the story an African-American girl with supernatural powers targeted by government operatives and her family’s decision on whether to flee or to stay and fight.
Besides giving audiences a chance to discover new talent, Guerrero wants the festival to provide opportunities for filmmakers, both through networking with others in the industry and winning prizes to support future efforts. Audiences throughout the festival vote for their favorite movies, and Canon donates a camera to the grand prize winner.
Final Draft, a popular screenwriting software, is another sponsor of the festival and will award prizes for Best Feature Screenplay and Best Short Screenplay in next year’s competition.
Guerrero chose Wine Legend as the site for the Sidebar Edition screening to encourage networking. “The space is very intimate, casual and ideal for screenings and conversation while making genuine connections,” he said. “It just felt right for capturing this moment and all its changes and hopefully we can be a lasting and positive force in the community.”