Each year, the MobTown Shank is fortunate to get picks from Maryland Film Fest programmers - a list of personal favorites - to help guide our way through all there is to see over the several days chock full o' cinematic goodness.
Please note that these picks reflect the personal views of the programmers and do not reflect an official MFF perspective.
Eric Allen "Man About Town" Hatch’s MFF 2011 Picks
Hi, all, Maryland Film Festival Director of Programming Eric Allen Hatch here. BUT! Let me take that hat off for a second. Because officially I love all of our movies equally—and I do think every one of them is strong.
That said, the idea behind these Shank picks, which Benn so generously runs each year (thanks, Benn!) is: here are some movies that man-about-town Eric Hatch, who just happens to have seen 98% of the movies playing this year’s festival, tells his friends about when they ask him what’s cool in this year’s line-up.
The festival takes place May 5-8, with all-day programming Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at MICA’s Brown Center, Windup Space, and, all 5 screens of The Charles. For many of these films, the director and/or cast will be present. www.mdfilmfest.com.
Thanks so much for reading. I love our line-up this year. You could almost step up to The Charles (really do this), throw a dart at the schedule grid (don’t really do this) and be certain of seeing something awesome (really do this)! Enjoy!
On our site I’ve described Michael Tully’s art-house dark comedy as “an ecstatic collision between Desperate Living and Putty Hill,” and I think that gets you in the right ballpark. I might also add that if someone who loved last year’s Dogtooth asked me for a 2011 pick, I’d say, emphatically: Septien! 18 years after he disappeared, a silent, sullen, bearded young man returns wordlessly to resume living with his eccentric brothers in the woods—disappearing every once in a while to hustle for cash on basketball and tennis courts. There are a handful of films each year that blow me away, and this is one of them. Visually beautiful and darkly hilarious, this film premiered at Sundance 2011—not too shabby for UMBC grad Tully and Putty Hill alum Jeremy Saulnier (the cinematographer) and Marc Vives (the editor)!
I saw this stylish, Congolese gangster thriller in a packed house during the 2010 Toronto Int’l Film Fest, and it was one of my top two theater-going experiences of 2010 (alongside the Japanese cult film HOUSE at The Senator). This movie is chock-full of over-the-top sex and violence—but has its grounding in characters and production values that put most contemporary Hollywood flicks to shame. This one’s a home run: I’m thrilled that the director, Djo Tunda Wa Munga, will be here to introduce both screenings!
BETTER THIS WORLD
Feel like getting angry? If you have a heart and a pulse, this eye-opening documentary, about two young activists charged as terrorists after the 2008 Republican National Convention, will piss you off. But in the way it so thoroughly documents the many twists and turns of friendship, betrayal, and government folly, there’s also something hopeful about the film; it won’t leave you feeling powerless. And as a piece of storytelling, it’s riveting.
UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES
Hey, it’s a mystical Thai art film about spirit reincarnation from the director of my favorite film of the 2000s, Syndromes and a Century! And it won the Palme d’Or at Cannes!
Hey, it’s an existential, feminist Western from Kelly Reichardt (Old Joy, Wendy+Lucy), starring Michelle Williams, Will Patton, and Paul Dano!
CONVENTO w/ Hilvarenbeek
Oh crap, it’s a documentary about a Dutch artist who builds reanimated kinetic sculptures out of animal remains on the grounds of an ancient Portuguese monastery--screening with a short film made by Dan Deacon and Jimmy Joe Roche in The Netherlands!!!
HOLY SHIT!!! members of Animal Collective (Avey Tare, Deakin, and Geologist) have selected this early-80s Shaw Brothers psychedelic kung-fu flick, compared by some to the work of Jodorowsky, to present at the festival… AND I’ve tracked down the only known N. American 35mm print, found recently in an abanonded Vancouver theater! I love it when things like this come together!!!
Whew. Okay. Got a little excited there. Good time to discuss this drama from Quebec, quietly one of the best films in the festival. Here, a socially awkward single father who works in a run-down bowling alley raises his young daughter alone, only to realize that his homeschooling of her (and his social problems) may be fucking up her life. Meanwhile, she’s more than a little creeped out by the dead bodies she found in the snow… There’s some kind of optimism on display here, but it might be the grimmest, grizzliest optimism I’ve encountered on film.
A USEFUL LIFE
A lonely film programmer struggles to keep his film society going and his love-life afloat. Somehow a young filmmaker from Uruguay has looked into their crystal ball and made a film based on the near future of MFF Director of Programming Eric Allen Hatch! This and CURLING are primo art-house gems you won’t see anywhere else.
FAKE IT SO REAL
A tough but sympathetic look at working-class, semi-pro costumed wrestlers, who perform in tiny arenas to tiny crowds—but still have flamboyant costumes and elaborate back-stories. And yes, their initiation banter as they haze new members is just as homoerotic as you might hope and/or imagine!
THE CATECHISM CATACLYSM
These two Sundance 2011 films are probably the most psychotronic in the festival. If you know what that words means, you should watch them. CATECHISM comes from Todd Rohal, a name any MicroCineFest heads should hold near and dear; THE OREGONIAN is a must for any and all Twin Peaks fans out there!
And wow, there is just so much more.:
--If you like pitch-dark transgressive dramas like Frownland, you’ve gotta see THE COLOR WHEEL and BAD FEVER!
--If you like Chilean films that make philosophical connections between astronomy and the Pinochet regime, you’ve gotta see NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT!
--AND We’ve got John Waters introducing the French film DOMAINE!
--AND Alloy Orchestra doing their live scores to short comedies by Keaton, Chaplin, and Fatty Arbuckle
--AND THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY presented by The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s Marin Alsop!
--AND an essay-film on the rise and fall of a housing project, THE PRUITT-IGOE MYTH, from the director of the Jandek documentary!
--AND our vintage 3-D tradition lives on with 1953’s THE STRANGER WORE A GUN!
--AND eight amazing shorts programs, all so awesome, but I get the sense that I need to wrap things up here! See Pioneer (starring Will Oldham) and We’re Leaving!
--PLUS: LAST BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST!!! More new features made by Baltimore-based directors than I ran recall in any prior festival, namely: Josh Slates’ SMALL POND, Skizz Cyzyk’s FREAKS IN LOVE, Ramona Diaz’s THE LEARNING, and Richard Chisolm’s CAFETERIA MAN!