Montclair Film Festival 2017 Official Program: John Turturro, Bill Nye and More


Today, Montclair Film officially announced the full program for the 6th annual Montclair Film Festival (MFF), taking place April 28 – May 7, 2017 and featuring over 150 films, events, discussions, and parties, with over 150 filmmakers and industry guests attending including Zoe Lister-Jones (BAND AID), Michael Angarano & Ari Graynor (AVENUES), Stanley Nelson (TELL THEM WE ARE RISING), Jean Doumanian (UNA), Dolores Huerta (DOLORES), Steve James (ABACUS), Bettye LaVette (AMERICAN EPIC SESSIONS), Kenny Anderson (MR. CHIBBS), Azazel Jacobs (THE LOVERS), Oren Moverman (THE DINNER), Brett Haley (THE HERO).

Last night, at a preview party at Montclair Film’s new home, Investors Bank Film and Media Center, the festival’s executive director Tom Hall broke down festival highlights, talked more about the festival’s previously announced films, and shared some favorite films and events.

Special guests this year will include both John Turturro and Bill Nye who join Stephen Colbert in the festival’s 2017 Conversation Series, presented by Audible.

Montclair Film Festival

The 10-day festival starts on a high note, with STEP, a documentary about the struggles and successes of a step-dancing team of senior high school girls at a Baltimore school that was a huge hit at Sundance, to be screened at the Wellmont Theater, followed by an opening night party. The documentary follows the girls as they prepare to be the first in their families to go to college and the first graduating class of The Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women. “We’ve got 1700 seats at the Wellmont so invite your friends and make it a special occasion. I guarantee people will love it,” says Hall.


The festival’s Centerpiece Film, also at the Wellont, is Stanley Nelson’s TELL THEM WE ARE RISING, the story behind America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). Hall learned a lot by watching the film, including the rift between W. E. B. Du Bois and the federal government in setting up colleges. Following the film, the festival’s annual House Party also takes place at the Wellmont, promising a big dance floor and a great time.

Danielle Macdonald in PATTI CAKE$, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

PATTI CAKE$, the festival’s Narrative Centerpiece, is the story of young, up and coming hip hop artist wanna be from Bergen County, New Jersey. Danielle MacDonald, who plays aspiring rapper Patricia Dombrowski, a.k.a. Killa P, a.k.a. Patti Cake$, gives an incredible debut performance, says Hall, compared by some to Jennifer Lawrence.


Ending the festival is BAND AID, the closing night film from writer/director/star Zoe Lister-Jones about a young married couple who argue all the time and decide to work out their problems by starting a rock band with their weird next door neighbor Fred Armisen. “It’s a wonderful comedy about suburban marital life that will resonate very profoundly in Montclair,” predicts Hall.

Other don’t-miss events this year are the popular Conversation Series, presented by Audible. John Turturro, fresh on heels of The Night Of, (Hall joked that Turturro and his feet will be there) will be sitting down to talk with Stephen Colbert, as will Bill Nye The Science Guy, who will also be screening his new film followed by an extended conversation.

“PATTI CAKE$, Bill Nye, BAND AID are all back to back, so you could spend all your day at MFF and I promise you that it would be a really kick ass day,” says Hall.

Hall also recommended THE HERO starring Sam Elliott as an aging cowboy movie star who gets a cancer diagnosis and has to tell his family, saying it was “upbeat and wonderful,” despite the serious subject matter. He also singled out as a great drama, THE DINNER, a psychological thriller which features Laura Linney, as well as Richard Gere and Steve Coogan who play brothers in the film who have a secret.


Other festival highlights are the stunning new 4K restoration by the Museum of Modern Art and The Film Foundation of George Romero’s NIGHT Of THE LIVING DEAD and the family-friendly film INTO THE WHO KNOWS. Hall said the festival will offer a sensory-friendly screening of this film as well as SWIM TEAM, a movie about an New Jersey all star swim team of teens with autism.

Additionally, the festival will offer two special live music presentations. Thomas Lennon’s SACRED, featuring selections from the film’s score performed live under the direction of composer Edward Bilous in a post-screening presentation at the Alexander Kasser Theater at Montclair State University on Monday, May 1.

Then Legendary guitarist and songwriter Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth) will perform following the Friday, May 6th screening of Fred Riedel’s HELLO HELLO HELLO : LEE RANALDO : ELECTRIC TRIM.

When asked about hidden gems in this year’s schedule, Hall revealed what is probably his favorite film, LADY MACBETH, based on a Russian novel about a woman who is sold into marriage to a rich, older man and ends up taking over the family.

In the documentary category, Hall highlighted CITY OF GHOSTS a group of citizen journalists who take huge risks to blog about and expose the atrocities of ISIS in Syria and DOLORES, the story of the activism of Dolores Huerta, partner of Cesar Chavez. Huerta will appear in person at the festival.

