A summer visit to New York City isn't complete without a Rooftop Films outdoor screening.
What began 21 years ago as a scrappy, DIY way for some friends to catch underground movies while taking advantage of New York's copious rooftops has turned into the city's biggest movie party and the best way to see the films that you heard about from the year's festival circuit. The best part is that the Rooftop Films screening series stretches all summer long, running from May 19th to August 19th, with more than 45 outdoor screenings in more than 10 unique venues, most featuring parties, live music, or other special guests and performances.
This year's lineup includes many of the outstanding indies we've featured this past year, so you can prepare by reading up (or listening to our podcasts) on titles like: Ana Lily Amirpour's The Bad Batch, Eliza Hittman's Beach Rats, Dave McCary 's Brigsby Bear, Joshua Z Weinstein's Menashe, Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis' Whose Streets?, Michelle Morgan's L.A. Times, and Lauren Wolkstein and Christopher Radcliff's The Strange Ones. We've even done a podcast with the brains behind these diverse programming choices, Dan Nuxoll.
Opening weekend kicks off with Zoe Lister-Jones' Sundance hit Band-Aid, and a program of subversive shorts. See the full lineup below, in alphabetical order (with descriptions provided by Rooftop). For the full schedule and locations, stay tuned to the Rooftop site.
The Bad Batch (Ana Lily Amirpour)
The Bad Batch follows Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) after she's left in a Texas wasteland fenced off from civilization. While trying to navigate the unforgiving landscape, Arlen is captured by a savage band of cannibals led by the mysterious Miami Man (Jason Momoa). With her life on the line, she makes her way to The Dream (Keanu Reeves). As she adjusts to life in 'the bad batch' Arlen discovers that being good or bad mostly depends on who's standing next to you. Winner of the Rooftop Films Piper-Heidsieck Feature Film Grant. A NEON release.
Band Aid (Zoe Lister-Jones)
Band Aid, the refreshingly raw, real, and hilarious feature debut from Zoe Lister-Jones, is the story of a couple, Anna (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally), who can't stop fighting. Advised by their therapist to try and work through their grief unconventionally, they are reminded of their shared love of music. In a last-ditch effort to save their marriage, they decide to turn all their fights into song, and with the help of their neighbor Dave (Fred Armisen), they start a band. A story of love, loss, and rock and roll, Band Aid is a witty and perceptive view of modern love, with some seriously catchy pop hooks to boot. An IFC Films release.
Beach Rats (Eliza Hittman)
Frankie, an aimless teenager on the outer edges of Brooklyn, is having a miserable summer. With his father dying and his mother wanting him to find a girlfriend, Frankie escapes the bleakness of his home life by causing trouble with his delinquent friends and flirting with older men online. When his chatting and webcamming intensify, he finally starts hooking up with guys at a nearby cruising beach while simultaneously entering into a cautious relationship with a young woman. As Frankie struggles to reconcile his competing desires, his decisions leave him hurtling toward irreparable consequences. A NEON release.
The Big Sick (Michael Showalter)
Based on the real-life courtship between Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, The Big Sick tells the story of Pakistan-born aspiring comedian Kumail (Nanjiani), who connects with grad student Emily (Kazan) after one of his standup sets. However, what they thought would be just a one-night stand blossoms into the real thing, which complicates the life that is expected of Kumail by his traditional Muslim parents. When Emily is beset with a mystery illness, it forces Kumail to navigate the medical crisis with her parents, Beth and Terry (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) who he's never met, while dealing with the emotional tug-of war between his family and his heart. The Big Sick is directed by Michael Showalter (Hello My Name Is Doris) and produced by Judd Apatow (Trainwreck, This Is 40) and Barry Mendel (Trainwreck, The Royal Tenenbaums). A Lionsgate and Amazon Studios release.
Brigsby Bear (Dave McCary)
After 25 years of secluded existence with his protective parents in their isolated, off-the-grid home, James (Kyle Mooney) is tossed out into a new life in relatively daunting Cedar Hills, Utah. As his world upends, the most shocking revelation to James is that he’s the only person who has ever watched his favorite television program, Brigsby Bear Adventures. Struggling to adjust to the show’s abrupt end, he begins to see Brigsby’s lessons as his only way to make sense of a big, scary new world, and James decides to make a movie to end Brigsby’s story—and re-begin his own. A Sony Pictures Classics release.
