His official title is executive director, but when it comes to the Montclair Film Festival, Tom Hall is all about being the perfect host, making sure every single person who attends the 10-day festival this year feels welcome.
“The only reason the Montclair Film Festival happens is because the audience shows up in the theater,” says Hall. “We’ve worked really hard to offer something for everybody and make screenings relatively affordable. If everyone in Montclair came to just one movie or free conversation, that would be amazing. And if someone doesn’t feel welcome, I want to know, so we can find out what we can do better.”
Yes, the festival is bigger (more screenings) and longer (by three days). The extra time give the festival “more bandwidth,” allowing for more screenings, so if moviegoers miss the first screening of a film, they get another chance. Hall says using the Wellmont more this year is also allowing MFF to bring the films to larger audiences.
Keeping the Festival affordable and accessible to more people is also important, says Hall. “We’re not about fancy black tie events. For relatively the same price as a movie, we bring in directors, actors and producers to speak after the film.”
This year, all of the “Conversations” that happen in the Audible Listening Lounge are “pay what you can” at the door. “We’re not charging because we want that space to become a community space, a place where people can come and hang out, ask questions and become involved in the festival,” says Hall. The Festival has talks with two Academy Award winning directors and has moved away from the panel format to focus on more one on one conversations, allowing for an intimate look at someone’s career and body of work.
Hall, who is father to two young children, is excited about involving schools this year in the Festival and other free family events and activities this year, but hopes to do more next year to expand family offerings.
What To See, How To Choose
This year’s film festival lineup packs plenty of star power (think Sally Field, Richard Gere, Al Pacino), but Hall says there a lot of films that are gaining attention, especially because of how timely they are, such as Peace Officer (which looks at the increased militarization of police) and The Armor of Light, which focuses on Reverend Rob Schenck’s crisis of conviction when he questions how could his stance on gun rights be consistent with his pro-life beliefs.
Hall, who fell in love with independent films when he first saw Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas, says audiences can expect to be surprised by two internationally important films: The Tribe (performed entirely in Ukrainian sign language with no subtitles because “for love and hatred you don’t need translation”) and Good Night Mommy, a narrative feature thriller about twin boys who know something isn’t right about Mom after she returns home from reconstructive facial surgery.
Closer to home, fans of Robin Williams will have the chance to see Boulevard, which features the beloved actor in one of his final film roles.
“Fans will see a very different role for him,” says Hall. “It’s a very humanistic, moving film for him to leave us with, as his character struggles with a life changing decision.”
New Guests Announced
The 2015 festival starts tomorrow, but new guests have just been announced. Director David Gordon Green, actor Dane Dehaan, and Montclair legend Olympia Dukakis will attend the festival to participate in Q&A sessions at festival screenings and conversations.
David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Prince Avalanche) will attend the festival on Saturday, May 9th to participate in a Q&A for his new film Manglehorn, screening that day at 6:45 PM at the Bellevue Theater.
Dane Dehaan (star of In Treatment, The Amazing Spiderman 2, Kill Your Darlings) will join Patrick Wilson for the festival’s annual Patrick Wilson & Friends conversation on Sunday, May 3rd at 1:00 p.m. at the Montclair Art Museum.
Olympia Dukakis (star of Moonstruck, Steel Magnolias) will attend the festival on Sunday, May 3rd to participate in a Q&A for her new film 7 Chinese Brothers, screening that day at 12:45 p.m. at the Bellevue Theater.