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New Film Festival Aims to Bring World Cinema to Chelsea

By Mathew Katz | July 1, 2013 7:29am
  Organizer Ingrid Jean-Baptiste plans to hold the Chelsea Film Festival in October.
Organizers Bring International Film Fest to Chelsea
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CHELSEA — Ingrid Jean-Baptiste's next move came only when she couldn't move.

Lying in a hospital bed recovering from a car accident in Chelsea that broke seven of her ribs, fractured in her spine and forced her to temporarily use a wheelchair, the actress and model decided to devote herself to a new life's work — creating a film festival that would bring the world to her neighborhood.

The 30-year-old Paris native is now the driving force behind the Chelsea Film Festival, which will have its inaugural run from Oct. 24 to 27 at the SVA Theater on West 23rd Street.

"The accident, it made me realize what I wanted to do with my life — at a moment that I couldn't do anything," said Jean-Baptiste, who is working on the festival full-time. "It gave me a bigger perspective."

It's fitting, then, that the festival's first theme is "Global Issues." Jean-Baptiste plans to showcase films from around the world — two from each continent.

Unlike some other film fests in the city, Jean-Baptiste's goal is to bring in lesser-known filmmakers who might not have a shot at the typical festival circuit.

"TriBeCa has established directors and producers — that is not my purpose," she said. 

"I'm not interested in films that will be in theaters the next week."

After each film, Jean-Baptiste plans to have an in-depth Q-and-A session between filmmakers and audiences.

The eventual programming, Jean-Baptise hopes, will reflect the increasingly global makeup of the neighborhood.

"I've been living in Chelsea for three years, and I see every day that it has a lot of different ethnicities, people from around the world," she said.

"People here are from everywhere, so it will reflect the neighborhood in that sense."

The festival will be Chelsea-centric in other ways. Jean-Baptiste is already planning on hosting an event at one of the neighborhood's art galleries.

"To be blunt, I'm trying to see if we can find gay films, since we have a big community here," she added.

So far, Jean-Baptiste has a team of three others — including her mother, Sonia, who's the festival's co-founder and was also injured in the September accident — working on recruiting sponsors and partners for the event.

She's already used some of her connections from previous jobs to secure partnerships with the Manhattan JCC's film department and the Actor's Studio.

So far, the group has gone to Cannes to scout out possible films and recently began to accept submissions for the final festival.

Attending the festival also won't break the bank. Tickets for individual films will range between $10 and $20, and four-day passes will also be offered.

"This is international, but I want to have it be for the community as well," Jean-Baptiste said.