, which used to be known as Independent Features, has announced that this year’s event will be headlined by Jason Cusato’s Apostles of Park Slope
Of the 58 films revealed, 24 feature the work of New York filmmakers and 11 are international selections.
Cusato, who leads a list of nine Brooklyn filmmakers, said, “The Manhattan Film Festival is a unique festival that goes above and beyond to make each filmmaker and their work feel special. We are excited and honored to be part of this year’s festival, especially opening night.”
Cusato’s film When Broomsticks Were King
was the first film the festival ever screened. Founder Philip J. Nelson said: “I believe Jason is the next great filmmaker to come out of New York and it’s only fitting he opens our first year as the Manhattan Film Festival.”
In January the festival legally became the Manhattan Film Festival. In one year it has grown over 729 per cent and is on track to become the largest independent film festival in New York City. The organization accomplished this without the benefit of a corporate sponsor and says its success was not easy.
After hitting a brick wall in 2008, the festival’s chances of success were looking slim. After a partner failed to perform it was left with what it describes as an “economic nightmare.”
Nelson was unable to support his family and, he says, his situation was dire. While cleaning out his office he noticed a content partnership agreement he had been given. He thought of it as the only opportunity he had to get himself out of the mess that he was in.
Level the playing field
He started a vlog – a video blog – and, 50 million views later, he credits that partnership for saving him. Little by little, he says, he started digging himself out of a seemingly bottomless hole and the organization’s vision of creating a film festival that would level the playing field for independent filmmakers was still alive.
A year later, at a fundraiser for Apostles of Park Slope
, Nelson saw how Cusato brought his community together and was reminded of the true independent spirit.
The festival has since reached out to local businesses to bring special screenings and festival events such as after-parties into the community.
“Our goal is to bring local businesses added clientele, give attendees a unique festival experience, while creating a product equal to or greater than Hollywood on a shoestring budget,” said festival co-founder Jose Ruiz Jr.