The 9th Annual Maryland Film Festival, running May 3-6, 2007, has announced its line-up, to include the following films:
“Opening Night Shorts”
Unique in the world of film festivals, MFF continues to devote its prized opening-night slot to a sampling of state-of-the-art short films.
“Adrift in Manhattan” (dir. Alfredo de Villa)
A hit from this year’s Sundance Festival, this movie shows how lives can intersect in important and unexpected ways on the streets of Manhattan. Director/co-writer Alfredo de Villa has drawn remarkable performances from leads Heather Graham and Victor Rusak (Raising Victor Vargas).
“Alice Neel” (dir. Andrew Neel)
The Alice Neel of the film’s title is the late, great celebrated portrait painter, known for spending six decades as a self-described “collector of souls.” This documentary was helmed by the artist’s grandson, Andrew Neel, co-director on “Darkon” (MFF ’06).
“American Fork” (dir. Chris Bowman)
Stuck in a dead-end town, an overweight grocery clerk tries to find his place in life while exploring poetry, acting, and mentoring. American Fork is a new dark comedy from director Chris Bowman and members of the “Napoleon Dynamite/Sasquatch Dumpling Gang” camp. A hit at 2007’s Slamdance Festival.
“Analog Days” (dir. Mike Ott)
High school’s over — what now? Those difficult years of self-definition as high school fades into adulthood are the subject of Mike Ott’s hip, energetic film. A cool soundtrack and winning cast fuel this fresh alternative to Hollywood coming-of-age stories, a veteran of the Los Angeles and Vienna Film Festivals.
Includes edgy, eye-popping work by Don Hertzfeldt, Suzan Pitt, and many, many more.
Experimental, trippy, cerebral, and/or just-plain out-there new work from filmmakers from Baltimore and around the world.
“Black Maria Shorts”
Celebrating its 26th Anniversary, the Thomas Edison Black Maria Film & Video Festival’s national tour returns to the Maryland Film Festival with another collection of award-winning shorts from some well-known and some not-so-well-known cutting-edge filmmakers.
Archie Andrews’ obsessive quest for an alternative fuel source has him making bulk wheatgrass purchases at a health-food stand run by the bookishly cute Lorraine (Anna Chlumsky), who thinks Archie’s a dreamboat. But an accident in Archie’s makeshift lab reveals that his experimental for human blood — a discovery that drives the once-vegan Archie to diabolical ends. Operating in the tradition of Repo Man, Blood Car delivers some hearty belly laughs, crazed characters, just the slightest dash of political commentary — and, of course, gallons and gallons of blood.
“Blood, Boobs, and Beast” (dir. John Paul Kinhart)
The world premiere of this loving documentary look at Baltimore-area filmmaker Don Dohler, who in the late 1970s began producing his own psychotronic, proudly independent alternatives to Hollywood sci-fi and horror films (including cult classics such as Alien Factor, Nightbeast). Sometimes hilarious, sometimes tragic, Blood, Boobs and Beast memorably broadens our understanding of Baltimore’s cult-movie scene.
“Brand Upon The Brain!” (dir. Guy Maddin)
The latest from Guy Maddin!!! “Brand Upon The Brain!” is a silent, expressionist, horror/suspense film about a dysfunctional family’s island lighthouse/orphanage and the mysterious goings-on surrounding it.
“Charlie Obert’s Barn” (dir. Kurt Kolaja)
“Charlie Obert’s Barn” is a charming, witty documentary about a Baltimore filmmaker’s efforts to painstakingly dismantle his Grandfather’s Pennsylvania barn, and reconstruct it as his new family home in Maryland.
“Chops” (dir. Bruce Broder)
First-time documentary director Bruce Broder follows a remarkable group of students from a public-arts school in Jacksonville, Florida as they compete in the prestigious national Essentially Ellington contest organized by Wynton Marsalis and his Jazz at Lincoln Center team. It is a contest of the very best, with everything at stake, and the result is a highly entertaining story about talented and motivated kids from around the country. It has all the tension of any great championship contest, and the music is not to be believed.
