The Art of Brooklyn Film Festival (AoBFF) prides itself as a film-maker focused event. It was voted One of the Five Notable American Film Festivals Worth Traveling For (2020) and has since adapted its enterprise to cater for those now watching from home all over the world – a move which earned them a mention in Film Festival Today. Founded in 2011, it has showcased the some of the best independent films to date and aims to lift the voices of those underrepresented in the film industry. Each year, the festival seeks to ensure no one point of view is dominating the industry by taking on a new Guest Festival Director.
For the 11th year of its running, and its first hybrid event, the Guest Festival Director chosen is the amazing Christie Conochalla. Impressively, 2021 is the first year AoBFF has opened its doors to nominations across the globe – not just from Brooklyn based directors. The Executive Director, Joseph Shahadi, was quoted stating:
“I met with filmmakers and programmers from all over America—and the world— this year. There were several great candidates but in the end it was clear that Christie was the perfect choice for 2021. I can’t wait to see her vision for this season unfold”.
Conochalla will be responsible for watching the 2021 submitted films as well as organizing the filmmaker talkbacks and audience Q&A. She will also be scheduling the screenings, both online and (Covid-restrictions permitting) live at the festival in Brooklyn.
If you’re a regular user of the Lesflicks Video on Demand (VOD) platform, you’ll definitely know of Christie Conochalla. Her feature film Forever Not Maybe (2020) has been the top number 1 most watched film on the Lesflicks VOD player since its release – and is still maintained to this day. Forever Not Maybe also earned Conochalla the award for Best Director at the North Hollywood Cinefest Film Festival. Adding to this, Conochalla’s 2020 Christmas day release, Marry Christmas, was the top seasonal film for Lesflicks users over the holiday period, and even going into January. Conochalla has a passion for creating complex, relatable content featuring underrepresented groups.
We caught up with the busy Christie Conochalla for Lesflicks exclusive interview. We asked her some questions about her new role as Guest Director:
Lesflicks: How is the first ever hybrid event for AoBFF working for you?
Conochalla: “As awful as Covid has been it has also been such a learning opportunity for creative. I had two projects in AoBFF in their 2020 festival and usually I’d be spending money I don’t have to pack up and support my films, and I am never sorry! But 2020 really showed us how creative the people who run these festivals are and I spent a good chunk of it spending time with filmmakers from all over the world that I may have not normally met or had the privilege of spending time with, yet there we all were, collectively in our homes together”.
Lesflicks: How does working from a distance fit into your creative process?
Conochalla: “If AoBFF weren’t a hybrid event, I may not have had this opportunity! I’m in Los Angeles while the festival is in Brooklyn and it has only enriched my life more to be able to spend face to face time with Joseph Shahadi and hopefully soon I’ll get to meet with Anthony Devito, the creators of this festival, to work together to roll out the 2021 event which I get to show the world: 1- how incredible and inspiring indie filmmakers are 2-what amazing work is out there that without festivals people may not have the opportunity to know about or see and 3-to host an event from the view of what inspires me when watching films. I’m so excited to put my mark on this year’s event and more excited to talk with all the incredible filmmakers who have trusted me with their work”.
Lesflicks: Have any films have caught your eye yet? Or, is there anything in particular you look for in the films you’re screening?
Conochalla: “Well I am not the judge for the winning projects but I’ll tell you this! The judges will have a really hard time choosing. I’M going to have a hard time choosing what to program! So far I’ve seen films from all over the world of different genres, perspectives, inspirations. I’m happy to see some incredible work from women directors, lgbtq directors, powerful perspectives from people of color, historical stories, quirky comedies, and more from across the board. It’s so hard to pinpoint one film at this point because I’m hoping to have the opportunity to watch so many more! I’m out of movies to watch, by the way, hint hint so let’s get some submissions moving toward the festival because I want to see and support these artists to be in consideration for this incredible event!”
Lesflicks: What would you say to those thinking about submitting to AoBFF?
Conochalla: “People have a multitude of reasons for selecting which festivals they submit their work to. As a filmmaker I have heard a lot of talk about great things and not-so-great things about the process and what they’ve experienced. What I love about AoBFF is how committed they are to the art of filmmaking and to the storytelling. I want people to know that their craft, their art, their work is considered with gratitude and it is the joy of my life to be the one you are trusting. AoBFF is a wonderful community committed to artists and whether you can go to Brooklyn for their proposed in-person events or you join us online, you’ll know you are with family”.
Lesflicks: Finally, and one our Lesflicks audience is dying to know, do you have any plans for releases yourself this year?
Conochalla: “Maybe….Hillary Esquina, Jessica Harcourt (my producing partner), and myself have a special Valentine’s Day surprise that we may or may not be shooting very soon…you will see some familiar faces…I hope it will be the first of many projects Jessica and I do with Hillary. So far it has been a blast. Jessica and I have also been working on something else I’m very excited about but can’t talk about yet but you can bet that the future holds new work coming to my Lesflicks family and I’m so grateful you are there and watching!”.