The Cage Fighter (Jeff Unay)
A blue-collar family man breaks the promise he’d made years ago to never fight again. Now 40 years old, with a wife and four children who need him, Joe Carman risks everything—his marriage, his family, his financial security— to go back into the fighting cage and come to terms with his past. After-party presented by Visit Seattle.
California Dreams (Mike Ott)
From acclaimed director Mike Ott (Lake Los Angeles, Actor Martinez) comes the new comedy documentary feature California Dreams, presenting five unique individuals in pursuit of a big life change. Through auditions set up in small towns across Southern California, the film shows genuine characters with big Hollywood aspirations who, for various reasons, have never had the opportunity to pursue their dreams. With subjects including celebrity impersonators, aspiring writers, and a former nurse, this bitingly funny film reveals the strange and entrancing hypnotic grip that Hollywood has, in some way or form, on everyone.
The Challenge (Yuri Ancarani)
If you have it, spend it: Italian artist Yuri Ancarani’s visually striking documentary enters the surreal world of wealthy Qatari sheikhs who moonlight as amateur falconers, with no expenses spared along the way. The Challenge follows these men through the rituals that define their lives: perilously racing blacked-out SUVs up and down sand dunes; sharing communal meals; taking their Ferraris out for a spin with their pet cheetahs riding shotgun; and much more. Ancarani’s film is a sly meditation on the collective pursuit of idiosyncratic desires. A Kino Lorber release.
Dayveon (Amman Abbasi)
In the wake of his older brother's death, 13-year-old Dayveon spends the sweltering summer days roaming his rural Arkansas town. When he falls in with a local gang, he becomes drawn to the camaraderie and violence of their world. A FilmRise release.
Dina (Dan Sickles, Antonio Santini)
Dina, an outspoken and eccentric 49-year-old in suburban Philadelphia, invites her fiancé Scott, a Walmart door greeter, to move in with her. Having grown up neurologically diverse in a world blind to the value of their experience, the two are head-over-heels for one another, but shacking up poses a new challenge. Scott freezes when it comes to physical intimacy, and Dina, a Kardashians fanatic, wants nothing more than to share with Scott all she’s learned about sensual desire from books, TV shows, and her previous marriage. Her increasingly creative forays to draw Scott close keep hitting roadblocks—exposing anxieties, insecurities, and communication snafus while they strive to reconcile their conflicting approaches to romance and intimacy. An Orchard release.
The Genius and the Opera Singer (Vanessa Stockley)
A 92-year-old former opera singer and her volatile daughter have inhabited a rent-controlled Manhattan penthouse for the last fifty-five years - along with their obese chihuahua, Angelina Jolie. An unsettling portrait of a mother-daughter relationship, The Genius and the Opera Singer explores their intense emotional states and the knotted riddle of their past.
The Incredible Jessica James (Jim Strouse)
Jessica Williams (“The Daily Show”) stars as a young, aspiring playwright in New York City who is struggling to get over a recent breakup. She is forced to go on a date with the recently divorced Boone, played by Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids) and the unlikely duo discover how to make it through the tough times in a social media obsessed post-relationship universe. Lakeith Stanfield (FX’s “Atlanta”, Straight Outta Compton) and Noël Wells (Netflix’s “Master of None”) co-star. The film was written and directed by Jim Strouse and produced by Michael B. Clark and Alex Turtletaub of Beachside. Jessica Williams and Kerri Hundley serve as executive producers.
L.A. Times (Michelle Morgan)
Annette (Michelle Morgan) and Elliot (Jorma Taccone) are a mostly-happy, moderately-neurotic LA couple. Maybe Annette doesn't enjoy game nights or taco stands as much as Elliot does, but no relationship is perfect, right? Rather than embracing their differences, Annette can only compare their relationship to their happy couple friends. This cannot be endorsed by Annette's beautiful but romantically troubled best friend, Baker (Dree Hemingway), who is very well-versed on the bleakness of the LA dating scene. Taking its cues from classic mid-20th Century comedies with a stylish and contemporary spin, L.A. Times is an irreverent tale of life and the search for elusive love in the 21st Century.
