New York City’s best free and cheap summer entertainment

Don’t feel trapped in the city this summer. Feel lucky. You have access to a wide range of talented people and artistic expressions. Here’s a look. Concerts SummerStage SummerStage mixes city parks with meaningful music. And this year SummerStage features more than 100 free performances. Featured performances include: “The Zombies” at Central Park”, “Joan Baez and the Indigo Girls” and “Jon D and the Hi-five.” When: from June 4 through August 29. Where: 17 parks throughout the five boroughs. For more information, go to   Seaport Music Festival Pier 17 will be hosting an electic music festival throughout the month of June. Featured shows include: “Paws,” “Fear of Men,” and “Unknown Mortal Orchestra.” When: June 7, 14, 21 and 28. Where: Pier 17. For more information, visit   Target Free Thursdays Lincoln Center Theater is offering free concerts every Thursday in July. Featured performances include a traditional goroup of Ethiopian musicians and dancers, a multi-media concert by the African- American performer Sekou Sundiata, and a jazz night called “Let Freedom Swing.” When: Every Thursday night, July 4 through July 25. Where: David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center.   Naumburg Orchestral Concerts in Central Park In the lineup of park performances this year: Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, The Knights and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. When: Opheus Chamber Orchestra, July 9. The Knights, July 30. The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, August 21. Where: Central Park, south of the 72nd Street cross-drive.   “GMA” concert series “Good Morning America” is bringing some of the biggest names in the industry to Central park for free public concerts this Continue Reading

New York International Latino Film Festival ends after 13 years

On Sept. 4, Calixto Chinchilla, founder and co-executive director of the New York International Latino Film Festival (NYILFF), announced it would end production after 13 years, citing financial troubles. Two days later, NYILFF co-executive director Elizabeth Gardner refuted Chinchilla's claims of financial woes. "This was not a decision based on (the) economy, nor the company's financial status, which, in fact, is healthy," Gardner said in a statement. "We end with neither debts, nor liabilities." It was the public emergence of an apparent behind-the-scenes problem. The conflicting statements disrupted what should have been a graceful exit for the NYILFF team. Instead the festival's end was overshadowed by an unfortunate blame game. Gardner said that it was her decision to move on that ultimately led to her partner's choice not to continue with the festival. Both Chinchilla and Gardner refused to comment further on their statements. "Things do come to an end and I think that both were ready to seek new adventures," said Gabriel Reyes, president of publicity firm Reyes Entertainment and the 2012 managing director for NYILFF. But if the partners' conflicting announcements were any indication, both parties seem to want to seek those new adventures far away from the other. "The directors both had their own personal reasons for moving on," Reyes added. The festival was not only an accomplishment for the Latino community in New York, it was an organic, artistic representation of the global Latino experience. "It's a huge loss. It was the soul of the Latino film community every summer," said Juan Caceres, Director of Programming for NYILFF. Lyndon McCray, NYILFF's head of multimedia, echoed Caceres' sentiments, calling the end of the festival "temporarily catastrophic." Along with strong sponsors, the festival had a steady stream of partners, volunteers and patrons. "Their dedication and commitment was admirable and often not for Continue Reading

New York International Latino Film Festival celebrates Latino culture, showcases diverse films

The big-time, high-end New York Film Festival kicks off at the end of next month, but until then the city has a few other great collections of flickering images to send the summer out. Here are three to put into your calendar: The New York International Latino Film Festival opened its 12th year this week with an animated film, "Chico and Rita," for the first time in the festival's history, and will present films from 15 countries. NYILFF founder and executive director Calixto Chinchilla created the fest in 1999 as a forum for films by Latinos and works dealing with Latino culture. "When we started, there wasn't anything specifically [spotlighting] Latino filmmakers," says Chinchilla. "So we said, 'How can we acknowledge what's come before us but also create something different?'" Thursday's highlights include "Ashes," about a New York man struggling to make a better life for himself and his mentally ill brother, and the documentary "Rubble Kings," a look at city gangs in the 1960s and '70s. Friday's slate includes the world premiere of the drama "Carmen G," and Sunday sees "The Lost City," actor Andy Garcia's celebration of Cuban culture. Monday's finale is a free showing of "To Be Heard" in St. Nicholas Park. The New York City International Film Festival kicks off its second year Thursday night with over 300 shorts and features from 48 countries. Founded by artist Roberto Rizzo, the fest boasts a screen set in the middle of Times Square. Rizzo is also a filmmaker, and the festival includes a film-distribution market at the midtown Millennium hotel. "From being on the other side, I understand the frustration with getting things seen," says Rizzo. Thursday night's black-tie opening gala is at the Hudson Theatre, 145 W. 44th St., and is followed by an 8 p.m. screening of "The Last Gamble." Other films include the documentary "Finding Francis," "The Wedding Party" and a selection of horror shorts (on Sunday). Beginning Sept. 1, the first New York Continue Reading

