Montclair Film Presents “The Black Monk”

BY  |  Wednesday, May 31, 2017 2:00pm

And now for some good Russia news: Anton Chekhov’s short story The Black Monk has been adapted into a meditative new film that Montclair Film is screening at Cinema 505 June 7 & 8.

The original story from 1893 concerns a scholar named Andrey Vasil’yevich Kovrin who retreats to his childhood home in the country and begins to have dark visions of a monk who convinces Korvin he is a divine figure chosen to save mankind. The tensions between his hallucinations and the woman who tries to tether him to reality put a strain on his already-fragile body and spirit. (Read the Chekhov story here.)

The 2017 film, made by Marylou and Jerome Bongiorno, recasts the story in the modern era and finds a struggling filmmaker under the sway of the titular monk. The challenges to his work and sanity set him on a path that “uncovers the meaning of life and a lost love.” Continue Reading

Catch Thelma & Louise and More at Montclair Film’s Cinema505

BY  |  Friday, May 19, 2017 11:56am

Montclair Film today announced the complete June 2017 film lineup for Cinema505, the organization’s new screening space located in the Investors Bank Film & Media Cen-ter at 505 Bloomfield in Montclair, NJ. June will feature two new ongoing series, Coming of Age in Sub-urbia, a retrospective of films about youth in American suburbs, and Filmmakers Local 505, a new initi-ative that partners with local filmmakers to showcase films by Montclair and other New Jersey artists. Finally, the lineup includes a special screening of the classic THELMA & LOUISE, co-presented by Watchung Booksellers, in conjunction with the launch of Off the Cliff: How the Making of Thelma & Louise Drove Hollywood to the Edge with author Becky Aikman in attendance for a post screening Q&A. Continue Reading

#MFF17 Patti Cake$ is Ultimate Jersey Film; Band Aid Offers Comedy with Some Sweet Surprises

BY  |  Monday, May 08, 2017 4:15pm

Patti Cake$ (2017)
Director: Geremy Jasper

Patti (Danielle MacDonald in a breakout performance) is an overweight, 23-year-old New Jersey girl who lives at home with her mother and ailing grandmother. Day and night she fantasizes about becoming a famous rap singer. It’s the only thing that seems to make her happy. Her neighborhood is lower income and bluer than blue collar. Patti’s mother is a hard drinking, bitter figure, who once had dreams of a singing career herself. She has little patience in supporting Patti’s own dreams because her prejudiced view of rap music is that it’s only fit for criminals and thugs. Patti spends time with her friend Jheri, an energetic Indian pharmacist, who backs Patti with his beats, comedy relief and pep talks. At a VFW local band night, they stumble upon outsider, and musical whiz, Bob (Mamoudou Athie in a quietly dynamic performance) an African American who dresses in black and has dreadlocks and facial piercings. Together these three pool their knowledge and talents long enough to record a demo CD called PBNJ. Patti even brings her wheelchair-bound grandmother, a scene stealing Cathy Moriarty, to help out on vocals. The group sells their demo and hits up every open mic they can find. It all builds up to a rap contest that’s hard not to be moved by. Continue Reading

Montclair Film Festival Announces Winners of 2017 Film Competitions

BY  |  Monday, May 08, 2017 3:51pm

The Montclair Film Festival (MFF) announced the winners of the 2017 film competitions at a ceremony held on Saturday evening at the MFF’s new home, The Investors Bank Film & Media Center. This year’s festival featured four competitive categories with five films in each: Fiction, Documentary, Future/ Now, and New Jersey Filmmaking. The 2017 festival featured over 150 feature and short films screened over ten days.

LADY MACBETH, directed by William Oldroyd, was awarded the festival’s Fiction Feature Prize with the actor Florence Pugh receiving a Special Jury Prize for her performance in LADY MACBETH.

STRONG ISLAND, directed by Yance Ford, took home the Bruce Sinofsky Award in the festival’s Documentary Feature competition. This award was established in memory of Bruce Sinofsky and was presented by Mr. Sinofsky’s daughter, Claire Sinofsky. A Special Jury Prize for Direction was awarded to Matthew Heineman for CITY OF GHOSTS.

BEACH RATS, directed by Eliza Hitman, was awarded with the Future/Now prize, honoring emerging low-budget American independent filmmaking, and SWIM TEAM, directed by Lara Stolman, took home the New Jersey Films Award, which honors a select group of films made by New Jersey artists, and an American Truth Seeker Award given by the jury to Reuben Atlas and Samuel D. Pollard for the film ACORN & THE FIRESTORM. Continue Reading

#MFF17: Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities

BY  |  Monday, May 08, 2017 9:00am

Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities — a documentary that chronicles the history of Historically Black College and Universities (HBCUs) — was well-received when it showed at the Montclair Film Festival on Friday night.

In our current climate — one in which the Secretary of Education wrongly called HBCUs “pioneers of school choice” and the President is questioning the Constitutionality of federal funding for Black colleges — it seems this film comes at a crucial time.

The strength of Stanley Nelson’s film, lies in the origin story. Using historic documents and photos, the film gives a comprehensive lesson of the struggle of Black people in a Post-Civil War America to get an education and the path that would lead to higher education for a people who were once denied the right to read.

