By Nicko V. Vaughan
There are 92 reasons why Tribeca should be the main port of call for film nerds looking for interesting things to do in New York but I don’t have the space or the editorial power to list them all, so I’m just going to tell you about the best darn film lover’s hub in Manhattan. There’s an atmosphere of friendly film community that’s been cultivated over at 92YTribeca which gives the place a happy and relaxed vibe and I literally fell in love with it the moment I stepped through this relatively new arts centre’s door . People are chatty, staff are friendly and the food is so good that at lunchtime punters line up out into the street.
Opened only three years ago with a mission to bring a ‘late night’ feeling venue for a younger audience, 92YTribeca is the offspring of the more established venue The 92nd street Y. It may still be in its infancy but it has already garnered a popular following from both film fans and industry people thanks to the passion and imagination of its film programmer Cristina Cacioppo. She explains, “The 92nd street Y wanted to have a downtown venue that was more about nightlife and to reach a younger audience with edgier programming, more concerts, film and talks.”
The words ‘young’ and ‘edgy’ might have you imagining hipsters ironically sipping their lattes but the place exudes a warm and affable atmosphere, in fact, on my second visit a few of the audience members from the show I had seen previously stopped me for a chat. I would like to think it was because I exuded some kind of film academic hubris that made me attractive to hard core movie fans, but it was probably the accent, Americans really do seem to be a sucker for it. Knowledge or round vowels aside, it was this celluloid camaraderie that led me to learn more about the range of wonderfully original programs the venue has to offer.
One of my favourite regular shows there is ‘Closely watched films’ a monthly show hosted by Daily Show writer and Flophouse Podcast member Elliott Kalan. His aim is to show movies which may have become suffocated by the unnecessary moniker of respectability and allow an audience to simply get pleasure from them. The show’s remit is, ‘Stop studying old movies and start enjoying them.
Elliott is a genial host who shows a real love for these movies and the charmingly ramshackle and relaxed approach to the introduction and post film interview with special guests only adds to the show’s appeal. Speaking to him after a screening he explained why he created the show. “I wanted to put on older movies that, when I watched them, I felt something. ‘”As we shifted under a small canopy which was sheltering us from a heavy New York downpour and he continued. “It can feel like a movie is waiting for me to watch it and once I have seen it, I don’t want anyone else to have to wait until they just stumble upon it. I only want to show movies like that.”
And there really is a personal feel to the show, a joyful combination of half film contextualisation and half show and tell. When I ask if his show is really just an excuse to show movies he loves to strangers he replies, “Yes, sometimes it’s strangers but sometimes the audience is people I know.” He goes on to tell me about regular audience members who have become friends, of an elderly couple who come to the show almost every month and the various other film lovers who eagerly return. With a film series that aims to celebrate the visceral reaction to a film rather than the cerebral it’s no wonder they want to come back. An enthusiastic and charming host doesn’t hurt either.
A regular audience is something that 92YTribeca seems to have developed, Christina explains, “There is plenty of room for fun, I think New York is rich when it comes to an academic background in film, but let’s look at these movies and have a conversation in a different way.’” Which is why nestled amongst their art house offerings you’ll find sing-a-long shows, a beer goggles program (films we enjoy more when drunk) and TV movies, subversively, shown on the big screen . Another gem, The VHS Trailer Show, is also the brainchild of Cristina. This is a splendidly simple idea of showing the coming attraction trailers found on VHS tapes released in the 80s and early 90s. “I had kept these VHS tapes for years because they had these trailers for films that don’t seem to exist.” explains Christina, “plus VHS has become this precious thing, people love it.”
The VHS Trailer Show on the evening I attended was split into offerings from various guest hosts as well as audience members. Two of these hosts were Matt Carman and Kseniya Yarosh, writers of the magazine I Love Bad Movies who had themed their trailers around the economic downturn and the dangers of hiring an Italian chef. It was a heady mix of alien stepfather robots, masochistic Nazi nymphomaniac SS women, crazy cops and stunt man bio-pics. When the audience were faced with the prospect of viewing the trailers from a VHS tape still unopened and in its original cellophane, the atmosphere was nothing short of giddy.
Basic cable classics, beer goggles and confusing trailers aside; there is also room at 92YTribeca for up and coming film makers, one of them being the Iron Mule which screens a selection of short comedy films each month from new and not so new directors. It encourages film makers of any age to submit their film for consideration and it’s also refreshing to see a film event dedicated to comedy, an area that, sometimes, is neglected by the film industry.
Jay Stern, co-creator of the event, explains how it all started, “We knew a lot of comedy people and a lot of film people so we kind of developed our own community where we could show our movies and created this environment of cross pollination.” Fellow Co-creator Lin Sorensen also added , “We’re really inclusive, it’s a fun evening and it’s a great way for young film makers to see their films on the big screen in New York which is an experience you can’t get showing your film on Youtube.”
The organisers of The Iron Mule open their net to film makers around the world so if you’d like to see your short comedy film shown at a screening then contact the guys at email@example.com
92YTribeca may not have the historic reputation of The Film Forum, the art deco plush features of The Sunshine or the art house vibe of The Angelika but, given the choice, I know which venue I’d return to time and time again. It’s the venue equivalent of a fluffy cardigan and a hot chocolate hug on a cold day and a place where this film nerd instantly felt at home. So if you are heading out to New York do me a favour – after you’ve seen the statue, bought your M&Ms and taken pictures from the top of tall buildings head over to 200 Hudson Street and experience New York hospitality and some kick ass movie fun.