The twenty-eighth annual Coney Island Sand Sculpting Contest will take place on August 18, as amateur and semiprofessional individuals and groups will create masterpieces in the Brooklyn sand, many with a nautical theme (along with a few naughty ones). It’s a blast watching the constructions rise from nothing into some extremely elaborate works of impermanence. The event, which features cash prizes for family, individual adult, group adult, and people’s choice, is hosted by Astella Development Corporation and Brooklyn Community Services. While visiting Coney Island on August 18, you should also check out “The Museum of Interesting Things: The Summer of Love — The 1960’s and early 70’s” at the Coney Island Museum, the Coney Island Circus Sideshow, the “Ask The Experts” book reading and signing by Tessa Fontaine of The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts, and the Burlesque at the Beach presentation “The Wicked Gingers Present: A Night on Old Cape Cod at Coney Island USA!” in addition to riding the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel.
WE THE ANIMALS (Jeremy Zagar, 2018)
Angelika Film Center, 18 West Houston St. at Mercer St., 212-995-2570
Landmark at 57 West, 657 West 57th St. at 12th Ave., 212-757-2280
Opens Friday, August 17
Documentarian Jeremy Zagar’s first feature, We the Animals, is a deeply sensitive and intimate coming-of-age drama about a ten-year-old boy on the cusp of starting to understand issues of race, class, and sexuality. Based on the 2011 novel by Justin Torres, a fictionalized version of his real family story, We the Animals is set in upstate New York in the 1990s, where Paps (Raúl Castillo) and Ma (Sheila Vand) are raising three young boys, Manny (Isaiah Kristian), Joel (Josiah Gabriel), and Jonah (Evan Rosado). Paps is a security guard from Puerto Rico, while Ma is of Italian-Irish heritage and works the graveyard shift at a brewery. The boys all sleep in the same room; they often huddle together and call out, “Body heat! Body heat!” as if they are one. But Jonah, the youngest, is a little different. He’s more delicate, needing more of his mother’s love and touch. He hides a notebook under the bed in which he writes down thoughts and draws pictures of flying and freedom, which are inventively brought to life by animator Mark Samsonovich. When Paps and Ma have a fight and the father leaves, it affects Jonah more than his brothers. He soon starts hanging around with a local non-Latinx teenager who introduces him to pornography, but it’s not the women who Jonah finds himself intrigued by. As his parents’ relationship continues to be volatile, Jonah grows more distant with his brothers as he explores new aspects of who he might be — or become.
Zagar (In a Dream, Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart) incorporated his documentary experience in making We the Animals, giving it a realistic feel as the story unfolds at a slow but natural pace. Cinematographer Zak Mulligan favors a handheld 16mm camera to further enhance the believability of the narrative. Zagar spent two and a half years first casting the boys, then working with them — all three first-time actors — before filming began. Zagar, who cites Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher, Morvern Callar) and Ken Loach (Kes, Riff-Raff) as major influences, and co-screenwriter Daniel Kitrosser remain faithful to the book, but Zagar often kept the camera rolling after a scripted scene, allowing the boys to improvise in character, and Zagar and coeditor Keiko Deguchi ended up using some of that footage in the final film. The story deals with masculinity and machismo very honestly and directly, with their impact clear on the mother and her three boys. It’s all a kind of fever dream, one in which Jonah, wonderfully portrayed by Rosado, has created his own separate world, an escape from the brutality he sees in his father and the victimization of his mother. Despite that, the film still manages to be bittersweet and gentle, with a warm soundtrack by Nick Zammuto. An absolute gem that won the Innovator Award at the Sundance Film Festival, We the Animals opens August 17 at the Angelika and the Landmark at 57 West. The first weekend features a trio of postscreening Q&As at the Angelika, with Castillo, Vand, and Torres at the 7:20 show on Friday, Castillo, Vand, Kristian, and Torres after the 7:20 show on Saturday, and Castillo and Torres following the 2:40 show on Sunday.
The nineteenth annual Hudson River Park Blues BBQ Festival is set for August 18 at Pier 97, where blues and soul food and drink come together from 2:00 to 9:00. The former includes dishes from Brother Jimmy’s, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Mighty Quinn’s, Pig Beach, Ben & Jerry’s, and Melt, with beverages from Sixpoint and Glenfiddich and live music by the Slam Allen Band (2:00), Danielle Nicole (3:15), Welch-Ledbetter Connection (4:30), Dawn Tyler Watson (6:00), and Vieux Farka Touré (7:30). Admission is free with advance registration; chairs, blankets, beach umbrellas, pets, bicycles, and other items are prohibited.