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#MFF17 A Look at “Gook”

BY  |  Saturday, May 06, 2017 11:15am

Gook takes place over a single day and night, as riots erupted on the streets of L.A. after the Rodney King verdict was read in 1992. This small, personal, story focuses on two Korean American brothers, Eli (director Justin Chon) and Daniel, who own a rundown shoe store just outside Compton. The brothers argue, fight and ring up sneaker sales as they attempt to keep their failing business afloat. A preteen African American girl, Kamilla, is friendly with the brothers and cuts school to help out at the store. She feels like a member of a family with the squabbling siblings. More so than she does at home with her sister and street-hardened brother. As the King case unfolds on every TV and radio, tensions rise for the film’s characters as well. Clashes ensue with Latino gang members, a neighboring Korean liquor store owner, and, worst of all, Kamilla’s brother Keith. Late in the film it’s revealed that Keith’s mother and Eli’s father were dating and killed during a robbery while working at the shoe store. Although unjustified, Keith still feels hatred towards the brothers for the loss of his mother. When he learns that little sister Kamilla has developed a brotherly bond with Eli his anger gets the best of him. Simone Baker’s performance as young Kamilla is the film’s best turn.

The film’s touchstones seem to be Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing and the French La Haine (Hate). Gook was shot in black and white (like La Haine) and while some scenes have a nice look, many others are shaky in composition. The soundtrack has the expected rap but also some R&B and slower songs. A nice, slightly surreal, scene has the two brothers and Kamilla dancing in sync to Hall & Oates’ Maneater. It’s a rare purely light moment in this dramedy that has a lot of heart, anger and energy.

#MFF17 – “A Life in Waves” Hits All The Right Notes

BY  |  Thursday, May 04, 2017 4:45pm

“That’s what women did back then. They had to be better.”
– Suzanne Ciani

“A Life in Waves,” a music documentary, tells the story of Suzanne Ciani. A name you may not be familiar with. But chances are you know her work very well. She began playing playing piano at a young age, but during her college years a new instrument called to her. She fell in love with synthesizer (or synth) and electronic music the instant she heard it. Although keyboards had been invented years earlier the machine that she played, called a Buchla, looked like a huge telephone switchboard from the 1940’s. It has various colored cables connecting one module to another, flashing lights, and an endless sea of knobs and dials to control it all. Its limitless options separated it from traditional keyboards. Ciani’s natural ability to twist and distort sounds wasn’t terribly commercial until she did something no one else had done. She gave the sounds musicality. It was a serendipitous moment where Ciani’s talents converged with breaking technology. She set out to give the world something they didn’t know they wanted. In the 1980’s, the advertising business was male dominated and Suzanne was often brushed aside. Despite her sweet personality and nerdy attitude she was able to forge ahead because she never doubted her own talent. “That’s what women did back then. They had to be better.” she explains. Early in her career she was asked to help out on a TV commercial for Coke. The ad played nationwide and was a huge hit. Suddenly the list of companies vying for her new, space age, electronic sound was endless. If you’re over the age of 30 there’s no doubt you’ve heard her work. From there it was onto more personal albums, concerts, Grammy awards and even sounds for a pinball machine (Xenon, anyone?). Closing scenes show Ciani welcomed by synth fans eager to meet and learn from a pioneer of modern electronica music. Continue Reading

#MFF17 Diary: Opening Night’s Triumphant ‘Step,’ Then ‘The Dinner,’ ‘Casting JonBenet’

BY  |  Tuesday, May 02, 2017 2:43pm


Montclair Film Festival truly started off with a bang — when a group of powerful young women, the “Xinos Step Team” from Hillside High School, NJ, took the stage by storm and represented the art of stepping to an appreciative crowd at the Wellmont Theater. Their opening number blew away the crowd, a packed house gathered to see the Festival’s opening night film “Step,” which documents the inspiring lives of another group of girls on a step dance team, in their senior year at an all girls’ high-school in inner-city Baltimore, all trying to become the first in their families to attend college.

Girls step team from Hillside, NJ open #mff17 @montclairfilm

A post shared by Baristanet (@baristanet) on

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Montclair Film Festival Local Spotlight: Liz Samuel’s MOMTRESS

BY  |  Wednesday, Apr 26, 2017 1:15pm

Local actor Liz Samuel can now add screenwriter and film producer to her credits with the Montclair Film Festival (MFF) premiere of MOMTRESS, a short film wholly made in Montclair. Inspired by last year’s MFF NJ Shorts screening, Samuel decided to take the leap into writing, producing, and acting in her own short film instead of waiting for the perfect role to appear.

Samuel’s film reflects her own experience trying to juggle an acting career with raising a family. Trips into New York City for auditions and film shoots end up sandwiched between school hours and activities, all the while memorizing lines and trying to remain “present” for her family. With a spouse who often travels, it becomes a “crazy balance” dependent on smooth commutes and appointments fitting neatly into place. Most Montclair residents know those expectations doesn’t always resolve themselves easily, even for the most well-organized commuters.

As a long-time actor, Liz Samuel knew a lot about what to expect from her first writing/producing experience, but the amount of time it took to edit the short film surprised her. What began as an expected six-week editing session took almost three months. It all came down to the details, Samuel explained, “We had so many edits to the project to get the right moments, the right music, the right tone, the right feel.” Continue Reading

Montclair Film Festival: What’s Playing at Montclair’s Biggest Screen, The Wellmont Theater

BY  |  Monday, Apr 24, 2017 3:45pm

Montclair Film Festival starts this weekend. Here are the films and events that will be featured on Montclair’s biggest screen, The Wellmont, where there are also the most seats available.


Opening Night Film: STEP
Directory Amanda Lipitz documents “Lethal Ladies” step dancing team of the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women and the team’s high-stakes senior year of high school in inner-city Baltimore. Friday, April 28, 7:30 p.m.

The Hero

Director Brett Haley (I’ll See You In My Dreams) triumphs with a beautifully crafted story about an aging film star (Sam Elliott) looking for a new role to play. This unforgettable story is about the roles and responsibilities that shape our lives. Saturday April 29, 6:00 p.m. Continue Reading

Featured Comment

Sad. Let's hope that this is not its "Last Tango." One of the most beautiful and iconic buildings in town. Valentino, Garbo, Keaton must have played there.

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