New York Today: Free and Cheap Events, 10/16/2011

A WHEELY GOOD TIME. Visit five historic house sites ranging from Inwood to Greenwich Village on the Manhattan Bike Tour. Historic House Trust staff give riders the inside scoop on the architectural gems, including their history and restoration. 10:30 a.m. Free. Dyckman Farmhouse Museum, 4881 Broadway, at 204th St. (212) 360-8282. THE CITY AT YOUR FEET. Check out the Panorama of the City of New York, a 9,335-square-foot architectural model originally built for the 1964 World's Fair. Look down on the panorama, made up of 895,000 tiny buildings, from an elevated ramp that circles the exhibit and explore New York City streets and buildings as they stood in 1992. $2-$5 suggested donation. Queens Museum of Art, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, 49th Ave. at 111th St. (718) 592-9700. PEOPLE, PLACES AND THINGS. Raw/Cooked presents a year-long series of five exhibitions by under-the-radar Brooklyn artists. Check out Bushwick's Kristof Wickman, an object maker and builder who creates casts of everyday objects and intertwines them with casts of the human body. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. $6-$10 suggested donation, free for kids under 12. ­Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway. (718) 638-5000. DANCING FROM DOWN UNDER. Australian dance trio Art vs. Science takes their reputation for crazy live shows to the stage of the Knitting Factory as the headlining act. 9:30 p.m. $8-$10. 74 Leonard St., Brooklyn. (212) 219-3132. STRUNG OUT. "Fiber Futures: Japan's Textile Pioneers" showcases the dynamic field of Japanese fiber art. The works on display range from silk and hemp to paper pulp and synthetic fiber, employing traditional and high-tech weaving techniques. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. $10-$12, children under 16, free. Japan Society, 333 E. 47th St. (212) 832-1155. UP, UP AND AWAY. Wander the trails of Blue Heron Park with naturalist Cliff Hagen and discover the many species of birds, butterflies and dragonflies that use Staten Island as a crucial stopover during their tremendous migratory Continue Reading

New York Today: Free and Cheap Event, August 7, 2011

WINGED MIGRATION. Learn to create colorful habitats that attract butterflies at the "Butterfly Bonanza." Find out which plants will entice these magnificent creatures into your garden. 1:30 p.m. $1-$6. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx River Parkway at Fordham Road. (718) 817-8700. 'MEER' BRILLIANCE. Enjoy Latin jazz with the Steven Kroon Sextet as part of the Harlem Meer Performance Festival. 2-4 p.m. Free. Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, Central Park on 110th St. between Fifth and Lenox Aves. (212) 860-1370. HOLE IN ONE. Putt through a mini golf course made up of Kings County landmarks, including the Brooklyn Bridge and Grand Army Plaza's Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch, as part of Heart of Brooklyn's Free Summer Sunday. Noon-5 p.m. Free. Brooklyn Icons Mini Golf, Flatbush Ave. and Eastern Pkwy. (718) 638-7700. TOT CHEF. Cool off inside the Brooklyn Children's Museum with Kitchen Chemistry: Cool-inary Creations, and Blooming Babies: We All Scream for Ice Cream, two family-friendly events that combine food and hands-on learning. 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Free. 145 Brooklyn Ave. (718) 638-7700. SAFETY FIRST. Celebrate Smokey the Bear's birthday with fun and games and learn how you can help Smokey prevent forest fires. 1-3 p.m. Free. Mount Loretto Unique Area, 6450 Hylan Blvd., Staten Island. (718) 351-3450. WIGGLE ROOM. Learn how to hula at a dance class, then listen to traditional and contemporary Hawaiian music from Josh Kekoa Cho, a professional ukulele singer and lap steel guitarist. 1:15 p.m. Free. Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Blvd., Queens. (718) 463-7700 ext. 222. THOSE LION EYES. Watch sea lions Stella and Beebe dive for icy red-heart treats at special feedings throughout the day. Also catch Elroy the goat go through his training session and play ball. 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Free. Prospect Park Zoo, 450 Flatbush Ave. (718) 638-7700. A TASTE OF ITALY. Discover the rich history of Little Italy on a Museum at Eldridge Street Continue Reading

