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Redford Smiles On Brooklyn Academy of Music

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Come May, Brooklyn’s already bustling cinema scene is going to get even denser: the Sundance Film Festival will be expanding to the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The program, called “Creative Latitude: Sundance Institute at BAM,” promises to be a boon to Brooklyn filmmakers and buffs alike, featuring screenings of both full-length and short films as well as interviews and workshops with directors, writers, actors, composers and others involved in the filmmaking process. Organizers say Creative Latitude: Sundance Institute at BAM will bring to Brooklyn the best of Sundance, which is set to run in Park City, Utah from Jan. 19-29. The nearly four-month interval will allow for planning and selection of which films and filmmakers will be showcased at BAM May 11-20. BAM spokesperson Sandy Sawotka said that the screenings and their accompanying talks would be held at facilities across the academy. One in particular, she said, would involve four simultaneous screenings in BAM’s four theaters, with a discussion following in the Opera House. “Rehearsal spaces that the public rarely ever sees, we’re going to be using them for discussions,” she said, adding that the BAM Café would be host to performances by film composers and musicians. The festival gets its name from the fact that both Park City and Brooklyn sit are on share the same 40.6-degree north latitude. They also share a bustling independent film scene. “The festival will help solidify the burgeoning Brooklyn film scene’s reputation as ‘Hollywood East,’” said Borough President Marty Markowitz. And Hollywood East it’s becoming. Neighborhoods like Williamsburg and DUMBO, once crumbling industrial areas, have come alive once again with the influx of artists of all kinds, including filmmakers. And the rest of the borough has long been a haven for those on the brink of success – but not close enough to afford a studio in Manhattan. “I don’t think that there would have been a [Sundance] festival last year without Brooklyn,” said Sundance Institute executive director Ken Brecher, as quoted on independent film news Web site indieWIRE.com. But actor Robert Redford, founder and president of the Sundance Institute, said that Sundance is about more than just the internationally-renown festival in Park City. “The meat of Sundance is about its development programs,” indieWIRE.com reported Redford as saying at a Jan. 5 luncheon at BAM. And the Sundance Institute is working to make inroads with such programs in New York and particularly in Brooklyn, where it hopes to find a base. “This seemed like a wonderful place to create a home,” Redford said. Redford said that Sundance’s collaboration with BAM is the “keystone” of Sundance’s 25th-anniversary celebration, which will involve a national tour with stops in Nashville, Tenn., Ann Arbor, Mich., and Orlando, Fla., among other cities. It will also feature at least one gala in New York, in November. BAM intends to work with local high schools and colleges throughout Creative Latitude, an example of which would be arranging school-hours screenings and lectures so students could attend. Sawotka said that clearing space at the usually busy center was the main determinant of when the program would be held, although in this case the decision wasn’t too hard. “It’s a matter of timing when we have empty spaces. [Creative Latitude] is getting to the end of our season, so that makes it easier,” said BAM spokeswoman Sandy Sawotka. “Nothing major was pushed off.” Also a factor in planning the date of Creative Latitude was the TriBeCa Film Festival, which ends just 10 days earlier. It will run from April 19-May 1, and started in 2002 as an effort to revitalize the neighborhood of the same name after the devastation of Sept. 11. The first years of the TriBeCa film festival saw 150,000 visitors and a $10.4 million increase in spending at local businesses, according to the festival’s Web site. The potential for a similar influx at BAM is not lost on area businesses, as Barry Friedberg, a partner at Le Dakar Restaurant and Café, 285 Grand Ave. “Potentially, it could send us a lot of business. But just because it’s here doesn’t mean it’s going to help,” he said. “You have to market yourself, which is what we’re trying to do right now. The potential is there.” But Phillip Kellogg, the chairman of the Fort Greene Association, was confident that the cultural capital of the festival would take much less work to redeem. “BAM is such a great cultural institution,” he said. “And to have a film festival like this right in our own back yard is going to be great for the community.”

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