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Provincetown readies spotlight

Stars and directors fill 13th bill: Turner, Farmiga, Aronofsky, Maysles

Kathleen Turner (pictured, in “The Perfect Family’’) and Vera Farmiga (directing and starring in “Higher Ground’’) will both attend the Provincetown International Film Festival this month, with Farmiga also receiving the Excellence in Acting award. Kathleen Turner (pictured, in “The Perfect Family’’) and Vera Farmiga (directing and starring in “Higher Ground’’) will both attend the Provincetown International Film Festival this month, with Farmiga also receiving the Excellence in Acting award.
By Loren King
Globe Correspondent / June 5, 2011

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Some come for the parties, some to stargaze. And the wattage is high, with Oscar-nominated actresses Vera Farmiga, Kathleen Turner, and Abigail Breslin, “Black Swan’’ director Darren Aronofsky, and US cinema legend Albert Maysles on the bill. But mostly, audiences flock to the Provincetown International Film Festival for the films. And that’s just the way artistic director Connie White likes it.

“I was a juror for the Florida Film Festival this year and I thought about what it’s like to sit through all these films,’’ she says. “It’s important to me that we make sure all our films are solid, that we offer a really good selection of the best that’s out there and we remain true to our mission.’’ White credits fellow programmers Andrew Peterson, Lisa Viola, and Jared Earley with assembling “a diverse and satisfying selection of feature length and short films’’ among the more than 50 festival entries this year.

Since its inception, 13 years ago, PIFF (June 15-19) has mirrored itself on its seaside home, easily mixing high art and lowdown fun. There’s nothing quite like PIFF’s Night at the Wellfleet Drive-in (mainly because so few towns still have a drive-in). This year’s Night at the Drive-in (June 16) features a monster double bill of a new print of James Cameron’s “Aliens’’ (1986) and André Ovredal’s “Trollhunter’’ (2010).

On opening night, “The Perfect Family’’ will bring its star, Turner, and director, Anne Renton, to town to showcase their film about a suburban mother and devout Catholic (Turner) whose nonconformist family threatens to ruin her bid for the Catholic Woman of the Year title in her parish. The film costars Emily Deschanel, Jason Ritter, Sharon Lawrence, and Richard Chamberlain. It will be Turner’s second trip to the PIFF. In 2007, she was feted by the festival’s head cheerleader and its first Filmmaker on the Edge Award recipient, John Waters, at the double feature screening of “Serial Mom’’ and “War of the Roses’’ at the drive-in.

Another festival tradition is “John Waters Presents . . . ’’ featuring the director of “Hairspray,’’ “Female Trouble’’ and other cult classics screening one of his favorite films. This year, Waters shows 2010’s “Domaine’’ (June 19), directed by Patric Chiha, about an unusually close relationship between an alcoholic mathematician (Béatrice Dalle) and her gay teenage nephew.

Broadway actor and director Lonny Price will attend the fest with the closing night selection, “Master Harold and the Boys’’ (June 19). Price has a long history with Athol Fugard’s acclaimed anti-apartheid play, having starred as Hal (Master Harold) in the 1982 Broadway premiere. His film stars Ving Rhames and Freddie Highmore.

Other highlights include “Janie Jones’’ starring Breslin and Alessandro Nivola (June 17-18); the New England premiere of Mathieu Amalric’s 2010 Cannes hit, “On Tour’’ (June 16, 18); the Sundance hit from Norway, “Happy, Happy’’ (June 16,18); Céline Sciamma’s “Tomboy,’’ from France (June 18-19); “Circumstance’’ (June 17, 19) with Iranian director Maryam Keshavarz in attendance; and “Higher Ground’’ (June 18-19), the directing debut of Farmiga, who also stars as a woman at a spiritual crossroads.

Farmiga, this year’s Excellence in Acting honoree, says she is “tickled pink’’ to be making her first trip to Provincetown. “The festival’s reputation precedes itself in its motto to push boundaries and in its pride at being diverse,’’ she says. “I’ve tried to approach what I do as a vocation with the same spirit of vitality and variety. . . . It’s been great fun to have had such a mixed bag of a career, and I feel blessed to have worked with and been inspired by visionary directors with bold voices. It’s fantastic to receive a pat on the back.’’

With direct cinema pioneer Maysles on hand to accept the PIFF Career Achievement Award, it’s fitting that this year’s festival has a stellar lineup of documentaries. Maysles’s own classics, made with his late brother, David, will screen as a retrospective: “Gimme Shelter’’ (1970), “Salesman’’ (1968), and “Grey Gardens’’ (1976). New documentaries include Errol Morris’s “Tabloid’’ (June 17, 19); Bill Haney’s “The Last Mountain’’ (June 17-18); Andrew Rossi’s “Page One: Inside the New York Times’’ (June 17-18); Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s “Becoming Chaz’’ (June 17-18); and the fest’s Saturday Spotlight, Adam Pesce’s “Splinters’’ (June 18-19), about surfing culture in Papua New Guinea.

The festival’s centerpiece event is a Conversation With Honorees (June 18) at newly renovated and air-conditioned Town Hall. “We have our heart and soul back,’’ says White about the landmark building that has been under repair for the past three seasons. It features one-on-one chats between Filmmaker on the Edge awardee Aronofsky and Waters; Farmiga and journalist B. Ruby Rich; and Maysles and filmmaker Annie Sundberg (“Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work’’ and this year’s festival entry, “Burma Soldier’’).

For more information and tickets go to www.ptownfilmfest.org.

Emerging from Emerson This year’s final Emerging Filmmakers series, curated by Jeff Silva at the Boston Center for the Arts, showcases works by Emerson graduate Benjamin Brewer on June 9 at 7 p.m. Brewer’s first film, “Beneath Contempt,’’ which screened at the Slamdance Film Festival and the Independent Film Festival of Boston, explores the aftermath of a drunken driving accident that kills three teens and sends one to prison. The series, free and open to the public, is at the Calderwood Pavilion, 527 Tremont St. For more information, go to www.bcaonline.org/community/programs/emerging-filmmakers-series.html.

Of Mods and men The West Newton Cinema, which is always worth the trip, will screen Craig Teper’s documentary, “Vidal Sassoon The Movie,’’ on June 14 at 7 p.m. The screening is hosted by the Boston Jewish Film Festival. The film played a sold-out engagement there last year. The documentary traces Sassoon’s rise from his impoverished London childhood in a Jewish orphanage to the swinging ’60s, when he became the most influential hairdresser in the world. For more information, go to www.bjff.org.

Loren King can be reached at loren.king@comcast.net.

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