Does the advent of the big, loud summer movie season already have you scouring your Netflix queue for smart, original and exciting smaller films?
If you happen to be a film fan in Baltimore this weekend, then you do have a big-screen alternative to comic book movies or wedding-themed comedies. This Cinco De Mayo will see the launch of the 11th annual Maryland Film Festival, Baltimore’s biggest and best cinema-related event. For three days and four nights between May 5th and May 8th, the Station North Arts District of Baltimore will play host to a cornucopia of familiar faces, fresh talent, and engaging and inventive cinema.
Every year the producers and organizers of the festival work hard to pull together an alluring and diverse menu that not only draws from the indie and the mainstream, but also includes films new, old, local, national and international. As you might expect, you can catch work by fresh faces like Joe Swanberg (with a whopping three films at the fest!) and Kelly Reichardt, whose entry Meek’s Cutoff features Michelle Williams facing the dangers and drama of the Oregon Trail circa pioneer times. Despite the emphasis on new content, a big strength of the festival is its ability to look backwards as well as forwards.
Special screenings of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and the 1970’s trippy martial-arts horror thriller Boxer’s Omen sit alongside the annual treat of the Alloy Orchestra’s live-scoring of a silent film classic, this year a group of vintage short comedies. There’s also enticing foreign fare making the rounds, including Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives and French auteur Catherine Breillat’s dark and bewitching The Sleeping Beauty,an edgy adaptation of the classic fairy tale.
Documentaries are always a bright spot of the fest, and this year features an embarrassment of riches. Musical docus are big ; Laurence Fishburne narrates the story of revolutionary 90’s band Fishbone in ‘Everyday Sunshine’, ‘Freaks in Love’ is Skizz Cyzyk’s quirky ode to underground rock group Alice Donut, and heavy metal meets Northern Virginia via Don Argott and Demian Fenton’s ‘Last Days Here’. Other fare includes the socially conscious Cafeteria Man, following chef Tony Geraci’s attempts to restructure Baltimore City’s school lunch menu, and the downright bizarre Convento, about a family of artists living in a monastery and creating creepy robotic structures out of old junk and dead carcasses.
The Closing night filmis also a documentary, in this case a biography detailing the life of actor, musician, and activist Harry Belafonte. ‘Sing Your Own Song’ follows Belafonte through everything from his groundbreaking television work to his participation with the Civil Rights Movement, where he stood alongside Martin Luther King. Belafonte will be in attendance on Sunday night and will also participate in an interview/Q&A session after the screening.
Belafonte isn’t the only guest of note though. As he has done now for years, John Waters will host another film he hand-picked (but is not associated with creatively) on Friday night with Patric Chiha’s Domaine. Local talent Matthew Porterfield, whose Putty Hill played MFF 2010, will introduce Patricio Guzmán’s Chilean mindbender Nostalgia for the Light. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s Marin Aslop will raise the curtain on Clint in Good/Bad/Ugly on Saturday and experimental rockers Animal Collective will portend Boxer’s Omen on Friday.
Another tradition is the yearly 3-D film hosted by Sun critic Chris Kaltenbach. Not your modern multiplex 3D, these films hearken back to a time when the medium was mostly a schlocky gimmick. A far cry from the current technology, you can expect to get a pair of those classy red and blue paper specs you could find wrapped around the heads of kids in the 1950s. This year’s offering is a western from André de Toth, Stranger Wore a Gun, starring Randolph Scott. Regardless your taste or fancy, the MFF has arranged an impressive buffet of cinematic delights, short film line-ups, and plenty of interaction with the filmmakers themselves.
Things kick off this Thursday evening with Opening Night Shorts!, featuring an eclectic and colorful collection of short subject films. Playing at 7 p.m. at MICA’s Brown Center, the annual shorts program opens the festival with four works;David Lowery’s Pioneer; Jessica Edwards’ Seltzer Works; Zachary Treitz’s We’re Leaving; and Christopher Radcliff and Lauren Wolkstein’s The Strange Ones. The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday (once Baltimore’s film critic back in the 90s) will host the event with each director discussing their work.
The Indie Film Examiner will be covering the fest all weekend and with reviews of the films, interviews with the filmmakers, and updated pics and reports of the festivites.
Look forward to seeing you there!
Get your festival tickets in advance right HERE or get ticket info on the MFF’s official site,including film schedules and descriptions.