Film Festival Recap: 2011 IFFBoston

By at May 7, 2011 | 1:11 pm | Print

As the Independent Film Festival of Boston continues building in popularity, scope and relevance — and they know it — the programmers take a brilliant strategy: Keep a keen eye on the movies that mean something to the hometown crowd, those local films that have heart and soul in Massachusetts (and sometimes, Boston itself). IFFBoston 2011 LogoNot only does this generate unique interest for area moviegoers, it also keeps the festival feeling loyal no matter what the size. The recently completed 2011 edition nailed this, bringing in bigger indies like The Trip and Submarine, but also aiming its klieg lights at the littler locals.

On the IFFBoston’s Saturday night, a packed house remembered a Boston music legend with Cure For Pain: The Mark Sandman Story, a DIY documentary from three guys probably too young to remember Sandman’s band Morphine when they were around, and maybe early teens when Sandman died at 46. What seemed like your typical local turnout was actually much more: Sandman’s friends, bandmates, and colleagues were scattered throughout the theater, turning an intimate screening into a memorial of sorts.

Cure For Pain Trailer

Even after Q&A with producer Jeff Broadway and directors Robert Bralver and David Ferino, people clogged the aisles at the Somerville Theater to reminisce and catch up, not wanting to leave. That kind of reaction is not going to occur at too many screenings, and kudos to the IFFBoston for recognizing what that film could do in their city.

The festival’s portfolio of other local films was evident, many snagging some major attention: The M.I.T.-based documentary Heaven + Earth + Joe Davis played Friday night; the documentary We Still Live Here, about the Wampanoag Nation of southeastern Massachusetts, screened at the legendary Brattle Theater; Push: Madison vs. Madison, about the pressures at a vocational high school in the Boston neighborhood of Roxbury, played on the biggest screen at the Somerville Theater, Saturday primetime, to rave reviews. Sure, this type of programming has a financial upside in selling tickets, but it serves a higher cultural purpose as well, a real plus for the local cinema community.

Some other notes from the aisles, courtesy contributor Allison and yours truly:

Sophia Takal's GreenWe both appreciated the tone of Green, Sophia Takal’s short study of romantic jealousy in action. From Allison: “Hits the nail on the head in its portrayal of how women can irrationally tear each other down. The depiction of a woman’s unreasonable thought process doesn’t lead into some slapstick scene from a romantic comedy (‘How cute! She fell into the wedding cake spying on her crush!’). The film is slow and deliberate, and Green’s unconventional ending may catch the viewer off guard but upon reflection, it’s perfectly fitting.”

I especially like Sahkanaga, a fictional take on a real-life horror story that gripped a small Georgian town. Writer-director John Henry Summerour gently reworks the coming-of-age genre while bringing up questions about the existence of body and soul after death. Allison was intrigued by the, um, organic-looking special effects and reports this: “Summerour got unprecedented access to a forensic pathology lab at the local university. They stipulated which angles he could film from but gave him, without a doubt, footage better than anything Hollywood could ever attempt. Summerour had us all wondering how he got those maggots to behave so darn well …”

Medusa from the movie BellflowerAllison also got an up-close behind-the-theater look at Medusa, the flame-throwing, Mad Max-inspired car from the film Bellflower, an indie that’s been buzzing for the better part of 2011. Her report:

“Director Evan Glodell introduced the film to describe it as ‘a love story.’ Just happens to be one with apocalyptic possibilities. And to understand that, you’ll have to see the film when it’s released in August (Oscilloscope picked it up). At the end of the night, Glodell showed off his bad-ass car inspired by The Road Warrior — after handing out a few fire extinguishers and warning the spectators to stay far from its rear. It seemed like the deafening roar of the engine echoed throughout all of Somerville. Seeing the car perform on the screen did not prepare me for the full acceptance that the car in front of me was actually going to shoot out flames. It was funny and terrifying.”

Funny and terrifying. Now that’s the indie spirit. And to wrap up our coverage, here’s the IFFBoston’s wrap with their prize winners for the 2011 festival.

Narrative Features
Grand Jury Prize Winner: Littlerock, by Mike Ott (we’ll review in the next couple weeks)
Special Jury Prize Winner: Green, by Sophia Takal
Audience Award Winner: 13 Assassins, by Takashi Miike (this is a bit of a disappointment, as it’s far more visible than so many other solid films)

Documentary Features
Grand Jury Prize Winner: Last Days Here, by Don Argott & Demian Fenton
Special Jury Prize Winner: Convento, by Jarred Alterman
Audience Award Winner: Raising Renee, by Steven Ascher & Jeanne Jordan
Karen Schmeer Award for Excellence in Documentary Editing: How to Die In Oregon, by Peter Richardson

Short Films
Grand Jury Prize Winner: Ich Bin’s Helmut, by Nicolas Steiner
Special Jury Prize Winner: The Strange Ones, by Christopher Radcliff & Lauren Wolkstein
Audience Award Winner: Flying Anne, by Catherine Van Campen

Awards Documentaries Drama Featured Independent Film Trailers , , , , , , , ,

Trackbacks For This Post

  1. […] 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 […]

  2. […] Journey of Dreams Brattle Theatre Stay at the Brattle for the second recent IFFB documentary – yes, second – about Morphine, the beloved Boston band responsible for the most unique rock-blues sound of the […]


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