“Companeras” (dir. Elizabeth Massie and Matthew Buzzell)
“Companeras” is a documentary about the first all-female mariachi band. Co-directed by Matthew Buzzell, whose previous documentaries on Jimmy Scott, Luna, and Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint have been festival favorites all over the world, including Maryland.
“Conflict & Consequences Shorts”
This thoughtful program of narrative shorts includes visionary work from around the world.
“Crazy Love” (dir. Dan Klores)
Produced and directed by the team of Dan Klores and Fisher Stevens, this non-fiction story about Burt Pugach’ and Linda Riss’ inexplicable but undeniable attraction for each other over decades is too strange to be anything but real.
“Dante’s Inferno” (dir. Sean Meredith)
Melding live-action graphic-novel art with Victorian-era toy theater, Dante’s Inferno is a subversive, darkly satirical update of the original 14th century literary classic. Dazzlingly retold with the use of intricately hand-drawn paper puppets and miniature sets, and without the use of any CGI effects, this unusual travelogue takes viewers on a tour of modern hell unlike any filmed before.
“Documentary Shorts: Program 1”
Non-fiction work covering a wide spectrum of subject matter and styles.
“Documentary Shorts: Program 2”
Another great collection of non-fiction work, with an emphasis on stories of particular local interest.
“Domino Effect Shorts”
A dark yet playful ensemble of highly visual shorts.
“East Of Euclid” (dir. Jeff Solylo)
A black & white period film noir, set in frozen Winnipeg of 1972 (!), East of Euclid is a labyrinthine story of lust, greed and revenge, centering on a small-time Russian gambler hiding from the KGB in a dreary perogie factory, and his scheme to kidnap a Finnish hockey star. Director Jeff Solylo handled art direction on several Guy Maddin classics, experience that brilliantly informs his work here.
“Epic CGI Shorts”
Three extended narratives that tell their stories via CGI — without relying on effects to deliver their thrills, chills, and yux.
Work from Spain, Italy, and Brazil comprises this diverse program sure to please the cineaste hungry for more international fare.
“Frownland” (dir. Ronald Bronstein)
Perhaps the most artfully uncomfortable film you’ll see this year, Frownland follows a nervous, awkward pest of a man as he annoys everyone he comes in contact with. A Special Jury Prize winner at 2007’s South By Southwest Festival for “uncompromising singularity of vision,” this disturbing, gritty film is likely to appeal to fans of Vincent Gallo, Harmony Korine and Todd Solondz.
“Golden Days” (dir. Chris Suchorsky)
Golden Days is a documentary that follows struggling indie-rock band The Damnwells as they are courted and eventually signed to a major record label — only to have their album and their career nearly destroyed by the company who signed them.
“Great World of Sound” (dir. Craig Zobel)
Director Craig Zobel uses a hybrid form of narrative and documentary to explore that quest for fame and success in the world of music that so dominates every minute of prime television. The results lay stake to a strange territory at the intersection point of Borat and the Maysles Brothers’ Salesman.
“Growing Pains Shorts”
The challenges posed by moving from one phase of our lives into another links the titles in this narrative shorts program.
“Hannah Takes the Stairs” (dir. Joe Swanberg)
From Joe Swanberg, the director of LOL (MFF ’06), comes this darkly comic “mumblecore” feature detailing the tangled romantic lives of urban hipsters. Swanberg’s gifted cast includes a dynamic who’s-who of up-and-coming American directors — including Andrew Bujalski (Mutual Appreciation – MFF ’05, Todd Rohal (Guatemalan Handshake – MFF ’06) and Ry Russo-Young (Orphans – MFF ’07).
“Have You Heard from Johannesburg?: Apartheid and the Club of the West” (dir. Connie Field)
Political dissent is one thing, political action is another. This film, the first of a series, chronicles an amazing story of democracy at its best. As protests against apartheid built to a peak in South Africa in the mid-1980s, a group of ordinary citizens in the United States set out to help. It’s a remarkable story, beautifully told. No matter what your politics, you’ll be heartened to see opposite points of view expressed in a tough but civil manner, with ordinary Americans happily engaged in an important issue of the day.
“Hip-Hop Project” (dir. Matt Ruskin)
Director Matt Ruskin’s documentary follows a hip-hop-based youth-outreach program headed by rapper Chris “Kazi” Rolle as it struggles to produce its first album. Meanwhile, some unfinished business in Kazi’s personal life comes to a head. This galvanizing Tribeca and Silverdocs crowd-pleaser features appearances from Doug E. Fresh, Russell Simmons, and, um, Bruce Willis.
“I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone” (dir. Tsai Ming-liang)
Visionary director Tsai Ming-liang (“Goodbye,” “Dragon Inn,” “What Time Is It There?”) delivers this dreamlike, sexually frank feature, concerning a stoic young man nursed back to health by a stranger after falling prey to urban bandits in Kuala Lumpur. An award-winner at the Venice Film Festival, this is visually sumptuous and wryly humorous work from a major voice on today’s international art-film scene.
“Inside the Circle” (dir. Marcy Garriott)
Director Marcy Garriott’s eye-popping, gravity-defying doc recalls the drama and excitement of Hoop Dreams as it follows two young, Austin-based b-boys with dreams of making it big and perfecting their craft on the increasingly international breakdancing scene — even as personal struggles threaten to tear these dreams apart. Winner of a special audience award at this year’s South by Southwest festival.
“Kamp Katrina” (dir. Ashley Sabin and David Redmon)
This raw, vérité-style doc follows Miss Pearl, a colorful resident of New Orleans’ Upper 9th Ward, as she converts her garden into an impromptu shantytown for displaced people in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. An official selection of the South by Southwest, AFI Dallas, and Atlanta film festivals, Ashley Sabin and David Redmon’s uncompromising feature will be preceded by two riveting Katrina-related shorts.
“Killer of Sheep” (dir. Charles Burnett)
Charles Burnett’s 1977 graduate student film Killer of Sheep has taken on legendary status, despite the fact that for thirty years it was seldom seen. Shot on 16mm black-and-white “short ends” scrounged from LA production houses and beset with rights issues over its amazing soundtrack, this film has never had a proper theatrical run. Thanks to the determination of Dennis Doros and his team at Milestone Film & Video — and aided by a $75,000 gift from Steven Soderbergh — the newly-restored film is now finally ready to take American art-houses by storm. MFF is very proud to be part of this historic film’s first true theatrical release.
“Last Days of Left Eye” (dir. Lauren Lazin)
Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes touched many lives with her work in hip-hop-flavored R+B trio TLC. Her personal life was sometimes marked by very public struggles, and just prior to her tragic death at age 30, she began making a documentary intending to set the record straight. Lauren Lazin, who worked similar magic on the Oscar-nominated Tupac: Resurrection, recovered the footage, and lets Left Eye tell her riveting life story in her own words.
“Life Support” (dir. Nelson George)
A fictionalized account of filmmaker Nelson George’s family, the film is centered around terrific central performances by Queen Latifah and The Wire’s Wendell Pierce. It shows us the amazing story of a woman, HIV positive, who will use every tool she can to fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS in her beloved Brooklyn.
“List, The” (dir. Brandon Sonnier)
Lewis Bonds (Wayne Brady) is smart, successful and in love. But when he proposes to his girl on national television, he gets turned down. Damn! After Lewis works his way through some of the humiliation and heartbreak, he does what most men would do… he comes up with a new plan. This time Lewis will take more control of his love life… he’ll make a list of all the qualities that he wants in the perfect woman. From director Brandon Sonnier (The Beat — MFF ’03.
“Man In The Dark … in 3-D!” (1953) (dir. Lew Landers)
The Maryland Film Festival’s annual 3-D movie! This year we present Man In The Dark, starring Edmond O’Brien, in beautiful two-projector 3-D. This 1953 thriller is famous for its roller-coaster climax scene.
“Masked Reality Shorts”
Not everything’s what it seems in this collection of short work.
“Maxed Out” (host: Henry Rollins ; dir. James Scurlock)
Each year Maryland Film Festival guest-host program invites eminent personalities known primarily for work outside the world of film to pick a favorite film to present. This year, Henry Rollins has chosen Maxed Out, a documentary sure to make each of us rethink basic notions about how our nation’s economy works — and who those credit cards and credit reports really benefit.
“Monday” (dir. Heidi Van Lier)
After his kleptomaniac girlfriend leaves him, an agoraphobic loser gets locked out of his home with nothing but an MP3 player and a pair of stolen gardening boots. Trapped in the dreaded outdoors, he must dodge his rent-hungry landlady, an over-friendly dog, some mean skater girls, and the jealous husband of an affection-hungry & just-plain-hungry woman. This original comedy excels through physical slapstick, absurd situations, and all-voiceover dialogue.
“Murder Party” (dir. Jeremy Saulnier)
A lonely man attends a Halloween “Murder Party,” unaware that his invitation is really a ploy for a group of dimwitted Brooklyn hipsters to commit murder in the name of art. This unique suspense/horror/dark comedy — written, shot, and directed by the cinematographer of Hamilton (MFF ’06) — won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at Slamdance.
“My Nappy Roots: A Journey Through Black Hair-itage” (dir. Regina Kimbell and Jay Bluemke)
My Nappy ROOTS: A Journey Through Black Hair-itage is an engaging and entertaining documentary that explores the significance of black hair – its history, traditions, innovations, socio-political influences, and sometimes humorous evolution — as well as its economic power base. Included in the conversation are Vivica A. Fox, Patti LaBelle, Malcolm Jamal Warner, Kim Fields, George Johnson (Johnson Hair Care Products), Elise Neal, Ed Gardner (Soft Sheen), and Morgan State Professor Tendai Johnson, among others.
“Nosferatu” (1922) (dir. F. W. Murnau; live music: Alloy Orchestra)
A young real estate agent, Hetter, is sent by his strange boss, Knock, to the Land of the Phantoms to close a deal with the mysterious Count Orlok. Through breathtakingly bold cinematic techniques and a legendary performance by Max Schreck as Count Orlok, F. W. Murnau delivers a seminal piece of filmmaking.
“Odyssey of Oddities Shorts”
From the quirky and just plain weird to the downright unnerving, these shorts take us to the brink and back again.
“Off The Grid: Life On The Mesa” (dir. Jeremy and Randy Stulberg)
On a 15-square-mile area of the American Southwest, twenty-five miles from the nearest town and a million miles from mainstream society, a loose-knit community lives in the desert, struggling to survive with little food, less water and no electricity. This documentary is about an interesting group of radicals clinging to their unique vision of the American dream.
“On a Tightrope” (dir. Petr Lom)
The Uighur are China’s biggest Muslim population, more than 8 million people living under stringent governmental religious restrictions. They are also famous tightrope performers (literally and metaphorically), and this film overcomes a stunning chasm of official separation to give us remarkable access to an even more remarkable town and its inhabitants.
“On the Edge Shorts”
Miss MicroCineFest already? Then this is the shorts program for you.
“Orphans” (dir. Ry Russo-Young)
Five years after the death of their parents, two estranged sisters reunite in the isolated farmhouse where they spent childhood summers and holidays. As the two revisit their past and catch up on their present, tensions flare, threatening to end what’s left of a family. This narrative drama won a Special Jury Prize at South By Southwest for “its personally crafted visual aesthetic.”
“Paper, The” (dir. Aaron Matthews)
By taking an intimate look at the staff of Penn State’s daily paper during a pivotal school year, this documentary gives us real insight into the chaotic, troubled world of contemporary journalism. The Paper deals with declining circulation, staff diversity issues, the decreasing access afforded journalists by public figures, and pressures to “sex up” the paper with risqué material — and we get to see it all from the trenches, through the eyes of this profession’s newest practitioners.
“Quiet City” (dir. Aaron Katz)
A hit at this year’s South by Southwest festival, director Aaron Katz’s mesmerizing character study follows two young people who slowly inch towards each other after a chance meeting in a New York subway station. Katz’s moving indie film expresses a deep belief in today’s urban landscape as a place of mystery and romance, and delights in its ability to find new ways to capture modern city life on film.
“Rocket Science” (dir. Jeffrey Blitz)
With Baltimore standing in for New Jersey, director Jeffrey Blitz (of the documentary Spellbound fame) provides a fresh take on a familiar genre: the coming-of-age story. When a shy youth with a stutter gets pulled into the debate team by its attractive female star, there’s a lot more on the line that just another state championship. Rocket Science walked away with the Directing Award at Sundance 2007
“Sense of Loss” (filmmaker guest-host: Lodge Kerrigan; dir. Marcel Ophuls)
In the large body of movies about war, fiction and nonfiction, A Sense of Loss stands alone. Banned by the BBC, this extraordinary work about the “troubles” in Northern Ireland remains controversial to this day. Exploring the ongoing conflict in Northern Ireland, Ophuls won’t let us find easy answers where there are none.
“Silver Jew” (dir. Michael Tully)
This film follows poet, musician and Silver Jews frontman David Berman, his wife Cassie, and other band members as they spend a few days in Israel on their first world tour. What emerges is not a music documentary in any conventional sense, but the story a not very observant Jew (and a somewhat fragile artist) from America visiting sites in Israel and being puzzled by the power they have over him.
“Sleeping Dogs Lie” (host: John Waters; dir. Bob Goldthwait)
A highlight of every MFF, John Waters has picked Bob Goldthwait’s first feature to champion this year. A funny, outrageous exploration of just how honest you should be with your fiancé about past sexual experiences. Bob Goldthwait will join John for this screening.
“Sound and Vision Shorts”
At the center of this shorts program are two extended pieces — “Las Historias Mas Sexy Del Mundo” (Parts One and Two), and “The Patterns Trilogy” — which take two very different approaches to sonic and visual design.
“Standing Silent Nation” (dir. Suree Towfighnia)
Standing Silent Nation is a documentary about a Lakota Indian family’s yearly troubles with the Drug Enforcement Administration over attempts to harvest industrial hemp in South Dakota.
“Syndromes and a Century” (dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s cutting-edge Thai masterpiece begins as a gentle romance in a Wong Kar-wai mode, but evolves into a mind-bending stream of imagery worthy of Kubrick’s 2001 and Antonioni’s Eclipse. Nominated for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, this bold cinematic vision proves there are still new stories to tell, and new ways to tell them.
“Time and Tide” (dir. Julie Bayer and Josh Salzman)
This charming-yet-cautionary documentary manages to make its political and cultural points both gracefully and effectively. Seen through the eyes of a large group of New Zealanders of Tuvaluan descent who make a pilgrimage back to their homeland, Time and Tide finds humor and insight in the cultural divide between Tuvaluan elders, the island’s youth, and, especially, the highly-Westernized teenaged girls rocked by extreme culture-shock on this life-altering trip home.
“Visit, The” (dir. Mary Hardcastle)
In her first narrative feature as writer/director, Maryland-based filmmaker Mary Hardcastle looks at the remnants of a modern suburban family after the death of one of its members. Her setting is bucolic — the film was shot in attractive county settings around Baltimore — but the lives of the people who live there are in turmoil.
“Viva” (dir. Anna Biller)
Like a colorful late-’60s issue of Playboy come to life, Viva is the story of a sheltered housewife breaking out of her shell to explore the swinging sexual revolution, and conquering it on her own terms. Director Anna Biller wrote, produced, and directed this amazing piece of work. Not enough for you? She also handled the impeccable costumes and set design, contributed to the soundtrack, generated a trippy animated sequence, and shines in her film’s starring role.
“War/Dance” (dir. Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine)
Documentary filmmakers Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine take us to northern Uganda, where the vicious rebel force Lord’s Resistance Army abducts children as part of their war plan. Defying the violence around them, we follow children who sing and dance and become the first Northern Ugandans to get into the finals of the national music and dance competition.
A collection of short work pinpointing those moments in life when everything changes.
The title of this comic, absurdist program should say it all — but click on it for more information.
“Zoo” (dir. Robinson Devor)
Startling recreations and extensive audio testimonials power Robinson Devor’s controversial, fresh-from-Sundance film about a Seattle man who died as a result of a sexual encounter with a horse. Walking into a film exploring such extreme subject matter, audiences may expect a probing interview-based documentary along the lines of Capturing the Friedmans. While that comparison isn’t entirely off base, Zoo weds audio tracks culled from interviews with actual participants to dreamlike camerawork from acclaimed cinematographer Sean Kirby (Police Beat) to give us something more, a highly challenging work of art that poses difficult new questions even as it answers others.