April is a cornucopia of festivals and screenings, several of which feature speakers and are free. The month is capped off with the region’s top celebration of cinema, The Independent Film Festival of Boston.
By Tim Jackson.
B.U. Cinematheque Screenings. At Boston University College of Communication, 640 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA, March 29, April 5, and April 19.
This open-to-the-public and free screening series under the guidance of film critic Gerald Peary continues in April.
March 29: Joshua Z. Weinstein, BU film graduate and cinematographer, will show two of his documentaries. Drivers Wanted examines the hardscrabble, multicultural life at a Queens, NY, taxi company, and I Beat Mike Tyson is about a Boston boxer’s one day in the ring.
April 5: Director Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness) is among the most off-center, sincere, and distinctive of contemporary directors. This is a great opportunity to hear him speak about his remarkable work as he screens Dark Horse, a film about a man/child who lives unhappily with his parents (Mia Farrow, Christopher Walken) and stumbles into an engagement with a sexy and disturbed woman played by Selma Blair. Here’s the Arts Fuse review.
April 19: TV writer Alison Tatlock will screen several episodes that she wrote for In Treatment, the HBO series starring Gabriel Byrne as a self-questioning therapist and one of the most compelling series from the New Golden Age of television.
Suitcase of Love and Shame. At the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA, March 30.
Jane Gillooly’s mesmerizing narrative constructed from 60 hours of reel-to-reel audiotape discovered in a suitcase purchased on eBay. Recorded in the ’60s, the tapes chronicle an adulterous love affair between a Mid-western woman and her lover. Interview with the director on The Arts Fuse.
U Mass Documentary Film Series. At the Campus Center Ballroom, University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA, April 4 and 25.
Chico Colvard’s free series of film screenings ends this month with China Heavyweight, which is about a Chinese Master boxing coach who recruits poor, rural teenagers, fills them with Olympic dreams, and turns them into amateur champions. On April 25th, as part of the Independent Film Festival, the series will screen Before You Know It, which looks at the challenges facing the approximately 2.4 million lesbian, gay, and bi-sexual Americans over the age of 55. It will be followed by a panel discussion.
Balagan Film Series. At the Brattle Theatre, Cambridge, MA, April 1 and 23
If you are interested in experiencing examples of the forms cinema might take in the future, here is the place to start. For over a decade, Jeff Silva and Alla Kovgan have brought the best and most interesting in experimental film to the Boston area via this unique series.
April 1: Sami van Ingen a Finland-based, experimental filmmaker, a great-grandson of Robert Flaherty, will present his work, which “has been influenced both by documentary and experimental traditions and his own observations of culture as coloured by his childhood growing up in both India and Finland.” His films manipulate/deconstruct home movies, travelogue scenes, mainstream blockbusters, and archival footage.
April 23: A “Projection Performance.” Check their website for details
Belmont World Film Festival. At the Studio Cinema, 376 Trapelo Road, Belmont, MA, April 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29.
The Belmont World Film Festival screens international cinema at the lovely Studio Cinema in Belmont on Monday evenings. All the films feature either post-film discussions by notable experts or culturally-related performances. Several screenings feature pre-film dinners and receptions. Check the site for details.
April 1: Queen of Montreuil (France) is a bittersweet comedy about a young woman who tries to get her life back on track as a film director after her husband suddenly dies. Returning home to Montreuil with her husband’s ashes, she is greeted by the unexpected arrival of a couple of Icelanders, a sea lion, and a neighbor that she has always desired. The speaker will be Tom Meek, president of the Boston Society of Film Critics.
April 8: Beauty (aka Nosilatiaj. La Belleza). A poetic film that takes takes place in the north of Argentina. Yolanda, a young girl of Wichi origin, tells the story of how, as a family maid in a “criollo” home, she had her hair unjustly cut: this is her most particular trait, an eccentric beauty that jeopardizes her cultural ties with the “criollo” world and defines her destiny.
April 15: The Dead and the Living (German). This is an American premiere of a film about a 25-year-old named Sita who journeys into the dark and loaded (WWII) past of her family and then into the abyss of European society today. The narrative moves from Berlin to Vienna, from Warsaw to Romania. The director explores deals with the agony of losing your homeland and how it sparks a process of self-discovery and identity, responsibility and hope.
April 22: Istanbul My Dream (Hungarian, Turkish, English). Dutch actress Johanna ter Steege (The Vanishing) plays a Hungarian woman who goes into deep shock after her husband of 30 years leaves her, only to find renewed passion after hitchhiking her way to Istanbul.
