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The Independent Film Festival of Boston turns 20.
One for my hometown readers: When I arrived back in Boston after a 20-year hiatus, the city’s film festival scene was a mess. There were a lot of mini-fests targeted to a lot of niches – underground movies, French films, science fiction – a fair amount of pay-to-play events, and one official “Boston Film Festival” that by 2002 was on its last legs as a serious contender. And by serious, I mean curated and programmed by people who love film as much, if not more, than putting on a glitzy champagne bash for people who want to see their photographs in the party pages of Boston Magazine.
The following year, however, heralded the arrival of the Independent Film Festival of Boston, whose unwieldy sobriquet disguised the fact that it hoped to be the actual “Boston Film Festival,” no matter who held the rights to the name. The IFFBoston was started by locals who worked in the film industry – co-founder and original prime mover Adam Roffman was and is a set dresser for Hollywood films shooting in Beantown – and who loved the form so much they were willing to work hard to bring the discoveries of Toronto and Sundance and SXSW to Boston audiences, along with a big helping of regional filmmaking premieres. It promised to be the real deal. And, 20 years later, it is clearly just that.
Directed and programmed since 2014 by Brian Tamm and Nancy Campbell, New England’s biggest film festival launches its 20th-anniversary edition next Wednesday, April 26, at the Somerville Theatre with the documentary “Love to Love You, Donna Summer” (fresh from its SXSW premiere) and closes May 3 at the Coolidge Corner Cinema with the sleeper weeper of this year’s Sundance, Celine Song’s wonderful “Past Lives” (below), with the director in attendance. (It’ll come to theaters in early June, and, oh my God, the trailer.)
In between you can find 90 shorts and features, of which I can recommend the blistering documentary “20 Days in Mariupol” (May 2 at the Brattle in Cambridge), the winsome immigrant slacker comedy “Fremont,” (April 29, Brattle), and new films from Paul Schrader (“Master Gardener,” April 27, Brattle), Christian Petzold (“Afire,” May 1, Brattle), Steve “Hoop Dreams” James (“A Compassionate Spy” (April 30, Brattle), and the mischievous documentarian Penny Lane (“Confessions of a Good Samaritan,” April 28, Brattle). Lane gave up a kidney to make that last film; the least you can do is part with the price of a ticket. You can find further information and buy tickets at the festival’s website.
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