The Maribor Uprisings: A Live Participatory Documentary (Maple J. Rasza, Milton Guillén)
In the once prosperous industrial city of Maribor, Slovenia, anger over political corruption became unruly revolt. In The Maribor Uprisings--part film, part conversation and part interactive experiment--you are invited to participate in the protests. Drawing on the dramatic frontline footage from a video activist collective embedded within the uprisings, you begin in Maribor as crowds surround and ransack City Hall under a hailstorm of tear gas canisters. As a group, you must choose which cameras you will follow and therefore how the events will unfold. Like those who joined the actual uprisings, you will decide between joining non-violent protests or following rowdy crowds towards City Hall and greater conflict. These events stand as an example for any number of ideological stand-offs today. What sparks outrage? How are participants swept up in—and changed by—confrontations with police? Could something like this happen in your city? What would you do?
Menashe (Joshua Z Weinstein)
Set within the New York Hasidic community in Borough Park, Brooklyn, Menashe follows a kind but hapless grocery store clerk trying to maintain custody of his son Rieven after his wife, Lea, passes away. Since they live in a tradition-bound culture that requires a mother present in every home, Rieven is supposed to be adopted by the boy’s strict, married uncle, but Menashe’s Rabbi decides to grant him one week to spend with Rieven prior to Lea’s memorial. Their time together creates an emotional moment of father/son bonding as well as offers Menashe a final chance to prove to his skeptical community that he can be a capable parent. Winner of the Rooftop Films Brigade Festival Publicity Grant. An A24 release.
Monkey Business: The Adventures of Curious George’s Creators (Ema Ryan Yamazaki)
Featuring a narrow escape from the Nazis on makeshift bicycles, Monkey Business explores the extraordinary lives of Hans and Margret Rey, the authors of the beloved Curious George children’s books. New York Premiere. An Orchard release.
Mr. Roosevelt (Noël Wells)
Emily Martin (Noël Wells) is a struggling 20-something who moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in comedy after graduating college in Austin, Texas. When a loved one falls sick, she returns to Austin and runs into her ex-boyfriend, as well as his amazing and intimidating new girlfriend. Low on funds and stuck in Texas for the weekend, Emily stays with the two of them in her old, but miraculously remodeled house. She quickly finds her way into the circle of a local female badass who shows Emily a good time and tries to keep her from spinning out as she goes toe-to-toe with the new girlfriend, all the ways her ex has changed, and ultimately, her own choices and guilt about leaving the past behind.
Quest (Jonathan Olshefski)
Filmed with vérité intimacy for close to a decade, Quest is a portrait of a family in North Philadelphia. Christopher “Quest” Rainey, along with his wife Christine’a (aka “Ma Quest”), open the door to their home music studio, which serves as a creative sanctuary from the strife that grips their neighborhood. Over the years, the family evolves as everyday life brings a mix of joy and unexpected crisis. Set against the backdrop of a country now in turmoil, the film is a tender depiction of an American family whose journey is a profound testament to love, healing and hope.
Rat Film (Theo Anthony)
Across walls, fences, and alleys, rats not only expose our boundaries of separation but make homes in them. Rat Film is a feature-length documentary that uses the rat—as well as the humans that love them, live with them, and kill them--to explore the history of Baltimore. "There's never been a rat problem in Baltimore, it's always been a people problem." A Cinema Guild release.
The Road Movie (Dmitrii Kalashnikov)
A fascinating mosaic of asphalt adventures, landscape photography, and some of the craziest shit you’ve ever seen, Kalashnikov’s THE ROAD MOVIE is a stunning compilation of video footage shot exclusively via dashboard cameras in Russian automobiles. The dash-cam phenomenon permeates Russian roads thoroughly, capturing a vivid range of spectacles through the windshield, including a comet crashing down to Earth, an epic forest fire, and no shortage of angry motorists taking road rage to wholly new and unexpected levels. All the while, accompanied by bemused commentary from unseen and often stoic drivers and passengers. An Oscilloscope Laboratories release.
Rough Night (Lucia Aniello)
In Rough Night, an edgy R-rated comedy, five best friends from college (played by Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, and Zoë Kravitz) reunite 10 years later for a wild bachelorette weekend in Miami. Their hard partying takes a hilariously dark turn when they accidentally kill a male stripper. Amidst the craziness of trying to cover it up, they're ultimately brought closer together when it matters most. A Columbia Pictures release.