Indie Street Film Festival lights up Red Bank

If Darius McCollum didn't exist, Hollywood would have to invent him.McCollum has made headlines in the New York City area for decades due to a captivating, incredibly true story. A Queens native with Asperger's syndrome, he has been imprisoned more than 30 times, starting at age 15 in 1980 for impersonating bus drivers and train conductors and dutifully driving their routes.McCollum spent more than 23 years in prison, and is currently incarcerated at Rikers Island. In March, Variety reported that Julia Roberts was looking to star as McCollum's current attorney in the feature film "Train Man," inspired by the case.Local film fans will get a glimpse at McCollum's story when the gripping documentary "Off the Rails" screens at 4 p.m. Thursday, July 7, at the Two River Theater in Red Bank as part of the inaugural Indie Street Film Festival, running Wednesday, July 6 through Sunday, July 10 at venues across town.Among the experts featured in "Off the Rails" is Monmouth County native Lori Shery, president and executive director of Edison-based ASPEN, the Asperger Syndrome Education Network, now in its 20th year. Shery first met McCollum 17 years ago, and discussed how public perception of Asperger's has changed in that time."Really, very little was known about Asperger’s in 1997," she said. "I remember looking for books to read on the subject and finding like one. Now, there is a plethora of information, whether it’s books or through the Internet, and so … if people don’t know what Asperger’s is, they’ve heard of it. They know somebody whose kid has it, whose brother’s cousin has it."I also think most people do know something about it, and I feel knowledge of the disorder hopefully removes the stigma so it’s not ‘What is that weird thing that that person has?’ or ‘Aspergers, what is that?’ They have some understanding. What we’re all about here is helping those who have it and helping Continue Reading

ActNow: New Voices in Black Cinema festival showcases movies by Brooklyn filmmakers

Fade in on Brooklyn, a ­borough of 2.5 million that's fast becoming a haven for young black filmmakers. Pan to local black cinematographers, who until this year had no dedicated site to screen their work. Cut to BAM in Fort Greene, where the ActNow: New Voices in Black Cinema festival, Friday through Wednesday, helps black filmmakers in Brooklyn finally see their work on the big screen. "We have so many stories within our community, which has such a large population, that there needed to be a bigger platform to showcase these narratives," says Aaron Ingram, executive director of ActNow, a nonprofit organization that supports film productions of  African-American and Latino experiences in New York City. "We want to help filmmakers develop an audience, while at the same time tearing down barriers and stereotypes." The festival includes polished national films — with topics including the search for reclusive funk legend Sly Stone, gang problems at a Newark high school and the homecoming of an advocate of the black power movement. It also showcases the work of homegrown directors, with a special program Wednesday called "Brooklyn Block Shorts." "We want to emphasize the variety of work that's out there in Brooklyn," says Jasmin Tiggett, curator of ActNow's short film program. "First and foremost, we want people to walk away entertained, and we also hope that they'll gain an understanding of the stories and independent films available in Brooklyn," said Tiggett. Here are profiles of six local filmmakers whose short films, ranging from three to 20 minutes in length, will be featured: Shani PetersMarcus Garvey and W.E.B. Du Bois. The film looks at their relationship through the lens of contemporary hip hop. I position their opposing ideas as a rap battle. It's experimental digital collage that also includes stop-motion animation." Michael Pinckney presents "You're Nobody Till Somebody Kills You" at ActNow.  (Rosier/News, Continue Reading

Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, New York’s acting godfathers, are back in the spotlight

