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‘One-Eye’ open! Classic Red Hook movie screens at Art Fest

The water’s fine!: Samuel L. Jackson plays a homeless man who fishes for meals in the Gowanus Canal in “The Search For One-Eye Jimmy.”
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The stars are back in Brooklyn!

A rugged comedy filmed on the streets of Red Hook 25 years ago will return to the spotlight next week. “The Search For One-Eye Jimmy,” which starred Hollywood greats Sam Rockwell, Steve Buscemi, and Samuel L. Jackson before they struck it big, will screen as part of the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival on June 9. The film is a Brooklyn classic, said its director, and the fest is a fitting place to celebrate its anniversary and introduce it to new audiences.

“I mean, it’s the ultimate Brooklyn film and on its 25th anniversary, where would it be better suited to be screened?” said Sam Henry Kass. “I would hope that the film sort of introduces itself to a whole new audience. I think that it holds up, it’s pretty timely.”

The movie centers on a recent film school grad who returns to his home town and teams up with a bizarre cast of characters to track down the missing “One-Eye Jimmy.” Kass was inspired by a real-life missing person poster for a one-eyed man he knew.

“I thought, ‘Where could this guy go if he was missing?’ ” said Kass. “He’d only been on like three blocks his whole life, so I just imagined that scenario and started writing.”

Kass chose Red Hook as a film site because it seemed like a gritty, barren wasteland — vastly different from the gentrifying nabe it is today.

“It was 25 years ago, and it looked as how I imagined post-war Beirut to look like,” said Kass. “It was empty — there seemed to be remnants of fires, abandoned cars, packs of dogs — we chose to film down there for the visuals.”

Kass attributes the film’s success to its tongue-in-cheek tone and its stellar cast. He pegged some of the actors as stars from the start, while others were less obvious.

“It was a $100 million cast on a $20,000 movie,” he said. “Steve Buscemi had just finished ‘Reservoir Dogs.’ He came directly from that to work with us and had a sense that he was on the way. Sam Rockwell basically staggered in from on the street and I thought he was so interesting that I cast him on the spot without knowing anything about him. To say I knew he’d be a movie star is a stretch.”

Kass and some fellow filmmakers each kicked in about $5,000 to produce the movie, which he dubbed “the film they couldn’t kill.”

“It certainly was a passion project,” he said. “I think two things can happen when you do that — you can end up with something magnificent, or end up broke and humiliated. I think all things considered, we did okay.”

The Art of Brooklyn Film Festival, which focuses on movies with a connection to the borough, will host eight days of screenings and panel discussions starting on June 3, at various locations in Brooklyn Heights, Clinton Hill, and Bay Ridge.

“The Search For One-Eye Jimmy” at St. Francis College (182 Remsen St. between Clinton and Court streets in Brooklyn Heights, www.aobff.org). June 9 at 9 pm. $12. Other Art of Brooklyn Film Festival events June 3–11 at various locations. Visit www.aobff.org for more info.

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.
Updated 5:58 pm, July 9, 2018
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