Wednesday May 7 - Sunday May 11
16TH ANNUAL MARYLAND FILM FESTIVAL
"Station North" Baltimore.
Festival Programming Administrator Scott Braid’s Maryland Film Fest 2014 “Insider Picks”
It’s that time of year again where many of you (the ones that know me at least) haven’t seen me for months because I’ve been holed up in our 25th Street office day and night doing all the things it takes to put a film festival together. I am finally emerging from the cave of festival preparations to share my thoughts on a few of the many wonderful films in the 2014 Maryland Film Festival lineup.
It goes without saying that I am extremely fond of all the films that will be gracing the 7 screens of that comprise the 2014 MFF, but these are a few that, were I an attendee at the fest, I would make sure to fit into my busy viewing schedule. I hope you enjoy perusing this list and I look forward to seeing many of your wonderful faces around the festival!
CELESTIAL WIVES OF THE MEADOW MARI
A lively and lusty film comprised of nearly two-dozen vignettes that explore the folklore, sexual rites and social mores of Russia’s Meadow Mari people. The Mari are a Volga-Finnic ethnic group who live along the Volga river and subscribe to a pagan belief system which places great value on nature and natural cycles, with an emphasis on sex and fertility! If you can imagine a collaboration between Robert Flaherty and Alejandro Jodorowsky (and that sounds like an amazing thing to you), this is your film!
A real life Rocky story, GLENA tells the tale of 30-something mother and professional Glena Avila who trades in her business suit for grappling gloves on a regular basis. This heartfelt doc traces Glena’s rise through the ranks of the amateur Mixed Martial Arts circuit and her attempts to go pro, while juggling family, career and relationship. An undeniably inspiring and emotional journey, Glena will appeal to people from all walks of life.
Kat Candler’s follow-up feature to her 2012 short of the same name is an emotionally charged and painstakingly realized dramatic portrait of an adolescent boy whose life is turned upside down after the death of his mother. Lead by powerful performances from Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, newcomer Josh Wiggins and veteran Juliette Lewis, the film smartly and honestly positions the viewer within the world of a teenager struggling to come to terms with his lot in life, any way he knows how; even if it means anti-social tirades that result in big trouble. Easily one of the best American dramas of the year, see it here first.
Greek filmmaker, Penny Panayotopoulou’s brilliant second feature SEPTEMBER is a striking and assured work, that eschews the shock and awe tactics employed by several other contemporary Greek directors, in favor of a subtler and in many ways, more satisfying approach. The story of a solitary young woman, whose world implodes after the death of her dog, provides exceptional insight into human nature, over the course of a deeply satisfying viewing experience. The director will be joining us all the way from Greece!
SUMMER OF BLOOD
Onur Tukel (star of MFF 2011 film Septien) takes us on a darkly hilarious journey through the misadventures of Brooklyn schlub-turned-vampire Erik Sparrow, a fantastically deluded, self-aggrandizing jerk, whose chance encounter with a suave vampire may just make him a better person (and a better lover)!
WATER LIKE STONE
A beautiful and heartfelt portrait of a disappearing community and a disappearing way of life, WATER LIKE STONE tells the story of Leeville, LA. A small 200 year-old Gulf Coast town, Leeville is being lost to an encroaching rising sea level and continued economic devastation in the wake of repeated hurricane damage. Full of rich characters, poignant stories and valuable insights about the state of our world and our waterways, this documentary could just as easily have been made about a small town on our own Eastern Shore.
Festival faves Lawrence Levine (Gabi On The Roof In July) and Sophia Takal (Green) return to MFF with an uproarious and pulse pounding comedy-suspense-detective-romance! The film tells the story of a young couple who become engrossed in intrigue at their apartment building when their elderly neighbor turns up dead and the circumstances surrounding her passing seem a little to fishy not to be looked into. A fun and frenetic film that takes inspiration from (and does justice to!) such masters as Woody Allen and Peter Bogdanovich.
Let’s not neglect the shorts! Each program a selection of A1 bangers from the world of shorts films!
