By Sophia Hsu
Photos by Amit Chaffee


As you walk up 3rd Street in Brooklyn’s Gowanus neighborhood, you can already hear the cheering and laughter from New Yorkers enjoying being out of doors, not to be confused with the outdoors. We are not among flora and fauna. We are on the vast, breezy rooftop of the Old American Can Factory in Brooklyn, just one of the several venues where the non-profit organization holds events. We are surrounded by all of the new developments along 3rd Avenue and the VIP members of the 2017 Summer Series. Reaching the roof, however, definitely felt like a hike with trail guides, inclines, and sure footing along the way.


When we reach the roof, Innov Gnawa is entrancing the crowd. From the musical collective’s website music is the ritual trance music of Morocco’s black communities, originally descended from slaves and soldiers once brought to Morocco from Northern Mali and Mauritania. Often called ‘The Moroccan Blues’, gnawa music has a raw, hypnotic power that’s fascinated outsiders as diverse as writer/composer Paul Bowles, jazz giant Randy Weston and rock god Jimi Hendrix.” As the last song played, the crowd clapped along with the music and swayed in time with the hypnotic music.


Opening and closing nights are memorably marked by amazing collections of short films. Tonight, Rooftop Films’ debuts their new, fresh trailer. The audience roars with approval for the trailer premiere. Attendees are then treated to nine short films for the evening’s theme of “This is What We Mean by Short Films” and a chat with a few of the filmmakers after the broadcast. Kirsten Lepore’s strangely hypnotic “Hi Stranger” kicks off the festivities followed by Sara Santamaria-Mertens’ coming of age tale “Blind Sex”.  The rest of the films follow in quick succession with Remi Weekes’ edge-of-your-seat “Tickle Monster”, Winona Regan’s addictive earworm “Boss Bitch”, Nikyatu Jusu and Yvonne Michelle Shirley’s unforgettable “Flowers”, Jim Cummings and Dustin Hahn’s well-cast “The Robbery”, Daren Rabinovitch, Isaiah Saxon, and Sean Hellfritsch’s mind-bending “The Tale of Hillbelly”, Nathan Truesdell’s truth-telling “Balloonfest”, and Ilya Naishuller’s expertly choreographed “Leningrad-Kolishik”. One of the many hazards of having an out of doors event in Brooklyn is noise pollution such as a never ending car alarm and fire truck sirens crisscrossing the area. Even those distractions took nothing away from the enjoyment of the night. The skillfully selected films evoke a wide spectrum of emotions from the audience, just as they were meant to do.


After the crowd exits the rooftop and make their collective way to the open bar and DJ in the courtyard, included with the price of admission, I get a moment to chat with a few of the filmmakers who all have exciting new projects including everything from music videos to national commercials. To support Rooftop Films and the filmmakers it supports, you can become a member. Learn more about how to become a member and all of the great perks here: More films are added over the course of the season, so please keep checking for all the latest the 2017 Summer Series has to offer. If you find yourself in need of a projector, screen, and/or audio equipment, Rooftop Films also offers affordable rentals: