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Surreal song: Experimental musical screens at Brooklyn Film Festival

The air up there: In the musical film “Tommy Battles the Silver Sea Dragon,” screening at the Brooklyn Film Festival on June 2, the main characters emotional distance manifests as physical distance.
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This is a silver screen extravaganza.

One of the most distinctive films screening at the 21st annual Brooklyn Film Festival next week will be the musical “Tommy Battles the Silver Sea Dragon,” which will have its East Coast premiere on June 2. The feature film about a man on trial in his own mind uses bizarre and inventive imagery, adding rock concert lighting to mundane events, floating a bed on the ocean, and putting the main character’s head literally in the clouds. Filmmaker Luke Shirock, who splits his time between Bushwick and Montreal, said that leaving strict realism behind gave him a lot of options.

“We did a lot of work to create a whole world,” said Shirock. “It’s a musical, and that opens the door to a lot of surrealistic imagery.”

All those elements work together to reinforce the emotions behind the story, said Shirock.

“We did as much as we could to take the themes of the films and make them visual,” he said.

This is Shirock’s first full-length film, and he composed, produced, directed, and stars in it. But taking on all those duties was not his original plan, he said.

“I got into this with some friends who were more properly filmmakers, and it was more of a collaboration. There were some personal things, and they left the production. So I had to pick up a lot of the slack,” he said. “It was a steep learning curve in a lot of ways.”

The movie was mostly filmed in Detroit, due to film-friendly tax breaks there, but many interstitial scenes were filmed on the streets of Brooklyn, along with a scene set in the Bedford Street L-train station. Shirock said that bringing the film to the borough of Kings, where he first came up with the idea, gives him a sense of completion.

“It really feels like a homecoming and an affirmation,” he said. “Like I’m checking it off. Not only did I start the process here, but now I get to show it to the people who made it.”

In addition to Shirock’s musical, the 10-day Brooklyn Film Festival will feature 20 feature-length films and more than 100 short documentaries, narratives, cartoons, and experimental films. The opening night on June 1 will feature an anthology of short documentaries produced by the New York Times, alternating with

“Tommy Battles the Silver Sea Dragon” at the Wythe Hotel (80 Wythe Ave. at N. 11th Street in Williamsburg, www.brooklynfilmfestival.org). June 2 at 7 pm. $15. And at Windmill Studios (300 Kingsland Ave. between Norman and Nassau avenues in Greenpoint). June 10 at 4 pm. $15.

Brooklyn Film Festival Opening Night Screening at the Wythe Hotel. June 1 at 7:45 pm. $35. Screenings continue through June 10 at various locations.

Reach arts editor Bill Roundy at broundy@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4507.
Updated 1:34 am, July 10, 2018
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