Independents Days

Despite difficulties, IFFBoston is still the reel deal in its 12th year.


With more ways than ever to consume movies—from the popcorn-strewn floors of the local multiplexes to Netflix and Hulu, On Demand and even BitTorrent (not that you’d know anything about that, aye, mateys?)—what’s the point of gathering for a weeklong film festival?

It all boils down to community, according Brian Tamm, managing director of the Independent Film Festival Boston, the pre-eminent event of its kind in New England. The 12th annual IFFBoston takes place April 23-30, spanning venues in Somerville, Cambridge and Brookline.

“The films bring people together, but it’s also about connecting with the filmmakers and connecting with each other,” Tamm says. “Whether it’s about something that’s very local, like the Aaron Swartz documentary”—The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, Brian Knappenberger’s look at the Reddit co-founder and Harvard fellow who took his own life, screening April 28 at the Somerville Theatre—“or whether it’s something broader than that, it’s about people coming together in a room and having an experience together, and then sharing it.”

It’s also about discovery, according to Nancy Campbell, a former managing director and
IFFBoston’s newly minted program director (taking over for Adam Roffman, who still serves in an advisory role). “We definitely want to celebrate the works of people who are masterful at what they have done, but it’s great to engage people with new work,” Campbell says.

“Everyone has had that experience where they’ve seen a movie, and they think, ‘Oh my god, I need to tell everyone about this,’ and this festival is all about that feeling, but on a much bigger scale,” Tamm adds.

“I think it’s amazing when you have Brian Cox, or Ben Kingsley or Kevin Kline,” Tamm continues, naming a few of IFFBoston’s notable past guests, “and you bring them into the Somerville, which is a hundred years old, and they feel something special in that. Or they come to the Brattle, or the Coolidge—whether they’re from Brooklyn, or from LA—and they really feel that we have these special places here, and you have a lot of civic pride about it. When you hear ‘Oh, I had no clue that this is what Boston is like; I just pictured it being like The Town or Good Will Hunting,’ they begin to see us more as we really are.”

A couple of those enlightened visitors are Maine-based filmmakers Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet, who will be on hand for the opening night film, Beneath the Harvest Sky (screening April 23 at the Somerville Theatre), their Maine-set movie featuring teens who long to move to Boston.

The closing night selection will be Mood Indigo (screening April 30 at the Coolidge Corner Theatre). Directed by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind filmmaker Michel Gondry, it stars Audrey Tautou as a woman who suffers an unusual illness stemming from a flower growing in her lungs.

In between are 25 other narrative features (including Boyhood, Richard Linklater’s 12-years-in-the-making Sundance sensation, screening April 25 at the Somerville Theatre). But documentary films also make a strong showing. “We’re a documentary town,” Campbell says. Since three of the five nominees for Best Documentary during the most recent Oscars were from filmmakers who honed their craft in Boston, it’s hard to argue with her assessment, or with the compelling list of 30 documentaries that IFFBoston is presenting, such as Fight Church (screening April 24 and 26 at the Somerville Theatre), which grapples with pastors who moonlight as MMA fighters.

In addition to the features, there will be eight packages of short films. Although both narrative and docs are equally represented here, there won’t be any animation offerings.

“Everybody enjoys animated shorts, but the problem is that we’re shorthanded this year,” Campbell admits. “It’s important to recognize that we are doing this with nothing. We don’t even know if we’re going to be able to put the festival on next year. And this is the story that we tell every year. There’s a certain sense of desperation that we won’t be able to continue doing this, and it’s important that people know.”

The usual core group of five volunteer staff (who all have day jobs, mind you) is down to three this year. Beyond Campbell and Tamm, there’s spotlight-shunning associate director Judy Wong; former volunteer staffers Dan McCallum and Christine Harbaugh will rejoin them during the eight-day festival itself.

“It’s been difficult,” Campbell says with a sigh.
“It feels like we are doing more with less every year, and it’s not a game of Jenga that we can continue playing without help.”


Independent Film Festival Boston
April 23-30 at the Somerville Theatre, the Brattle Theatre and the Coolidge Corner Theatre. For a complete schedule and information on tickets, badges, visiting filmmakers and festival parties, visit


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