Local documentary kicks off Jacob Burns film series

A view of the Jacob Burns Film Center

A view of the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville. (Dec. 21, 2011) (Credit: Gabe Palacio)

The Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville will launch a new series Monday that focuses on talented local filmmakers: "Local Elements: Works from a Westchester Perspective." Opening night will feature a film by a Hartsdale resident centered around Alternate Realities, a Scarsdale comic book shop.

"My Comic Shop DocumentARy" -- AR being the initials of the comic book shop -- is the work of Anthony Desiato, a 25-year-old recent law school grad and independent filmmaker.

"Given that I made [my film] while in law school and without any real budget, training, or experience, its selection as the inaugural 'Local Element' film feels like quite the vote of confidence," he said in an email. "I'm very grateful for and humbled by this opportunity."

"Local Elements" series creators Gina Duncan and Sean Weiner decided to feature the film because of the strong ties to the area.

"We loved that the documentary focused on local people, local stores," they said in an email. "It encapsulates everything this series is about."

After working at Alternate Realities for eight years, Desiato decided to turn the tables on his customers and use the venue as the backdrop for his first documentary. The resulting film explores the eccentric subculture in and around the beloved shop.

"At its heart, this is not a film about comic book fans," Desiato said. "It's about a group of people, set against the wonderfully colorful backdrop of a comic book store."

The most striking realization for Desiato during filming was the fervor with which his subjects spoke about Alternate Realities.

"My passion got this movie made," he said, "but it was theirs that gave the film its heart."

Before being featured in the "Local Elements" series, "My Comic Book Shop" was an official selection at the St. Louis International Film Festival and the San Diego Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival.

"If audiences walk away with the understanding that not every comic book fan fits the stereotype perpetuated by pop culture, I'd consider it a victory," he said.

The film will be screened at 7:30 p.m. Monday, July 16, at the Media Arts Lab (405 Manville Rd., Pleasantville; 914-747-5555; www.burnsfilmcenter.org). All screenings in the "Local Elements" series are free and open to the public, and seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

"One of the goals of the series is to foster a sense of community on a local level," said Desiato. "I think that's terrific and I very much look forward to being a part of it."

To catch Anthony Desiato's film, RSVP by email to Lori Zakalik at lzakalik@burnsfilmcenter.org.

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