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The New York International Independent Film & Video Festival

By Susan Berry

A sign outside of Madison Square Garden from the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival.

"The New York International Independent Film and Video Festival is an excellent launching pad for new documentaries," says Stuart Alson, executive director. "Unlike most festivals that do not show documentaries, or, insist on film prints, this festival really caters to the independent documentary filmmaker.”

The festival, now in its 7th year, is considered one of the largest, independent grassroots film markets in the nation. In order to accommodate the enormous volume of submissions, the fest recently split into three annual markets and film festivals which take place in September, May and January—with each showcasing over 120 films with a significant number of documentaries.

Each festival has a huge opening night gala at Madison Square Garden accompanied by an artists market, which attracts around 5,000 attendees. Filmmaker promotion is the focus of the gala, with 32 monitors and large-screen televisions screening clips throughout the evening. The marquee features the name of the film three times per hour for one month prior to the opening night and a detailed program is printed in local newspapers.

New York International Independent Film & Video Festival collaborates with both the Helsinki Festival and the Short Film Bureau of London and then award winning films are screened in Los Angeles, London and Helsinki. Festival Director Jessica Beshir says, “The films selected are based on a story well told and need to have a strong edge”. Award-winning filmmakers receive free film or cash and those that do not make the cut receive a full refund of their application fee, a helpful critique, and suggestions, plus two VIP passes. In the future, all awards will be categorized not only by genre, but by country, since the festival has a broad international involvement.

Showing its support for documentaries, the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival hosted a screening and reception for the premier of George Bogdanich's Yugoslavia: The Avoidable War, winner of the Best Social Documentary Award. The filmmaker and executive director of the festival addressed the United Nations and screened clips in preparation for this event was attended by the Ambassador and Princess of Yugoslavia, Congressmen and Senators.

“In the past, New York International Independent Film & Video Festival launched such documentaries as Adios Patria, the Cuban documentary narrated by Andy Garcia; One Last Chance, narrated by Laurence Fishburne and produced by Abra Plotkin of CBS’ 48 Hours; and Guns, Drugs & Kids, narrated by F. Murray Abraham.