The Montclair Film Festival (MFF) is one of Baristanet’s favorite Montclair events — film, parties, and Montclair love all wrapped in in 10 days! With over 150 films and events to take place during the 5th annual Festival (April 29-May 8) it’s difficult to choose what to do and see (and to try and fit it all in!). We’re breaking down our top picks.
Here are Baristanet’s top film and event picks at the 2016 Montclair Film Festival:
Georgette Gilmore: It’s very hard to narrow down all that I want to see and attend at the festival, but I’ll narrow it down to five:
1) Life, Animated and the Opening Night Film Party at The Wellmont: MFF kicks off the 5th annual Festival with the real-life story of Owen Suskind, a boy with autism who couldn’t speak for years. Owen memorized dozens of Disney movies, and turned them into a language to express love and loss, kinship, and brotherhood. The inspirational doc is followed by a fun party with craft beer by the New Jersey Beer Co., cocktails, and desserts by The Little Daisy Bake Shop. It’s the perfect start to my favorite Montclair event.
2) In Conversation with Richard Curtis: MFF will honor writer, director, and producer Richard Curtis with screenings of his films and a live conversation moderated by Stephen Colbert. I adore Curtis’s films and am really looking forward to hearing him speak as well as seeing About Time on the big screen. Love Actually may be one of Curtis’s most beloved films, but, for me, About Time is his best. There’s time traveling and a love story, but the film shines with its message of being present and enjoying life’s moments. Of truly experiencing it and being present. Plus, it has a great soundtrack. I’ve seen the film 8 times, but never in a theater.
3) Joe’s Violin: The story of the unlikely journey of a violin – from a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor from Poland to a 12-year-old school girl in the Bronx — by Montclair filmmakers Kahane Cooperman and Raphaela Neihausen. I’ve been excited to see this doc since I wrote about the making of it here and, while its world premiere will be at the Tribeca Film Festival, there’s no better place ot see it than in the filmmakers’ hometown.
4) When Two Worlds Collide: This doc tells the story of the conflict in Peru when foreign companies came in for the extraction of natural resources on protected land occupied by indigenous Peruvians. The film was the winner of a World Cinema documentary competition prize for best first feature at Sundance in January and is edited by Montclair resident Carla Gutierrez.
5) House Party: I love to dance and the annual MFF House Party, a celebration of the strength and diversity of Montclair, is the place to do it. This year’s theme features a salute to MFF’s Centerpiece star, Miss Princess Shaw, and her hometown of New Orleans, with great food and drink, and a top DJ spinning R&B hits to help you dance the night away!
Rob Marzulli: In honor of Rob Reiner, my spiel “goes to eleven.” Here are 11 films/events I’d like to see at MFF:
- I was a big fan of All in the Family (the Sammy Davis Jr. scene is one of my all-time favorite TV moments), so the Conversation with Stephen Colbert and Rob Reiner, Meathead from All in the Family and director of some fun movies–This is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride, A Few Good Men, Misery–is an easy choice.Reiner’s new film, Being Charlie, is also screening at MFF. It’s about a politician’s son enrolled at an addiction center who falls in love with another patient. Together with Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You, a documentary about the genius who created those edgy sitcoms from the 70s, All in the Family, Maude, Good Times, and The Jeffersons, that should be enough to scratch my All in the Family itch.
- The Triplets of Belleville was good, so I’m hoping to score with another animated film from France–Phantom Boy–at the MFF. It’s about a boy, who because of an illness, becomes a ghostly creature. He teams up with a police officer to track down a gangster who has hijacked the city’s power supply.
- Another foreign film that sounds interesting is Sonita. The film is about an Afghan refugee living in Iran who dreams of becoming a rapper. Sonita fights the power by writing songs condemning a society filled with violence and oppression. Her family has other plans since she can nab them $9,000 as a bride. The documentary filmmaker Rokhsareh Ghaem steps out from behind the camera to become a participant in Sonita’s life.
- MFF has a lot to offer a kid who grew up in the 70s. Beside the Rob Reiner conversation/film and Norman Lear flick, two documentaries about musicians from that decade sound good. Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words uses a lot of archival footage, performances and news reels to put the man who gave us the Mothers of Invention and Joe’s Garage, among many other great pieces, into perspective. I discovered Syl Johnson through a Saturday afternoon rhythm and blues show on Columbia’s WKCR. Syl Johnson: Any Way the Wind Blows chronicles this influential singer/songwriter from the 60s and 70s who hailed from Chicago. He enjoyed a revival in the 80s and 90s when artists like Run-DMC, Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys and the Wu-Tang Clan sampled his work.
