Boston festivals show global reach

Uma Thurman stars in “Motherhood,’’ the opening movie for the 25th Boston Film Festival. Uma Thurman stars in “Motherhood,’’ the opening movie for the 25th Boston Film Festival. (Jojo Whilden)
By Mark Feeney
Globe Staff / September 13, 2009

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What do Uma Thurman, Stanley Donen, James Ellroy, and the CEO of Stonyfield Farm have in common? They’re all part of this fall’s lineup of local festivals and special film events.

TELLURIDE BY THE SEA, Sept. 18-20, Portsmouth, N.H. The other, non-coastal Telluride Film Festival takes place over Labor Day weekend in Colorado. Six films that were screened there are then shown in Portsmouth. Two shorts and a quartet of biopics make up this year’s bill. “Coco Before Chanel’’ stars Audrey Tautou as the designer. “The Last Station’’ offers Christopher Plummer as the novelist Leo Tolstoy, and Helen Mirren as his wife. A very different sort of writer, the poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw), is the subject of Jane Campion’s “Bright Star.’’ And Marco Bellocchio’s “Vincere’’ tells the story of one of Benito Mussolini’s mistresses. The Music Hall, Portsmouth, N.H.,

BOSTON FILM FESTIVAL, Sept. 18-24 The festival celebrates its 25th anniversary with a weeklong program of more than 40 screenings. The opening-night film is “Motherhood.’’ The indie comedy about a mother trying to organize a birthday party for one of her two young children stars Uma Thurman, the recipient of this year’s Film Excellence Award from the festival. Other titles include Phillip Guzman’s “Desdemona: A Love Story,’’ about a dying Mexican immigrant, Bette Gordon’s “Handsome Harry,’’ about a Vietnam vet who must confront his past, and John Schwert’s “In/Significant Others,’’ which looks at a murder investigation from multiple angles. Kendall Square Cinema,

NEWBURYPORT DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL, Sept. 25-27 Nineteen documentaries, some as short as six minutes, are on the schedule for this sixth gathering of nonfiction film on the North Shore. Subjects range from fashion photography (“Shooting Beauty’’) to Africa’s Niger delta (“Sweet Crude’’), from campus custodians (“The Philosopher Kings’’) to a famous singer’s most famous concert (“Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison).’’ Various locations in downtown Newburyport.

GLOBAL VOICES, Oct. 8-11 For the eighth time, the United Nations Association of Greater Boston and the Harvard Kennedy School New England Alumni Association join forces to present a gathering of international documentaries. “Tapped’’ examines water-use issues. “Immokalee USA’’ looks at the migrant farm laborers working in the Florida town of the title. Filmmaker Anne Aghion will attend the screening of her “My Neighbor, My Killer,’’ about the emotional legacy of the Rwandan genocide. Harvard Film Archive, Kennedy School of Government, Brattle Theatre.

NEW HAMPSHIRE FILM FESTIVAL, Oct. 15-18 Portsmouth plays host to more than 50 screenings, along with workshops, parties, and roundtables. This year’s festival concludes with one of the season’s more intriguing pairings of film and commentator: the much-discussed documentary “Food, Inc.’’ and Stonyfield Farm CEO Gary Hirshberg. Various venues in Portsmouth.

BOSTON PALESTINE FILM FESTIVAL, Oct. 16-Nov. 1 Now in its third year, the festival comprises documentaries, feature-length dramas, and shorts that offer “authentic Palestinian perspectives, experiences, and culture.’’ Highlights include Najwa Najjar’s “Pomegranates and Myrrh,’’ about a dancer whose husband is in prison, and “American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein,’’ a documentary about an anti-Zionist American academic who’s the son of Holocaust survivors. Museum of Fine Arts, Kendall Square, Harvard University, Boston College.

BOSTON JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL, November 4-15 This is the 21st year the festival has been presenting films from around the world on contemporary Jewish themes. Titles to be screened include Andrey Khrzhanovsky’s “Room and a Half,’’ Ori Ravid’s “Eli & Ben,’’ André Téchine’s “Girl on a Train,’’ and Marleen Gorris’s “Within the Whirlwind.’’ Museum of Fine Arts and other Greater Boston venues,

HFA’s 30th anniversary
In addition to festivals, some other notable local film events are in the offing. The Harvard Film Archive celebrates its 30th anniversary in December. Two events on the HFA calendar stand out: a Sept. 25 screening of Preston Sturges’s classic “Sullivan’s Travels,’’ followed by a discussion of the film with cultural critic Greil Marcus and Harvard literature professor Werner Sollors; and a monthlong retrospective of the films of director Stanley Donen in October. Donen will be present on Oct. 9 and 10.

At the Brattle Theatre, novelist James Ellroy reads from his latest novel and introduces a screening of “L.A. Confidential’’ (based on one of his earlier novels) Sept. 23. Series of note include Artists on Film, Sept. 25-Oct. 1; Films of Mystery & Madness: Edgar Allan Poe on Screen, Oct. 2-13; and Boston Noir, Oct. 16-29.

Mark Feeney can be reached at

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