For more details about the 2017 Montclair Film Festival, check out the list below and visit online at

Tickets for the Montclair Film Festival are available now for Montclair Film members, with public sales beginning Friday, April 7. Tickets and memberships may be purchased online at or by visiting the festival’s new Box Office, located inside the lobby of the Investors Bank Film & Media Center at 505 Bloomfield Avenue in downtown Montclair.


The Documentary Feature Competition features cinematic non-fiction films that examine the diverse possibilities of the form. The winning film in this category will be awarded the 3rd Annual Bruce Sinofsky Prize for Non-Fiction Filmmaking.

CASTING JONBENET, directed by Kitty Green
CITY OF GHOSTS, directed by Matthew Heineman
FOR AHKEEM, directed by Jeremy S. Levine, Landon Van Soest
THE REAGAN SHOW, directed by Pacho Velez, Sierra Pettengill
STRONG ISLAND, directed by Yance Ford

2017 Documentary Jury: Joe McGovern (Entertainment Weekly), Dan O’Meara (VP, Special Projects & Documentary, NEON), Rosie Wong (Sundance Film Festival)

The Fiction Feature Competition highlights the MFF’s most ambitious, auteur-driven fiction films.

AFTERIMAGE, directed by Andrzej Wajda

CLASH, directed by Mohamed Diab
THE COMMUNE, directed by Thomas Vinterberg
GOOK, directed by Justin Chon
LADY MACBETH, directed by William Oldroyd

2017 Fiction Jury: Arianna Bocco (EVP, Acquisitions, IFC Films), Ashley Clark (Critic), Robert Eggers (director, THE WITCH)

The Future/Now competition celebrates American, low-budget independent filmmaking by first or second time directors who are creating innovative, challenging films.

BEACH RATS, directed by Eliza Hittman
FITS & STARTS, directed by Laura Terruso

MENASHE, directed by Joshua Z. Weinstein
THE STRANGE ONES, directed by Dustin Guy Defa
PERSON TO PERSON, directed by Lauren Wolkstein, Christopher Radcliff

2017 Future Now Jury: Eliza Berman (Deputy Culture Editor, TIME), Holly Herrick (Head of Film & Creative Media, Austin Film Society), Dan Nuxoll (Artistic Director, Rooftop Films).

The New Jersey Films competition this year focuses on non-fiction films directed, produced by, or featuring New Jersey talent.

ACORN AND THE FIRESTORM, directed by Reuben Atlas, Sam Pollard
ALL WE NEED IS ANOTHER CHANCE, directed by Corbett Jones
SUPERGIRL, directed by Jessie Auritt
SWIM TEAM, directed by Lara Stolman

2017 New Jersey Films Jury: Raphaela Neihausen (Co-founder & Executive Director, DOC NYC, STRANGER THAN FICTION), Charles Poekel (director, CHRISTMAS, AGAIN), Tom Roston (Writer).

The winners, including the 3rd Annual David Carr Award honoree, will be announced on Saturday, May 6th. The festival’s Audience Awards will be announced on Monday, May 8th.


John Turturro, star of this year’s critical hit The Night Of, appearing in a Conversation moderated by Stephen Colbert on Sunday, April 30;

Jonathan Alter headlines the festival’s Conversation “True Or False? The Challenge of Reporting In the ‘Fake News’ Era” on Sunday, April 30;

Bill Nye, appearing with his new film BILL NYE: SCIENCE GUY, joining Stephen Colbert for an extended post-screening discussion on Saturday, May 6;

2017 Emerging Black Voices Fellows Iyabo Boyd (producer, FOR AHKEEM), Sabaah Folayan (co-director, WHOSE STREETS?), and Yance Ford (director, STRONG ISLAND), discussing their work on Saturday, May 6;

Thom Powers visiting Cinema505 at the Investors Bank Film & media Center for a live recording of his podcast Pure Nonfiction on Sunday, May 7;

The American Black Film Festival, gathering key alumni to discuss career-building for African Americans and the film festival experience on Sunday, May 7.

Additionally, the festival will open Cinema505, located inside the Investors Bank Film & media Center at 505 Bloomfield Ave in downtown Montclair, at 11:00 AM each weekend morning of the festival for complimentary coffee and moderated conversations, sponsored by Java Love Coffee Roasters.

Further Conversations may be announced at a later date.


Highlights from this year’s films playing out of competition include

ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL with director Steve James attending
AMERICAN EPIC SESSIONS, a sneak look at the upcoming PBS series AMERICAN EPIC, with singer Bettye LaVette attending
AVENUES, the directorial debut of star Michael Angarano (World Premiere), with Angarano and co-star Ari Graynor in attendance
BILL NYE: SCIENCE GUY, with Bill Nye attending and a post-screening Q&A with Stephen Colbert
THE DINNER, with writer director Oren Moverman attending
THE HERO, with director Brett Haley attending
THE LOVERS, with director Azazel Jacobs attending
MEGAN LEAVEY, directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite
PAINT IT BLACK, with writer director Amber Tamblyn in attendance
UNA, with producer Jean Doumanian in attendance for a post screening Q&A with Film4’s Daniel Battsek
WHOSE STREETS? with co-director Sabaah Folayan attending

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