Bradley's Almanac

[It’s Here!] The 2011 Independent Film Festival Boston

Posted on April 27, 2011 at 10:54 am | No Comments

Happy IFFBoston Kickoff Day, everyone. Yes, today marks the start of the 2011 Independent Film Festival Boston with an opening night screening of “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey” at the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square. Eight days and over 100 carefully-chosen films from now, this 9th edition of the fest will wrap up with a showing of “Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop” in Coco’s hometown of Brookline. The documentary, which chronicles his 2010 unemployment live tour, closes things out at the Coolidge Corner Theatre on May 4th.

I get giddy about this event every single year, as the lineup announcement heralds the arrival of Spring and of a whole bunch of special films to the Boston area. Last year’s lineup was killer, with early looks at many movies that would go on to larger attention and acclaim. My personal 2010 highlights included “Winter’s Bone” (screened well before its summer U.S. rollout, and before all the potential Oscar talk, of course), “American: The Bill Hicks Story”, Katie Aselton’s “The Freebie”, Amber Benson & Adam Busch’s “Drones”, the fantastic doc “The Parking Lot Movie”, Jeunet’s magical “Micmacs”, and of course the music documentaries: “Searching For Elliott Smith”, and “Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields”. This year will have a tough time measuring up, but I’m ready to let it try. Running down what I’m most looking forward to, focusing on the music-related items first (y’know, ‘cuz that’s what I do)…

Color Me Obsessed: The Potentially True Story
Of The Last Best Band, The Replacements.

screening at 6:45pm on Thursday, April 29th
at the Somerville Theatre

The music documentary I’m most excited about this year is about one of my favorite bands of all-time, The Replacements. Actually, I should confess and say that I’m looking forward to seeing it again, since I was lucky enough to get an early viewing of the film when I volunteered to write up a synopsis for this years IFFBoston program guide. Here’s what I had to say (the online version was edited a bit, so here’s the original)…

For a certain segment of aging music fans, or kids with a hankering for musical history, the Replacements are Rock and Roll defined. The Minneapolis quartet took teenage punk attitude, threw it in a blender with classic and pop rock, then poured it straight into a middle-American pint glass. Over their 12-year existence, their live sets were either magical or a total mess – depending on your mood or their alcohol level – and quite often both. They were also responsible for hands-down the most ear-blistering show of my teenage years, the first that made me seriously consider buying earplugs.

Every one of their devotees has an anecdote like that, and there are a ton of them in Gorman Bechard’s fantastic new documentary “Color Me Obsessed: The potentially true story of the last best band, The Replacements.” This remarkably-told history of the ‘Mats takes us from their first local show as the Impediments, up through their 1991 on-stage breakup in Chicago, and everywhere in between. It’s a brave music doc, in that it eschews evidence of the band’s existence – no music, no live footage, no photos – and relies solely on fans and their well-kept memories, hilarious details, and differing points of views about the foursome, their wildly-varied discography, and their infamous antics.

And what list of fans Bechard has recruited: Influential and influenced musicians from Husker Du, Babes in Toyland, The Decemberists, The Hold Steady, Archers of Loaf, Titus Andronicus, Deer Tick, Shellac, and Boston bands The Neighborhoods and The Figgs. Respected writers including Jack Rabid, Legs McNeil, Robert Christgau, Jim DeRegotis, and another Bostonian, Brett Milano. Even random actors like George Wendt, Tom Arnold, and The Kids In The Hall’s Dave Foley. And importantly, sprinkled among that esteemed group are the less famous fans who end up offering the most insightful, heartfelt confessions of all. Follower or not, after taking in the film you’ll be ready to run home, find some ‘Mats albums, and put together a perfect soundtrack of your own.

“People always asked if we wanted to be the Beatles of comedy,
and we would say, ‘No, we want to be the Replacements’.”
– Dave Foley (The Kids In The Hall)

“Color Me Obsessed” director Gorman Bechard will be there for a post-screening Q&A.