April 29: In the House (French) from prolific, French director Francois Ozon (8 Women, Under the Sand, Swimming Pool, Potiche) closes the festival. Kristin Scott-Thomas, Fabrice Lucchini, and Emmanuelle Seigner star in this story of a teenage boy who insinuates himself into the family of a fellow student. The kid’s jaded literature teacher becomes increasingly drawn to him after his essays about the family perversely begin to blur the lines between reality and fiction. Anne Miller, cultural attache for the French Consulate of Boston, will speak following the screening.
The Doc Yard Series. At the Brattle Theatre, Cambridge, MA, April 8 and 22.
April 8: Ricky on Leacock. Some of the essential roots of contemporary documentary filmmaking were planted in Boston. One of the seminal figures was Ricky Leacock, a pioneer of cinema verite. Director Jane Weiner will be present an “intimate portrait of Ricky as teacher, artist, and man.” For enthusiasts of the documentary, this is a wonderful opportunity to learn about a pioneer. The film features encounters with Henri Langlois, Jean Rouch, Jonas Mekas, and Ed Pincus, with examples from Leacock’s personal film archives.
April 22: Localore. “Working in close collaboration with a team of a dozen lead producers and ten public radio and television stations, Localore has birthed an inspiring array of ‘full spectrum’ media formats—from immersive documentaries, to tools for crowd-sourcing the daily news agenda, to distributed transmedia production technology that supports a new generation of 21st century makers.” An evening about stretching the boundaries of storytelling and documentary at the service of sheding light on a diverse America.
The National Center for Jewish Film. 2013 Festival. At the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, April 10–21.
Not to be confused with the Jewish Film Festival of Boston. The National Center for Jewish Film is unique, an independent, nonprofit motion picture archive, distributor, resource center, and exhibitor whose mission is the collection, preservation, and exhibition of films with artistic and educational value that are relevant to the Jewish experience. The lineup proffers a wide variety of comedies, dramas, and documentaries. Most come from Israel or are collaborations with Israeli filmmakers. Check the site for details.
The Boston International Film Festival. At AMC/Loews Boston Common, 175 Tremont St., Boston, MA, April 12–21.
This Boston-based festival is organized into 42 sessions over a nine-day period. A session can include a feature and one or two shorts or just feature short films. This year they will be screening over 100 short and feature films from 30 countries. The festival lacks the buzz and ambience of a typical big city film festival, and some of the entries are far off the radar. But check the schedule carefully—there are some promising movies in the bountiful lineup.
The Independent Film Festival Boston. At the Somerville Theater, the Brattle Theatre, and other locations in the Boston area. April 24–30.
You’re always guaranteed something interesting and worth discussing at this festival, which is organized by a dedicated group of cineastes under film professional Adam Roffman. These guys know and love film and are serious about picking the most compelling independent work. A significant number of filmmakers appear at the festival to talk about their films. Every movie is introduced by one of the staff, and the theaters are full of volunteers that keep the crowds moving and organized. Check the schedule for exact times and locations and given past turnouts, consider getting tickets early.
Willow Creek with Bobcat Goldthwait in attendance
Best Kept Secret with director Samantha Buck and special guest
Secundaria with director Mary Jane Doherty in attendance
The Elders with director Nathaniel Hansen in attendance
Other Appearances include
Computer Chess with director Andrew Bujalski in attendance
Downloaded with director Alex Winter in attendance
Frances Ha with Greta Gerwig. Directed by Noah Bumbauch.
Stories We Tell. Directed By Sarah Polley
Prince Avalanche with Paul Rudd. Directed by David Gordon Green.
The East with Brit Marling, Ellen Page, and Patricia Clarkson. Directed by Zal Batmanglij.
Touchy Feely. Directed by Lynn Shelton.
Much Ado About Nothing. Directed by Joss Whedon.
Caesar Must Die. At the Harvard Film Archive, Cambridge, MA, April 26 and 28.
Paolo and Vittorio Taviani (Padre Padrone, The Night of the Shooting Stars) have created a masterful blend of documentary and performance in this stunning movie, which won the 2012 Golden Bear at the Berlinale. I have never seen anything quite like this film, which premiered at the Belmont International Film Festival. The film was made in Rome’s Rebibbia Prison, where the inmates stage Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Hardened criminals perform the play throughout the prison, not just on a stage. Like the best Italian Neorealism, the bulk of the film is shot in dazzling black and white. I haven’t heard that it yet has national distribution.