- A while back I worked at a non profit that helped paralyzed veterans, so MFF’s Thank You for Your Service looks like it’ll strike a chord. This film takes aim at conventional wisdom surrounding war trauma by telling the story of four Iraq War veterans as they try to come to terms with their health issues and systemic obstacles they face. Politicians like to promote a “tough guy” persona by sending troops to trouble spots around the globe, but often don’t pony up the resources needed to adequately help “those who have borne the battle.”
- I liked Fitzcarraldo and Nosferatu by director Werner Herzog, so I’m looking forward to seeing Lo and Behold the Reveries of the Connected World, also directed by Herzog. The film explores the origins of the Internet. Herzog travels to research labs, radiation-free communities (Quakers?) and homes changed by the Internet to explore how humans have used technology and have become engulfed by it. (Wait, I gotta check my cell phone.)
- Contemporary Color, produced by David Byrne, pairs musicians with a high school color guard troupe. Sounds like a cool spectacle. My last pick aims at comic relief. Twisted Humor Shorts features films about eccentric dog lovers throwing canine weddings (how does a dog throw a bouquet?), a world where adults have online ratings and a bickering couple tormenting their fellow patients in a “cuddle” therapy group. What’s not to like?
Annette Batson: I would like to see any and all the documentaries! These specifically look interesting:
Christina Gillham: I haven’t had time to view the whole list, but at first glance my picks are:
- Five Nights in Maine: I’ve always loved Dianne Wiest (and Maine).
- Newtown: As heartbreaking and sad as it will be, I think Newtown will be a powerful and important film that we should all see.
- In Conversation With Margo Martingale: I’ve always enjoyed her work.
Mimi Michalski: I wasn’t familiar with (all but one) of these movies so I skimmed through them all and a couple that caught my eye are:
- Beware the Slenderman: When this incident happened I was horrified and yet strangely drawn to the story – what would make supposedly normal girls try to kill one of their friends based on something they had seen online? I’d be really interested in learning more about the entire phenomenon of this Slenderman character as the news articles didn’t go into enough details to satisfy my morbid curiosity!
- Summertime: I always enjoy watching French films – they have a certain “je ne sais quoi” that sets them apart from American movies – more subtle and just… French. This one sounds as if it will be a thought-provoking love story; and will also have scenes in Paris and the French countryside that I will enjoy seeing. Plus I get to practice my French!
Steve Maginnis: I’m interested in two music documentaries:
- A Song For You: covers “Austin City Limits,” and that TV music show is becoming more essential by the year for featuring artists who are too non-commercial and too unhip to get mainstream radio airplay. Case in point: I just saw one edition of “Austin City Limits” featuring rock guitarist/singers Gary Clark, Jr. and Courtney Barnett, whose styles don’t fit contemporary tastes and so they are underexposed. If not for “Austin City Limits” (and public radio as well), few people would even hear of them.
- Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words: This should be interesting only because Frank Zappa was one of the most unique musicians in rock, known for his high-caliber guitar proficiency and his outrageous social commentary in satirical songs such as “America Drinks and Goes Home” (about the hypocrisy of straight, middle-class American values) and “I’m the Slime” (about television programming and how bad it is).
Liz George: “I deliberately went last and now it makes it even harder to choose after reading so many interesting picks. Beyond the fantastic events and closing, opening and centerpiece films, here are some other films I want to see:
The Greek in me has to see Chevalier (filmed in Greek with English subtitles). Part of the Narrative Feature Competition, Chevalier, directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari, put six friends together on a well-appointed yacht, and things go from playful to dark.
I can’t resist the chance to catch one of the great newspaper movies of all time — the special screening of the Film Foundation’s stunning digital restoration of The Front Page.
Then there’s Rob Reiner’s comedy drama Being Charlie, which delves into addiction, recovery, trust, privilege and the power of human connection.
Of course, Tickled because you had me at “a mysterious online tickling competition.”
Last but not least, there’s The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble, which brings back Oscar-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville (I loved 20 Feet from Stardom) to Montclair with a look at legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma who puts together what has been described as the “Manhattan project for music,” with the Silk Road Ensemble, bringing together people and connecting cultures through the language of music.
So there it is, Baristanet’s top picks. What are you excited to see or attend?