Festival fav “I Am Not Your Negro” screens @IFFBoston Fall Focus tonight

The Fall Focus series continues this evening at the Brattle Theatre with a screening of a documentary based on an unfinished James Baldwin manuscript. The filmmaker connects Baldwin’s words, narrated by Samuel L Jackson, to both the historical civil rights and black power movements, and to the struggles of today.

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@IFFBoston Fall focus preview: The Invitation

The Independent Film Festival of Boston’s Fall Focus series at the Brattle Continues with Karyn Kusama’s (Girl Fight, Jennifer’s Body) new film The Invitation a slow burn thriller with a lot of buzz; it recently won best film honors at the  48th Sitges Film Festival in Spain, which is prominent for its fantasy and horror programing.

@IFFBoston Fall Focus open night film preview: Where To Invade Next

The Independent Film Festival of Boston has added a new film series in the fall at the Brattle Theater.  Sunday’s  opening night documentary is Michael Moore’s Where To Invade Next.  The word on the street from TIFF is that this is an amusing optimistic film, highlighting successful social policies from around the world that Americans should “capture” and make their own.

preview: I’ll See You in My Dreams

It’s rare that any film examines challenges of a person, past-midlife, searching for romance and meaning. It’s rarer still that the protagonist of such a film is a woman.  In this film, Carol, a widow, is drawn from a rut towards possible futures with two different men.

Director: Brett Haley Cinematography: Rob Givens Starring: Blythe Danner, Martin Starr, Sam Elliott

retro review: Stories We Tell

In “Stories We Tell” the director, who comes from a clan of actors and artists, interviews and otherwise explores and interesting family mysteries.  While this is interesting, it’s the broader examination of the way we construct narratives for others and ourselves that is particularly fascinating.   (And, given the circumstances of the film making, very meta, without dwelling there for its own sake.)

(side note, both the director and her father will be familiar to those fortunate enough to have followed the Canadian series Slings and Arrows)

This film is currently available to stream on Netflix and Epix.

Director: Sarah Polley Cinematographer: Iris Ng

(In honor of #IFFBOSTON each day of the festival I’ll post a capsule review of an alumni film)

retro review: The Corporation

Based on Joe Balkin’s book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, this prescient film from 2003 explains how corporations have increasingly moved from being boring legal forms of organization, to being treated as if they are entities entitled to the same rights as actual people.  The filmmakers then amusingly point out that if a corporation was a person  it  would fit the clinical definition of a psychopath.  Grimly, these unliving psychopaths have been further empowered by the Citizen’s United and Hobby Lobby rulings.

Directors:   Jennifer Abbott, Mark Achbar

This film is currently available to stream on through Xfinity.

(In honor of #IFFBOSTON each day of the festival I’ll post a capsule review of an alumni film)

preview: Slow West

A Scottish innocent abroad in the dangerous American west seeking to find his lost love,  joins a mysterious stranger while travelling the wild frontier.  Winner of the Sundance’s grand jury prize in the category: World Cinema: Dramatic.

Director  John Maclean Cinematography: Robbie Ryan Starring: Michael Fassbender

retro review: Print the Legend

This documentary examines the two startups looking to bring 3D printing in the homes of ordinary people: formlabs and MakerBot.  Intriguingly, MakerBot, the larger company that turned it’s back on it’s open source roots before being acquired by a large patent holding corporation, just announced that it was closing its retail stores and and laying off 10% of its staff.

Directors and Cinematographers: Luis Lopez, J. Clay Tweel

This documentary was acquired by Netflix, and is available for streaming.

Film buffs may be interested to know that a formlabs printer was used to create 3500 figures used in the stop motion short Chase Me:

(In honor of #IFFBOSTON each day of the festival I’ll post a capsule review of an alumni film)

preview: GTFO

While subculture of chronic misogyny within gaming metastasized in 2014, the fact remains that women both as gamers and as game developers have faced discrimination and harassment for ages.  They were seen as marginal intruders in a male domain.  But the fact of the matter is that half of all women, and nearly all teen-aged girls play video games. GTFO examines their experiences.

short films: The Gnomist, Last Pyramid, Tashi and the Monk

Friday and Saturday IFFBoston screens the short documentary program H (Hotel), featuring three films:

The Gnomist
Director: Sharon Liese Cinematography: Ty Jones

The lives of women in Overland Park, Kansas, are touched by the mysterious appearance of gnome houses the local woods.

Last Pyramid
Director: David Schacter Director of Photography: Ben Powell

Following her son’s death, a woman is suddenly drawn to create stained glass pyramids.

Tashi and the Monk
Directors:  Johnny Burke, Andrew Hinton   Cinematography: Andrew Hinton

A monk who founded a Himalayan orphanage attempts to forge a human connection with a troubled child abandoned by an alcoholic father after the death of her mother.

retro review: Downloaded

We live in an era of astonishing change. Often, we attribute that change to simply to technology, but technology is most significant when it serves as a lens, collecting and focusing human effort. Two paradigm examples arose during the dot.com era: Google, which deftly traces the links that we make, and harness this collective intelligence to make sense of an explosion of information, and Napster, which, by empowering people to share, created, almost instantly and out of nothing, a universal library of nearly all recorded human musical expression. It is telling that, a decade on, even the most successful centrally organized and licensed music sites are but pale reflections of Napster.

Downloaded is a documentary tells that story of Napster’s rise and fall. The filmmakers effectively leverage access to all the principals at Napster, as well as interviews with representatives music industry, artists and scholars, to which they add very judiciously selected media coverage from the ’99 and ’00. But this is not merely a collection of talking heads. It is a wealth fantastic stories: of two high school kids who really did change the world, of a generation suddenly in the possession of the entirety of a deeply emotional cultural legacy, and of an industry that when confronted by the future, responds by ignoring opportunity and suing their fans.

This film is currently available to stream on Netflix.

(In honor of #IFFBOSTON each day of the festival I’ll post a capsule review of an alumni film)

retro review: Francis Ha

“Sometimes it’s good to do what you are supposed to do when you are supposed to do it.” asserts Greta Gerwig’s character in Francis Ha, pointing to the underlying dilemma the movie explores: being a 20 something who is out of college, but who hasn’t really started their life. This film can be compared to the Dunham’s Girls, which explores the same themes, and in a similar ways; layering a series of elliptical sketches. Stop motion views of lives that seems to have stopped their motion.

But while the underlying impulse behind Girls is comic, stringing together cringeworthy beads of absurdity, Frances Ha is a unified artistic experience that explores particular stage of life, and which builds to a turn and a (partial) resolution that’s pleasurable and satisfying.

This film is currently available to stream on Netflix and Epix.

(In honor of #IFFBOSTON each day of the festival I’ll post a capsule review of an alumni film)

preview: Eden

Loosely based on the life of the director’s brother, who co-wrote the script, this film examines the rise of the French electronic music scene in the 90s.

Director: Mia Hansen-Love Staring: Pauline Etienne, Félix de Givry, Vincent Macaigne, Greta Gertwig Cinematography: Denis Lenoir

preview: The End of the Tour

The opening night film for IFFBoston is based on Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky’s 2010 book Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself .  This, in turn, is based on recordings for an unpublished profile of David Foster Wallace, chronicling five days he spent with the novelist at the end of the book tour for Infinite Jest.

This is James Ponsoldt’s second film opening IFFBoston, he also directed The Spectacular New, which started the 2013 festival.

Director: James Ponsoldt   Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Segel  Cinematography: Jakob Ihre