Friday, August 17, and Saturday, August 18, free, 5:00
The fourth annual Emerging Music Festival in Bryant Park takes place Friday and Saturday afternoon, featuring sets by ten up-and-coming bands from across the musical spectrum. The free festivities begin Friday at 5:00 with EZTV, followed by Underground System at 6:00, Palmas at 7:00, Ohmme at 8:00, and Evolfo at 9:00. Saturday kicks off at 5:00 with Madison McFerrin and continues at 6:00 with Plastic Picnic, 7:00 with Jerron ‘Blind Boy’ Paxton & Terry Waldo Rum House Jass Band, 8:00 with Native Sun, and 9:00 with Katie Von Schleicher. There will also be lawn games and juggling in between sets and food and drink available for purchase. The concerts are part of the Bryant Park Picnics program, which concludes August 22 with Accordions Around the World.
West 135th St. between Malcolm X Blvd. & Frederick Douglass Blvd.
Saturday, August 18, and Sunday, August 19, free, 12 noon – 10:00 pm
Festival continues through August 25
The theme of the 2018 Harlem Week festival is “Women Transforming Our World: Past, Present & Future,” along with the subtheme “The Community within the Community,” saluting LGBTQ rights. The festivities continue August 18 with “Summer in the City” and August 19 with “Harlem Day,” two afternoons of a wide range of free special events along West 135th St. Saturday’s programs include Harlem Senior Citizens Synchronized Swimming, the NYC Children’s Festival in Howard Bennett Playground (with a parade, exhibits, games, arts & crafts, live music and dance, health testing, and sports clinics), the Harlem Week Higher Education Fair (with more than fifty colleges and universities), “Dancing in the Streets” with live performances and WBLS DJs, the International Vendors Village, the Fabulous Fashion Flava Show, the “Uptown Saturday Concert” (with Sarah Vaughan National Competition winner Ashleigh Smith, Bishop Marvin Sapp, Raheem Devaughn, and the Jeff Foxx Band), and the Imagenation Outdoor Film Festival in St. Nicholas Park. Sunday’s “Harlem Day” celebration features live performances on three stages, the International Vendors Village, the Upper Manhattan Auto Show, Our Health Village, the Upper Manhattan Small Business Expo & Fair, USTA Children’s Tennis Clinics, and the second day of the NYC Children’s Festival (with a Back to School theme).
Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Through August 19
“Photographs can and in many ways should exist to contradict one another and to build out a narrative that is confusing and in some ways sort of compulsive,” explains Carmen Winant, one of seventeen photographers included in MoMA’s biannual look at new photography, this year called “Being,” which asks the question “How can photography capture what it means to be human?” Winant’s large-scale “My Birth,” consisting of more than two thousand found images of women giving birth, lines a narrow passageway in the exhibit, which continues through August 19. “This could be a shared narrative that both collapses time, and also sort of points to the difference between kinds of experience,” she adds in her online statement. That could be said for many of the works in the show, which features photographers from Brazil, America, Ethiopia, Poland, India, Italy, Germany, and Palestine, all between the ages of thirty-one and forty-four. Harold Mendez’s “At the edge of the Necró polis” explores ritual and remembrance. Images of water are central to Matthew Connors’s series “Unanimous Desire,” taken in North Korea. Stephanie Syjuco’s “Cargo Cults: Head Bundle” is a self-portrait of the Philippine immigrant in traditional dress but with an Urban Outfitters shopping bag on her head. In “Gesellschaft beginnt mit drei” (“Society Begins with Three”), Andrzej Steinbach delves into personal identity by having a trio of models change position and clothing. The exhibit, organized by assistant curator Lucy Gallun, also includes work by Sofia Borges, Sam Contis, Shilpa Gupta, Adelita Husni-Bey, Yazan Khalili, Aïda Muluneh, Hương Ngô and Hồng-Ân Trương, B. Ingrid Olson, Joanna Piotrowska, Em Rooney, and Paul Mpagi Sepuya. “I just want you to really question,” Husni-Bey says about “The Council,” but that relates to all of the photographs in this compelling presentation.