Two fests one weekend

Two fests one weekend
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The line between Williamsburg and Greenpoint continues to blur, but two film festivals are bringing the two nabes head-to-head on one weekend this month.

The Williamsburg International Film Festival — also known as Willifest — is the bigger of the two festivals, with 110 films that tend toward the “Hollywoodish and international,” according to festival director Michael Helman.

And there’s plenty more than films to watch — including the Harlem Globetrotters.

“There are only so many films people can take in over three days,” said Helman. “Our focus is to be a very large arts festival, with performance art, music and technology. Each year, we’ve added a new element.”

On the other hand, the Greenpoint festival’s more than 80 films focus more on experimental, artistic and activist films.

The festival was started by a group of Brooklyn artists looking for another place to showcase creativity. In its second year, this is just the first time that the festival has accepted submissions. For each category, eight judges screened the submissions and the highest-rated were selected to appear.

With films highlighting social justice, ethnography, and environmental activism — as well narrative based films — organizers said they aren’t too worried about the conflicting schedules.

“We had a weekend picked out, but then we realized it was the same weekend as the New York Film Festival. So we switched it to the new weekend and then realized it was the same weekend as the Williamsburg festival,” said Greenpoint Film Festival founder and organizer Rosa Valado.

“But we decided to leave it since the audience is different enough that it doesn’t hurt either one of us.”

One thing both festivals have in common is the prominence of Brooklyn films.

Two of the most prominent films featured in Willifest are “Brooklyn Castle,” an uplifting documentary about a champion chess team from a middle school in Williamsburg, and the “Domino Effect,” which is about the former sugar factory, and the banks, the developers, the politicians, and the non-profit organizations that shape this city.

The Greenpoint Film Festival will include some themed screenings, such as an environmental screening at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

One of the films that will be featured is actually titled “Newtown” — an eight-minute short about the polluted creek.

“It looks at a lot of the activists that were fighting for justice and the issues that were not getting taken care of,” said filmmaker Sara Choi.

And while Valado said the judges did not give preference to Brooklyn-made films, many of borough’s own rose to the top of their categories on their own merit. Willifest also concentrated on an array of films from all over the world, but still features a handful of Brooklyn movies.

“It speaks to the high caliber of locally-made film,” said Valado.

For venues hosting festival films see ‪www.willifest.com and‬ greenpointfilmfestival.org, Sept.20–23.

Fest by fest: Michael Helman, founder and festival director of Willifest, has tried to grow the four-day event each year by adding new elements.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham