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YoFiFest 2020: Indie Films on Kanopy & Hoopla

I’m Phil, a librarian at the Crestwood branch. This month is the eighth annual YoFiFest, which will host 142 films to stream online through November 22nd.

To celebrate YoFiFest 2020 and its focus on independent cinema, I’ve put together a list of exceptional and influential works of indie filmmaking.

All of these selections are offered through Kanopy or Hoopla, video streaming services available FREE to Yonkers Public Library cardholders. You can create a Kanopy or Hoopla account using your YPL library barcode and PIN and download the apps for mobile devices at our eLibrary page (scroll down to Movies and TV).

DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST

1991 – Directed by Julie Dash – 1 hr, 52 min – Not Rated

A poetic and visually captivating work, Daughters of the Dust won the Cinematography Award and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. It was the first film directed by an African American woman to have a wide release in theaters. Available on Kanopy.

Summary: At the dawn of the 20th century, a multi-generational family in the Gullah community on the Sea Islands off of South Carolina – former West African slaves who adopted many of their ancestors’ Yoruba traditions – struggle to maintain their cultural heritage and folklore while contemplating a migration to the mainland, even further from their roots.

DEMENTIA 13

1963 – Directed by Francis Ford Coppola – 1 hr, 14 min – Not Rated

An early feature film from Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now), Dementia 13 was produced by the legendary Roger Corman and shot in Ireland for an estimated $40,000. A psychological thriller influenced by Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, it is atmospherically photographed and has some jolting scares. Available on Hoopla and Kanopy.

Summary: John Haloran has a heart attack. His wife Louise won’t get any of the inheritance from his mother’s estate if he is dead, so she forges a letter from him to convince his family he’s in New York on business to ensure a cut of the inheritance. His sister had also drowned and the family enacts a morbid ritual in remembrance. 

GANJA AND HESS

1973 – Directed by Bill Gunn – 1 hr, 52 min – Rated R

A bizarre, hypnotic, dream-like horror tale and meditation on African American identity from actor-playwright-filmmaker Bill Gunn. In 2015 Spike Lee directed a remake, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (both films are available on Kanopy).

Summary: Duane Jones (Night of the Living Dead) stars as anthropologist Hess Green, who is stabbed with an ancient ceremonial dagger by his unstable assistant, endowing him with the blessing of immortality, and the curse of an unquenchable thirst for blood. When the assistant’s beautiful and outspoken wife Ganja (Marlene Clark) comes searching for her vanished husband, she and Hess form an unexpected partnership. Together, they explore just how much power there is in the blood.

LIVING IN OBLIVION 

1995 – Directed by Tom DiCillo – 1 hr, 30 min – Rated R

Tom DiCillo’s comedy about the perils of low-budget filmmaking is uniquely constructed, uproariously funny and features a top-notch cast that includes Steve Buscemi, Catherine Keener, and Peter Dinklage. Available on Kanopy.

Summary: Independent film director Nick Reve (Steve Buscemi) is making his first feature. Everything that can go wrong does: the rebellious catering crew refuses to replace spoiled milk, his actors are flakey and getting an unspoiled take is nearly impossible. Tension between lead actress Nicole (Catherine Keener) and actor Chad (James LeGros), who have just slept together, contributes to the many problems on set. As money and time run out, Nick struggles to complete his film.

MINNIE & MOSKOWITZ 

1971 – Directed by John Cassavetes – 1 hr, 55 min – Rated PG

John Cassavetes was an actor and groundbreaking independent filmmaker whose fearless, emotionally wrenching character studies influenced generations of directors. Minnie & Moskowitz is one of the few Cassavetes films financed by a major studio (Universal Pictures), but it retains the low budget, grittiness and offbeat humor of the writer-director’s best work. Available on Hoopla.

Summary: Just when Minnie (Academy Award nominated Gena Rowlands) thinks she’ll never fall in love again, she meets Seymour Moskowitz (Academy Award nominee Seymour Cassel), a crazy parking lot attendant. Determined to believe in romance, Minnie throws caution to the wind to embark on a tumultuous courtship. 

PASSION FISH

1992 – Directed by John Sayles – 2 hrs, 15 min – Rated R

John Sayles is the creative voice behind critically-acclaimed works such as Matewan, Eight Men Out, and Lone Star. Passion Fish is one of his best films, a beautifully acted drama that deftly balances sadness and humor. It was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Actress in a Leading Role (Mary McDonnell) and Best Original Screenplay (Sayles). Available on Kanopy.

Summary: After an accident leaves her a paraplegic, a former soap opera star struggles to recover both emotionally and mentally, until she meets her newest nurse, who has struggles of her own.