Indie Film Brings Together Local People, Places

Adam Baranello. Courtesy photos
Adam Baranello. Courtesy photos

By Mahreen Khan

Adam Baranello lives his life and makes a living as a person who does what he believes in doing, which tends to explain his diverse career as an artist, dancer, musician, clothing designer and filmmaker.

Mr. Baranello has just released his third black-and-white, feature-length film, “Beautifully Strange,” which emphasizes existential discussion, truth and self-exploration, much like his first two, “Dead End” and “Exit.” His third film, produced over ten months, was made entirely with proceeds from Mr. Baranello’s art sales at Polaris Gallery in Southampton.

“Beautifully Strange” movie poster.

As a Hampton Bays resident, Mr. Baranello’s local ties to the area and its people serve as inspiration for his work. With scenes inside Bridgehampton’s Java Nation and outside Candy Kitchen, on the platforms of the Bridgehampton and Hampton Bays train stations and along Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor’s main streets, Mr. Baranello tries to establish a sense of community. His wife, Gail Baranello, is one of the lead actresses in “Beautifully Strange,” along with two A&G Dance Company students and one student of the Hampton Ballet Theater School, where the Baranellos have had a six-year standing residency.

“Everybody that we worked with was so enjoyable and so enthusiastic and I think it’s because they are local, they’re grounded. Nobody has an ego,” Ms. Baranello said.

Though Mr. Baranello was able to find the right people and places for his film, the next step was figuring out how to reach a local audience.

“Adam comes in for coffee every day and then one day he asked if he could use the back of the store, which was a roast facility that he thought would look cool in the movie,” said Andres Bedini, co-owner of Java Nation in Bridgehampton. “I said, ‘sure, go ahead.’ We don’t have a TV or anything, but he had this old-school projector.”

The film was screened at Java Nation on Wednesday and will again be viewable during business hours on Saturday. It will also be showing at 230 Elm, located at 230 Elm Street in Southampton, on Sunday, July 30, at 5 p.m. It will also be showing at the Polaris Gallery, 27 Main Street in Southampton, in August.

“I’ve sat down with the music industry, I’ve sat down with corporate entities in ways that would get my stuff out into the masses more, and I just don’t subscribe to that way,” Mr. Baranello said. “To me, it’s not appealing.”

The film, ultimately, is about following your truth, with each of the three female leads representing a different quality — Zen, optimism and truth — and using these qualities to shape their individual understandings of the world around them. With rare pops of color, Mr. Baranello brings the characters’ dreams to life, suggesting that the mundane real world is perceived as black-and-white to those who fail to act on their dreams.

A still from “Beautifully Strange,” in which actress and dancer Kaylie Wilson sees a reflection of herself through a television screen.

Vincenzo James Harty, 17, Kaylie Wilson, 14, and Lua Li, 12, read their often ambiguous and at times estranged lines in the film with a feeling of unknowing uncertainty.

Vincenzo described the most poignant part of his experience as the lack of context.

“What Adam does is he doesn’t tell any of his actors anything really about the film,” he said. “When he told me, he just gave me my lines and none of the other people’s lines in the scene, and none of the scenes around my lines. I didn’t get any rehearsal, it was just right-on-the-spot acting.”

12-year-old Lua Li represents optimism in “Beautifully Strange.”

Lua said being able to dance in the middle of Manhattan was an experience to remember. “At one point, actually, the people made a circle around us while we were dancing,” she said. “They just were really interested in what we were doing.”

Mr. Baranello said his ultimate purpose is to create his own language of communicating with others through the arts. Living a life of honesty and forthrightness, he said, is living a fulfilling life.

“From the start, when the seed was planted for what I wanted to do I kind of knew all of that,” he said. “But now it’s bloomed. You don’t just have to be a musician. You don’t just have to be a dancer. The world is not set up like that. The world is set up where you need to multitask and you should multitask and the world is a better place when people know how to do more than one thing. And I made a living that way, so I can say that it can work.”

Coffee was a recurring symbol in the film.