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Rooftop Films kicked off its 2011 season with help from Dustin Wong (who plays again Wednesday)

by Rachel Kowal

Dustin Wong
Dustin Wong

The weather may have been a bit brisk, but the long lines stretching around the New Design High School last night signaled a strong start to the fifteenth year of Rooftop Films.

Though there are a number of summer movie festivals, Rooftop Films is a bit different from the rest due to its extensive schedule (45+ events from now through August 20), diverse and lofty locales (15 spread out over 4 boroughs), and unique material (emerging talents, recent productions). Oh yeah… and nearly all the screenings also feature live music and free booze after the show.

After a brief introduction from the festival’s founder, Mark Elijah Rosenberg, Friday night’s show began with a solid performance by Dustin Wong. Grabbing a chatty audience’s attention can be a difficult task – especially when that audience is 600 people strong and perhaps more interested in the movie programming than in the pre-show. But for a one-man, one-guitar affair, Wong put on a surprisingly compelling show. With help from an army of pedals, he looped together layer after layer, beginning with the rhythm line and methodically adding quick-fingered guitar melodies and chords until he had crafted a lush, cinematic sound.

Wong’s thirty-minute performance ebbed and flowed in intensity over the course of his set, but he didn’t pause once for even a beat of silence. Then suddenly, after about thirty minutes of continual play and a few late vocal additions, Wong put down his guitar, bowed slightly, and sheepishly muttered a quick “thank you” before Rosenberg came back to introduce the next segment of the evening.

Typically, the events hinge on a full-length film, but Friday night’s program featured nine shorts, each one tied to the theme of storytelling. They ranged from random (Chris Beckman’s montage of Youtube videos in Oops), to zany (Matthew Silver’s street corner prophet in Heartpocalypse), to unsettling (Carter Smith’s taken on high school sex life in Yearbook), and just plain disturbing (David O’Reilly’s sadistic and suicidal cartoon creations in The External World).

Stand-outs for me included Olivier Treiner’s short The Piano Tuner, which begins as a comedy and ends on a rather surprising and suspenseful note, and David Lowery’s heartwarming piece The Pioneer, which features Will Oldham (Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy) spinning a bedtime tall tale to an adorable little boy.

Sure, they may not be screening any cult classics but Rooftop Films offers a nice alternative to the typical summer offerings. Other featured musicians yet-to-come include: Widowspeak, Secret Mountains, and Snowmine.

Meanwhile you can catch Widowspeak tonight (5/17) at 285 Kent with Vivian Girls.

The next Rooftop Film is Thursday (5/19) and features the film The Sound of Noise (“A clever and maniacally entertaining Swedish comedy about a group of “musical terrorists” who break into hospitals, banks, and other public places to play compositions using the surroundings as their instruments”) with live music from Swedish band Prylf AND “Special LIVE Heavyweight Drum Battle between the Drummers and the Filmmakers!” Movie trailer below.

Dustin Wong plays another NYC show Wednesday night (5/18) at Silent Barn with hear hums, emily reo, dark sea of awareness, and philip seymour hoffman. Dustin’s band
Ponytail released a new album in April. A video of Dustin in action can be watched below…


SOUND OF NOISE TRAILER H264 101117

Dustin Wong

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