They're a long way from playing a bank robber in Brooklyn and the raging bull of the Bronx, but on film and on stage, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino are still New York's acting godfathers. In other words, whenever you think these guys are out ... they pull you back in. Pacino, 70, lands on Broadway Nov. 7 (previews beginning Oct. 19) in his first play in almost 15 years when "The Merchant of Venice" transfers to the Broadhurst Theater after a home run in Central Park this summer. And De Niro, 67, is on a career upswing after personal and professional challenges. His latest film, "Stone," gives him a turn as a parole officer who becomes enmeshed with a parolee and his deceitful wife (Edward Norton and Milla Jovovich). It's one of De Niro's most heated roles since the late 1990s. You can feel the two performers' presence everywhere -- from the tough talk on HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" to commercials for the Tribeca Film Festival that use co-founder De Niro's image to the buzz that's building for Pacino on Broadway. And there's not a New Yorker over legal drinking age who can't imitate at least one line from a movie of theirs. "Growing up, De Niro was one of my heroes. Some of my most formative film experiences were watching him and his films," says "Stone" director John Curran. "He comes to his roles now with so much history, and so when he plays against those expectations, it's great. I would have made a movie of the phone book with him." Audiences can be excused for taking the actors for granted in recent years, as Pacino seemed at times to coast on shouty chutzpah and De Niro, diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2003 (now reportedly in remission), lent his presence to unworthy films. But "Stone" and "Merchant" are the latest in a series of strong performances for each. Pacino's 2004 film of "Merchant" led to this current, lauded production, while his turns as Roy Cohn and Jack Kevorkian, respectively, led to Emmy Awards for HBO's "Angels in America" Continue Reading

South Bronx Film Festival aims to be eye-opener

If you think  "Fort Apache, The Bronx" is the borough's big screen highlight, fuhgeddaboudit! This week, the Boogie Down Bronx will give Sundance and Tribeca a run for their money when the first South Bronx Film Festival kicks off in the Port Morris artists community. The B-movie images of the South Bronx as streets of burned-out buildings peopled with roaming street gangs are being replaced with filmmakers and artists displaying their latest works. On Friday, the first film fest in the South Bronx will launch with a street celebration at the Bruckner Bar & Grill, at 1 Bruckner Blvd., with the 1985 film "Krush Groove," which highlights Bronx locales in the early days of hip hop. The rest of the festival is filled with shorts, independent features and documentaries, many from local filmmakers. The festival is the brainchild of Marc Cuevas, who has spent the past 15 years in film production and has worked on such film festivals as Sundance and the New York International Latino Film Festival. As a child who grew up watching films such as "Taxi Driver" at the Loews Paradise, Cuevas was aware of the borough's rich cinema history (the Bronx is the birthplace of Stanley Kubrick and Al Pacino). He felt it was necessary to spotlight Bronx cinema. The festival is also a coming-out party for the Port Morris artists community. Once known for furniture shops and warehouses, the strip on Bruckner Blvd. is now home to art galleries. Haven Arts Gallery, which opened two months ago at 50 Bruckner Blvd., will host the second night of the festival. On Saturday, it will present the New Vision Series at 4 p.m., and experimental and documentary films at 6 p.m. Cuevas said linking the local venues is important in making the festival a neighborhood-wide event showcasing how the South Bronx is the city's newest art community - and "not burned-out buildings and people with our pockets turned out." "It's great for everyone to develop the area," said Alex Abeles, Continue Reading

The New York Kids Film Fest grows up

The 11th annual New York International Children's Film Festival runs from Feb. 29 through March 16, and one thing is clear: This kid's version of Cannes is really growing up. The NYICFF has expanded from one weekend to three weeks. Its popularity has exploded from selling about 600 tickets that first year to an expected 21,000 or more this year. The fest will host more than 100 new films in competition and showcase loads of premieres, retrospectives, workshops and filmmaker Q&A's. And according to festival director Eric Beckman (who shares that title with Emily Shapiro), it's all based on one simple idea: Yes, kids love big-budget fantasy films, but if you give them a chance, they'll also embrace documentaries, shorts, independent films, foreign-language movies and experimental works - in other words, all the types of movies that adults love. "In the grownup world of film, there's a huge range of movies that are made, from little niche films to big blockbusters," Beckman says. "But for some reason, for kids there is just that one basic kind of film that gets made over and over." Not at NYICFF, which will be showing films at four venues this year: IFC Center, Symphony Space, DGA Theater and Cantor Film Center. "The short film program is great," says Beckman, who helped reach out to a celebrity jury that includes actors Susan Sarandon and Matthew Modine and director Gus Van Sant. "We had 2,500 submissions this year. You'll see a film from Norway, from Canada, from Spain, from Vietnam. You'll see animation and live-action and experimental bits. You've got your ballots so you get to share your thoughts, and at a lot of the screenings the filmmakers are there," Beckman says. "In terms of the features, 'Owl and the Sparrow' is a lovely live-action film from Vietnam I really like. It's a sweet film and you get to see the streets of Saigon. And it's a true indie film. It was shot in two weeks. 'Nocturna' is a beautiful, gorgeous animated film that's a Continue Reading