“Following the Band: Docs that Rock” Panel
starting at 3pm on Friday, April 29th
at the MassArt Tower Building

As psyched as I am to have contributed that Replacements doc write-up, I’m even more honored (and more, uh, nervous) to be moderating one of the IFFB’s filmmaker panels this year. On Friday afternoon at MassArt, I’ll be helping out at the “Following the Band: Docs that Rock” panel. Joining me will be the aforementioned Gorman Bechard (director of “Color Me Obsessed”), Jeff Broadway (producer of “Cure For Pain: The Mark Sandman Story”), and Demian Fenton (co-director of “Last Days Here”, about Pentagram frontman Bobby Liebling). Looking forward to grilling those guys about their experiences, and hoping a solid crowd helps me out with some good questions.

“Cure For Pain: The Mark Sandman Story”
screening at 10pm on Friday, April 29th
at the Somerville Theatre

I’d like to be able to say I had beers with Mark Sandman, but I wasn’t old enough to drink when I met him in the late 80s on board a Burlington, Vermont ferry boat. Yeah, he was drinking, but I was just a wide-eyed kid interning for WIZN, the local rock station that was playing the hell out of Treat Her Right‘s “I Think She Likes Me“. They’d invited the unconventional Boston band up north to play what they called a “Blues Cruise”, so I took my dad with me and had a blast, working up the nerve to chat up Mr. Sandman after their set. He defined approachable cool for me, and defined Boston music for so many – the impact of his life and 1999 on-stage death on this town can’t be understated. This Friday night screening, which should be packed with his friends and many Morphine fans, is sure to be an emotional one.

Co-directors Robert Bralver and David Ferino, producer Jeff Broadway, and Mark’s Morphine bandmate and friend Dana Colley will all be hanging around afterwards for a post-film Q&A.


and a couple other music docs worth checking out…

Last Days Here
screening at 9:45pm on Friday, April 29th
at the Somerville Theatre

The story not just of Pentragram‘s lead singer, Bobby Liebling, but of super-fan Sean “Pellet” Pelletier and his attempt to get Liebling off drugs and back on stage with his pioneering 70s doom-metal band. Pellet and co-director Demian Fenton will both be at the screening for a Q&A.


Who Took the Bomp? Le Tigre on Tour
screening at 9:45pm on Saturday, April 30th
at the Somerville Theatre

Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill), J.D. Samson (MEN), and Johanna Fateman were Le Tigre, and this doc chronicles the trio’s final tour in 2004, incorporating both on-stage and backstage footage.


Some of the narrative feature films that jumped out at me…

  • “13 Assassins” – 8pm on Sunday @ the Brattle

    A samurai action film from director Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer, Audition)? Yes, please.

  • “Another Earth” – 7:30pm on Sunday @ the Somerville

    The New England premiere of a this sci-fi flavored drama, which had well-received screenings at Sundance and SXSW. Directed by Mike Cahill and starring co-writer Brit Marling along with William Mapother (Ethan from Lost).

  • “Bellflower” – 10pm on Saturday & 9:30pm on Monday @ the Somerville

    Guy with a Road Warrior fixation meets girl who can eat more crickets than he can. Directed by (and starring) Evan Glodell, who will be at the screening with co-star Tyler Dawson.

  • “The Future” – 7:15pm on Saturday @ the Brattle

    Director/star Miranda July’s first feature-length film since 2005’s “Me and You and Everyone We Know”. She’ll be here in person for a post-film Q&A.

  • “Littlerock” – 5:30pm on Sunday at the Somerville

    Two Japanese siblings get stuck in a small California town on their way from Japan to San Francisco. Star Atsuko Okatsuka will be at the screening.

  • “The Mulberry Tree” – 7:30pm on Friday @ the Somerville

    Shot entirely in Rhode Island and directed by Mark Heller, who will be at the screening along with actress Daniella Alonso. There’s also a chance that co-star Joe Morton (Brother From Another Planet, Eureka, Terminator 2) will be there as well, but don’t quote me on that. I’m a longtime fan of Joe’s work, so my fingers are very crossed.