The Strange Ones (Lauren Wolkstein, Christopher Radcliff)
Mysterious events surround two travelers, seemingly brothers, as they make their way across a remote American landscape. On the surface all seems normal, but what appears to be a simple vacation soon gives way to a dark and complex web of secrets. Winner of the Rooftop Films Eastern Effects Equipment Grant.
Whose Streets? (Sabaah Folayan, Damon Davis)
Told by the activists and leaders who live and breathe this movement for justice, Whose Streets? is an unflinching look at the Ferguson uprising. When unarmed teenager Michael Brown is killed by police and left lying in the street for hours, it marks a breaking point for the residents of St. Louis, Missouri. Grief, long-standing racial tensions and renewed anger bring residents together to hold vigil and protest this latest tragedy. Empowered parents, artists, and teachers from around the country come together as freedom fighters. As the National Guard descends on Ferguson with military grade weaponry, these young community members become the torchbearers of a new resistance. A Magnolia Pictures release.
The Work (Jairus McLeary, Gethin Aldous)
Set inside a single room in Folsom Prison, The Work follows three men from outside as they participate in a four-day group therapy retreat with level-four convicts. Over the four days, each man in the room takes his turn at delving deep into his past. The raw and revealing process that the incarcerated men undertake exceeds the expectations of the free men, ripping them out of their comfort zones and forcing them to see themselves and the prisoners in unexpected ways. An Orchard release.
Short Film Programs
Animation Block Party
Experience the year's best animated short films at the incomparable Animation Block Party!
Dark Toons: Animated Short Films
These toons are chocked full of furry animals and imaginative creatures but they are not for Sunday morning. The twisted and perverse landscapes of our annual Dark Toons program provide a unique backdrop for stories of life askew. From a true story of forced labor at communist-era prison that kept megastores in the West fully-stocked to a beautifully-animated and probably-alcoholic badger which has a run-in with the law and a woman who can’t stop growing fingers, these tales remind us that animation is the ideal medium to glimpse the darker side of life.
Love is Short: Romantic Short Films
“Love is so short, forgetting is so long.” Neruda wrote it, but these protagonists live it. In this program of short films, animated birds, sultry nights-in, and dismembered zombie heads are all members of love’s seductive cult. Come relish in these stories of the beautifully imagined and harshly-real consequences of love’s choices.
The New American Paradise: Short Films
Pop your New York bubble on a journey to the more peculiar corners of the modern U.S of A. In the land of drive-in churches, carnival boardwalks, border walls, and get-rich-quick schemes, any one of us could end up on the downside of the American dream: another desperado with a mask melted onto our face, searching for a nugget at the bottom of a dirty tin can.
New York Nonfiction
You see them every day. They’re on the train with you. They’re in your bodega. They’re your neighbors. But after this program of short films, we guarantee you’ll see them in a new light. Ours is a city full of record-holding record holders, spousal adoptions, trash havens, civil rights pioneers, lapsed goth kids, sexting teens, rambles full of leathermen, and unending change; and we like it that way... for the most part.
Sundance Short Films
Highlights from Sundance 2017 include these wild, weird and wonderful short films.
This is What We Mean by Short Films (Opening Night)
Rooftop turns 21 this year. We’re legal, but not playing it safe. On opening night, we’re celebrating with our favorite stories from moral grey zones and uncharted territories: a mushroom of colorful balloons kills two before escaping to Canada, an unnatural presence enters tickle fight, a subversive dance number takes down the patriarchy, and a Russian circus meltdown is played in reverse. Followed by the opening night after party onsite in the outdoor courtyard, sponsored by Corona, Freixenet and Tanqueray.
Trapped: Uncanny Short Films
Join us for a program of stories most unusual: the meeting of a spaceman and a cave man; an encounter with an alien phenomenon via public access television; and the imagined experiences of the forgotten subject of a famous photograph. These amusing and disquieting short films offer mix-tape portraits, analytic tragicomedies of infinite human desire and potentially-killer workplace procedurals. Experience startling cinematic spectacles you won’t soon forget.