The theme of this year’s Independent Film Festival Boston is “Make It Yours,” and with more than 100 films spread across four venues over eight days, you’re free to do just that. Program director Nancy Campbell, executive director Brian Tamm and associate director Judy Wong have assembled another stellar lineup of films for IFFBoston’s 14th annual rite of spring, a welcome alternative to the blockbuster bloat that permeates the big theater chains.
As the festival’s name implies, IFFBoston remains truly independent, bypassing the city’s multiplexes and taking place in greater Boston’s treasure trove of independently owned and operated movie halls—Harvard Square’s 63-year-old Brattle Theatre, Brookline’s ornate 82-year-old Coolidge Corner Theatre and Davis Square’s Somerville Theatre, an Art Deco palace that celebrated its centennial in 2014. And it’s at the Somerville Theatre that the festival kicks off on April 27 with the New England premiere of John Krasinski’s The Hollars, a comedic family drama featuring Anna Kendrick, Margo Martindale and Richard Jenkins that Krasinski, a Newton native and former star of NBC’s The Office, both acted in and directed. But before you settle in to watch it, be sure to pick up one of the festival’s daily planners; with 25 narrative features, 38 documentaries and approximately 50 shorts packaged into eight separate programs, you’ll want to map out your viewing schedule.
Thankfully, Campbell, Tamm and Wong have filled their lineup with movies for just about every taste. For example, if you’re a Melanie Lynskey fan like I am, you’ll have an opportunity to view the New Zealand-born actress in no less than three films. First up, on April 30, the Somerville Theatre screens the New England premiere of Folk Hero & Funny Guy, writer/director Jeff Grace’s comedy about a successful singer/songwriter (Wyatt Russell, son of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell) who hatches a plan to boost the struggling comedy career and broken love life of a friend (another Newton native, Alex Karpovsky of HBO’s Girls). Then on May 1, the Somerville Theatre hosts the East Coast premiere of writer/director Linas Phillips’ Rainbow Time, a comedic drama involving a developmentally disabled 40-year-old (played by Phillips) who falls for his brother’s new girlfriend (Lynskey), with potentially disastrous results. Then there’s the festival’s closing night film, The Intervention, actress Clea DuVall’s writing and directing debut, which screens at the Coolidge on May 4. Winner of the Special Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, her dramedy focuses on a weekend retreat for four couples (DuVall and Natasha Lyonne, Lynskey and Jason Ritter, Alia Shawkat and Ben Schwartz, Cobie Smulders and Vincent Piazza) that’s upended by the revelation that the trip was secretly designed to split up one of the pairs.
Though you may not see Lynskey at the festival itself, there will be a number of opportunities to engage with other notable names from the indie film scene. Specific guests from the opening and closing night films remain unconfirmed at press time, but Phillips (an IFFBoston alum for 2006’s Walking to Werner and 2010’s Bass Ackwards) will be returning to Boston to answer audience questions after the screening of Rainbow Time. Sophia Takal, another IFFBoston alum (she wrote, directed and starred in 2011’s festival favorite, Green), returns for the New England premiere of her latest acclaimed thriller, Always Shine (pictured), screening in Somerville on April 29. Takal directed from a script by her husband, Lawrence Michael Levine, who costars alongside Mackenzie Davis (AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire) and Caitlin Fitzgerald (Showtime’s Masters of Sex). And Ira Sachs—director of the tender, heartbreaking 2014 drama Love Is Strange starring John Lithgow and Alfred Molina—will be on hand at the Coolidge on May 3 to discuss his latest, Little Men, a drama involving 13-year-old best friends (Theo Taplitz and Michael Barbieri) whose bond is tested by their parents’ battle over a lease. Molina co-stars with Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle and Paulina Garcia.
On the documentary side of the festival, Joe Berlinger, the director of 2014’s Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger, will visit the Brattle on April 30 for the Massachusetts premiere of IFFBoston’s centerpiece film, Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru, which has Berlinger capturing the best-selling self-help speaker during his once-a-year “Date with Destiny” seminar.
Rounding out the festival is a film summit co-presented and hosted by UMass Boston, highlighted by a free screening and discussion of Roger Ross Williams’ Life, Animated on April 28. Sundance’s 2016 Directing Award winner for Documentary examines an autistic boy and his family, who communicate via a unique language spawned from dozens of Disney animated movies the child has memorized. And while you may not be able to create an entire language based on IFFBoston’s tremendous variety of viewing options, you’ll enjoy discussing and sharing them with a like-minded community of film fans just the same.
Independent Film Festival Boston runs April 27-May 4 at the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square, the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square, the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline and UMass Boston’s Campus Center Ballroom C in Dorchester. For a complete schedule and information on tickets, festival passes, memberships, filmmaker Q&A sessions, the film summit and other events, visit iffboston.org.