  • “Oliver Sherman” – 8pm on Sunday @ the Somerville

    Starring a trio of my favorite actors, Deadwood alums Garret Dillahunt (who plays the title character) and Molly Parker along with Donal Logue. Director Ryan Redford and Dillahunt (who’s also been in “Winter’s Bone”, “The 4400”, “The Road”, and the Terminator TV show) will both be at the screening, where I’m sure Dillahunt will not creep me out in real life at all.

  • “On The Ice” – 9:30pm on Thursday & 12:45pm on Sunday @ the Somerville

    I’m a sucker for gorgeous icescapes, and this drama built around two Eskimo brothers takes place entirely in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost city in the United States. Director Andrew Okpeaha MacLean will be at one of the screenings (not sure which one yet), and I’m sure he has some great stories to tell.

  • “Terri” – 7pm on Tuesday @ the Stuart St. Playhouse

    Star John C. Reilly is, unsurprisingly, getting great early reviews for his role at an assistant principal in this high school-set dark comedy, which also stars Creed Bratten (yes, Creed from The Office).

  • “Trigger” – 4:45pm on Saturday @ the Somerville

    Really looking forward to this one, although not to the sadness that’s sure to seep in as I watch Tracy Wright’s final film performance (the actress, a frequent on-screen and in-person part of past IFFBostons, passed away last year). In “Trigger”, which makes its US premiere here, she stars with Molly Parker as friends reflecting back on their now-distant days in a Canadian rock band. IFFB fave Bruce McDonald directed the film, which also features appearances from Wright’s husband Don McKeller, Sarah Polley, and Callum Keith Rennie. Be sure to pick up a copy of this year’s official IFFBoston program guide, which will include a special tribute to Tracy Wright.

  • “The Trip” – 7:15pm on Friday @ the Somerville

    A follow-up of sorts to Michael Winterbottom’s 2005 comedy “Tristram Shandy”, it stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon reprising the (possibly) exaggerated versions of themselves from that film. Winterbottom sends the two on a road trip of Northern England and, no doubt, hilarity ensues.

  • “The Troll Hunter” – 9:30pm on Friday @ the Brattle

    I’m all in for a faux documentary about a man hunting trolls (yeah, trolls) in the wilds of Norway, and the student filmmakers who discover him. Director Andre Ovredal will be at the screening to tell us exactly how much D&D he played growing up.

  • “The Whistleblower” – 9:30pm on Tuesday @ the Stuart St. Playhouse

    A based-on-true-events drama about human trafficking, this one has a killer cast: Rachel Weisz, Vanessa Redgrave, Monica Bellucci, and David Strathairn.


    And finally, a few non-music documentaries that intrigue me…

  • “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey” – Opening night film
           7:30pm tonight @ the Somerville Theatre

    As the dad to an almost-4-year-old, I have a newfound appreciation for Elmo and his creator, puppeteer Kevin Clash. He’ll be at the screening (Elmo on hand) with director Constance Marks.

  • “Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop” – Closing night film
           8pm next Wednesday @ the Coolidge Corner Theatre

    Is there any chance this won’t be a great time? Nope, not really. A packed house of the hometown hero’s family, friends, and fans will get to see this documentary about last year’s traveling Coco roadshow. Director Rodman Flender will be there, and word is that advance tix are already way sold out. Keep in mind that there will be a last-minute rush line, so show up early to the Coolidge to take your chances.

  • “Convento” – 9:45pm on Thursday & 12pm on Saturday @ the Somerville

    A look at a family who has turned a Portuguese monastary into their own personal artistic playground, focusing on the son who reanimates dead animals using electronics. Not exactly standard documentary fare, which makes it all the more appealing, as does the promise of Larry Dolan’s score. Director Jarred Alterman will be in attendance at one (maybe both) of the screenings.