The inventive and informative ALFRED JARRY & ‘PATAPHYSICS from Baltimore filmmaker Skizz Cyzyk, the dark and disturbing THE ALLIGATOR from Alexandra Barsky, and the ethereal LORD I: THE RECORDS KEEPER from Lori Damiano to name but a few!
Lots of local talent in this world-class program. Jimmy Joe Roche’s dead rat opus. Margaret Rorison’s beautiful experimental dance document PULL/DRIFT, Tom Borax’ snoot-a-delic olfactory escapade THE NOVICE CLAIRALIENT, masterful multimedia experimental animation EAGER from los Angeles-based artist Allison Schulnik, and 70s/80s porn mags come to life in Julie Orser’s XXX. Just a few of the thought-provoking films on offer in this program.
SHORTS CHARACTER STUDY
An amazing assemblage of odd characters from the heartbreakingly-hilarious BE WITH ME, to the 70s superbowl romance of THE IMMACULATE RECEPTION, the charismatic and quirky street artist of I WILL PAINT YOUR SPIRIT, the biting role-reversal satire of NAILED IT, the 420-friendly detectives of SUPER SLEUTHS and the brilliant anti-romance of PERSON TO PERSON.
Covering such disparate, but equally fascinating topics as the life and times of David Hockney, a day in the life of Native American fisherman, eccentric bingo hosts, baadaasss teachers, silly bastards, the dying art of the film theater, NOLA’s sissy bounce music scene, and dedicated dads who are also dedicated footballers!
A masterful program of short dramatic works, each one a standout – featuring Kris Swanberg’s BABY MARY - tale of a stolen toddler, Madeleine Parker’s FRUIT - an intense brothel conversation between a newcomer and an old pro, Catherine Licata’s HOUSE KEEPING - a disturbing tale of a babysitter who might be too attached to her employers, Lisa Melodia’s BIG GIRL - the story of a young child who has to face a very adult day, and Annie Silverstein’s Cannes-bound drama SKUNK - concerning a teenage girl who takes exception to a local skate rat stealing her dog.
SHORTS DURING LAUGHTER COMES TEARS
Sometimes you gotta laugh away the tears and sometimes you laugh until you cry. Either way you’re covered with this program. The painful humor of RAT PACK RAT, the awkward sexuality of CHOCOLATE HEART, the wildly inappropriate marketing of CRUISING ELECTRIC, the embarrassing antics of SHAWNSEY’S REVENGE, the tricky situation of WHIFFED OUT, the unpleasant voyeurism suffered by the victims of PEEPERS, the geriatric revenge plot of WAITING FOR BERTA, the unnerving lack of cell phone coverage in FUNNEL or the clumsy robbery of an anti-social alcoholic in VING RHAMES.
FASTER, WTF SHORTS! KILL! KILL!
A skull fuckery of decapitation sex, wall vaginas, puke music, boner boxing, a door-to-door devil, a horny septuagenarian super hero, gross sushi and standardized tests!
Breathtaking short cinema from around the world. A tale of two young lovers searching Tehran for medical help after an incident leaves the girl ill, the story of estranged father and daughter reconnecting at a sheep farm in Ireland, a driver’s lust for his young employer in Mexico, and a manipulative young girl’s bad behavior at her grandparents home in a provincial German village.
A brilliant collection of shorts that tell a variety of stories, and cover a vast array of style and tone. Frances Bodomos imaginative take on the Zambian space program, Christopher Radcliff’s dark and mysterious tale of a young boy visited by his long-lost brother, Zach Wechter’s snappy neo-noir, Eleanor Wilson’s touching tale of a young couple’s attempts to work past a shared tragedy, and Jeremy Robbins’ brutal tale of survival in a post-apocalyptic world are all fodder for these outstanding shorts.
And of course there’s so much more. Eric covers many of the other choice picks of the fest. Unforgettable films like ART AND CRAFT, KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER, THE MEND, FAULTS and WHO TOOK JOHNNY, are still tumbling around in my head months after seeing them for the first time. With so much amazing work to see in 5 days, I don’t envy anyone trying to put together a schedule that encompasses all this great stuff!