If you live in the Eastern Massachusetts area and didn’t attend last year’s Independent Film Festival of Boston, you were probably kicking yourself peeking at the schedule about six months later. That’s when some of the more exciting films from the 2011 festival hit wider audiences and bigger buzz. Bellflower. The Trip. If A Tree Falls. TrollHunter. Another Earth. Proof that the IFFBoston team has not only fine-tuned their programming skills in the past decade, but also has enough festival presence to pull in some of the better titles of the festival world. Which brings us to Year 10 of the IFFBoston, and a lineup including 29 narrative features, 37 documentaries and a big inventory of short films. As usual, the roster has indie impact, with a series of titles focused on Boston and New England.
Starting with the Opening Night and Closing Night films, here are 10 IFFBoston movies we’d stand in line for.
:: Opening Night Film
Sleepwalk With Me directed by, co-written by and starring Mike Birbiglia
April 25, Somerville Theater
Birbiglia, one of the more endearing and entertaining contemporary American comedians, has translated his tales of trotting while sleeping into radio stories on Ira Glass’ This American Life series and an Off-Broadway show produced by Nathan Lane. Now, the narrative moves to the big screen, with Birbiglia in the starring role as a struggling comic with issues (of course), working from a script co-written by Glass, who’s scheduled to appear at the IFFB screening. Birbiglia won the “Best of Next” Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Here’s a clip from Sleepwalk with Me (thanks, Huff Post) featuring Six Feet Under star Lauren Ambrose as Birbiglia’s girlfriend.
:: Closing Night Film
The Queen of Versailles directed by Lauren Greenfield
May 2, Coolidge Corner Theater
Greenfield follows her shocking documentary, Thin, with this look at pre-Recession opulence turned horribly wrong. David and Jackie Siegel are a couple who’ve built their billions from the time-share industry, and are in the process of building the largest home in America, a 90,000-square-foot home modeled after the actual Palace of Versailles. When the real estate economy tanks, what comes next?
:: Other Narrative Features to Watch
Your Sister’s Sister — Filmmaker Lynn Shelton, creator of the sharp gender comedy, Humpday, examines more sexual confusion when a grieving guy (the nearly ubiquitous Mark Duplass) connects with an ex’s lesbian sister (Rosemarie DeWitt, Margaret). Co-stars one of our favorite actresses in film today, Emily Blunt.
Dark Horse — Occasionally controversial auteur Todd Solondz returns to the IFFB (following 2010’s Life During Wartime) with a romance between two oddities, played by Jordan Gelber and Solondz favorite Selma Blair. It’s been called Solondz’s warmest, most human film yet. Maybe he’s finally letting go of his immense fears of the evils that lurk…
2 Days in New York — A semi-sequel to 2 Days in Paris?! We’re in. Julie Delpy’s Marion is now living in New York with new boyfriend Mingus (Chris Rock!) Does Rock have the real acting chops to hang with Delpy? Directed and co-written by Delpy, who is scheduled to appear at the IFFB.
God Bless America — When Bobcat Goldthwait writes and directs, no concept is safe. Witness an unlikely pair of fine fed-up citizens, a 40-something guy (Joel Murray, The Artist) and a 16-year-old girl (Tara Lynne Barr), who team up to wash the scum from the earth. Paging Travis Bickle, paging Travis Bickle…
:: Other Documentaries to Watch
Plimpton: Starring George Plimpton as Himself — The era of the real “bon vivant” is long gone, but the memories stay strong with this chronicle of the guy who practically defined the phrase in the 1960s and 1970s. Directors Luke Poling (a Boston boy) and Tom Bean get just about every interview under the sun, remembering a writer, editor, sportsman, commentator — the real-life Walter Mitty of our time. Included in this year’s IFFB lineup as a special Sneak Preview screening.
Knuckleball! — They’ve done it before, but the IFFB once again recognizes the Boston Red Sox as an indelible cultural element in New England (see: The Lost Son of Havana) with this film featuring just-retired Sox stalwart Tim Wakefield, a guy whose knuckleball pitch extended his career far beyond anyone’s expectations. Directors Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg (poignant docs Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, Burma Soldier) will be in attendance, for another of the fest’s Sneak Preview entries. If you’ve not seen any of Stern and Sundberg’s work before, we highly recommend you do.
All Ages: The Boston Hardcore Film — We’ve seen some of our favorite music docs at previous IFFB fests, and those with Boston ties usually have an extra in-person punch (see our coverage of Cure for Pain). This one should have a hell of a punch, on musicality alone, with director Drew Stone digging into the early 1980s history of the Boston hardcore music scene. Consider this an open invitation to our good friends at punk site Dying Scene. All Ages is getting its world premiere at this year’s IFFB. (Click to see a larger version of the movie poster.)
Burn: One Year on the Frontlines Of the Battle to Save Detroit — Denis Leary exec-produces this look at Motor City’s firefighters, helping to save the city from harder times and, sometimes, from itself. Leary will be present at the IFFB.
We’ll see you back here as we get closer to Opening Night, with reviews, previews and more good stuff.