  • “Dragonslayer” – 9:15 on Friday @ the Somerville

    Throw the word “dragon” in the title of your film and I’ll probably investigate. Unlike “Troll Hunter”, this one’s title isn’t so telling – it’s a personal portrait of Josh “Skreech” Sandoval, an untethered skateboarder wandering through his world. Director Tristan Patterson will be in attendance.

  • “Heaven + Earth + Joe Davis” – 7pm on Friday @ the Brattle

    This one will be packed with MIT students & staff, for sure. From the IFFB site: “Follow MIT’s ‘free spirit’ as he digs through trash, encodes DNA with lines of poetry, and tries to send bacteria into space.” Director Peter Sasowsky will be at the screening, and he’s bringing Joe along with him.

  • “Ivan & Ivana” – 2:30pm on Sunday & 8:15pm on Saturday @ the Somerville

    Each year I ask the IFFBoston staff to recommend me special films that might not otherwise jump out at me, and this was one they gave me. I trust them implicitly, so check out the film’s synopsis and do the same. This is the films U.S. premiere, and director Jeff Silva will be at the screening for a Q&A.

  • “Make Believe” – 12:15pm on Sunday & 6:45pm on Monday @ the Somerville

    I’m a sucker for films like this (see: “Wordplay”). This one follows six burgeoning magicians as they compete to be Teen World Champion at the World Magic Seminar in Las Vegas. Director J. Clay Tweel will be at the screenings.

  • “Project Nim” – 5:30pm on Sunday @ the Brattle

    Directed by James Marsh, the man behind 2008’s excellent “Man On Wire”, this film is about a chimpanzee, Nim, who was the subject of 1970s experiment that attempted to socialize him with a human family. Nim’s best friend Bob Ingersoll will be at the screening to answer questions.

  • “Push: Madison vs. Madison” – 7:30pm on Saturday @ the Somerville

    A film with strong local ties, to say the least. Boston-based filmmaker Rudy Hypolite helms this in-depth look at Roxbury’s Madison High School basketball team and their coach, Dennis Wilson. Both Hypolite and Wilson will be at the screening (and you can bet that many of the students will be in the crowd, too).

  • “Superheroes” – 7:45pm on Sunday @ the Somerville

    Another film right in my geeky wheelhouse, director Michael Barnett documents the exploits and motivations of a bunch of real-life superheroes – not the quiet, behind-the-scenes kind, but the costume-wearing, danger-flirting kind. They’re out there, and Barnett will be at the screening to tell us even more about them.

  • “We Still Live Here” – 2:30pm on Saturday @ the Brattle

    150 years ago, the last known Wampanoag speaker died, and this film tells about the inspiration and efforts to revitalize this lost Native American language. Director Anne Makepeace chronicles the history and current state of the tribe, based in southeastern Massachusetts, and how the Wopanaak Language Reclamation Project is helping bring back their spoken word. Makepeace will be at the screening for a Q&A.


    Check out the links above to trailers and to pick up individual screening tickets, or grab full festival passes over here. One thing to note: If you get a message that says “There are no tickets defined” when you try to buy tickets to a film, that means advanced tickets are sold out (at the moment, it looks like the Conan O’Brien and Replacements documentaries are full up), so your only chance is to arrive early and wait in the rush line.

    There are a ton of films I wasn’t able to write about (I gave especially short-shrift to the short films), so make sure you do some digging of your own at the fest site. Every year there are films I regrettably ignore, or hidden gems I take a chance on that stay with me long after.

    Remember, the Independent Film Festival Boston is entirely non-profit, and put together by a volunteer staff of film lovers… so when you attend, treat those in staff t-shirts kindly (especially if they already look stressed out), and listen to anyone holding a walkie-talkie. Pick up some cool merch and a program guide to help fund the fest, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates.

    See you tonight over in Davis Square…

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  • About the ‘Nac

    This is Bradley's Almanac. I'm your host, Brad. Barely holding it together since February 2000.

    "I love this song. It's so true. I wish this song was a whole day long. Man, I would have the best day that day."
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