Summer and the season’s destination film festivals are still months away, but there’s no reason to wait that long to see noteworthy independent films. Several festivals, series, and premieres are unspooling close to home in the coming weeks.
The National Center for Jewish Film at Brandeis University may be best known for its restoration and distribution of historical Yiddish films, but for 15 years it has also produced an impressive film festival. Drawing on knowledge of films and relationships with filmmakers, the festival “is an outgrowth of the work we do at the center,” says Lisa Rivo, co-director of the NCJF. “Curating a film festival is the chance to organically tie everything together.”
The National Center for Jewish Film’s 16th Annual Film Festival runs Wednesday through April 21 at the Museum of Fine Arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Kendall Square Cinema, and the West Newton Cinema.
German actress Barbara Sukowa, first introduced to audiences as the protégé of director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, plays the formidable title role in the festival’s opening night feature, “Hannah Arendt” (Wednesday at the MFA). Margarethe von Trotta’s biopic covers the tumultuous four-year period in the life of the philosopher and writer whose reporting on the 1961 trial of Nazi Adolf Eichmann for The New Yorker led to her famous concept of the “banality of evil.” Oscar nominee Janet McTeer costars as American author and critic Mary McCarthy. “Hannah Arendt” will screen with another New England premiere, Michael Prazan’s documentary “The Trial of Adolf Eichmann,” about the landmark trial held in an Israeli courtroom and broadcast around the globe. There is an encore showing of this double bill on April 21 at the West Newton Cinema.
Veteran Argentine-German filmmaker Jeanine Meerapfel is the festival’s special guest. She will premiere her new fiction feature, “My German Friend” (Thursday, MFA). Set in 1950s Buenos Aires, the film weaves postwar German and Argentine history and politics with romance. It will screen with Meerapfel’s acclaimed 1981 autobiographical documentary, “In the Country of My Parents,” an exploration of Meerapfel’s Jewish identity and the implications of her decision to move to Germany. Both films screen again on Saturday at the ICA and April 14 at West Newton.
Sharon Pucker Rivo and Lisa Rivo, co-directors of NCJF, will introduce and discuss the center’s new film restoration, “Kol Nidre” (April 21 at West Newton), a rare 1939 Yiddish musical-comedy-melodrama. It stars Lili Liliana and Leon Liebgold, the husband- wife Polish actors from “The Dybbuk,” with music by Sholem Secunda.
Lisa Rivo is particularly pleased that this year’s festival showcases four debut features, including the Boston premiere of “Fill the Void” (April 17, MFA), Rama Burshtein’s tale of 18-year-old Shira (Hadas Yaron), the youngest daughter of a deeply religious Hasidic family in Tel Aviv, who is about to be married. It’s also one of several films in the festival directed by women, a list that includes Franziska Schlotterer’s psychosexual drama “Closed Season” (April 14, West Newton), and French director Carine Tardieu’s “The Dandelions” (also April 14, West Newton), about a young girl in 1980s France who bonds with a wild new best friend and an eccentric psychologist.
For more information, go towww.jewishfilm.org.
Filmmaker Patrick Jerome launched the Boston International Film Festival 11 years ago, and it continues to showcase features, shorts, and documentaries from around the world. Running Friday through April 21 at the AMC Loews Boston Common theater, the 11th annual BIFF will showcase more than 100 films from 33 countries.
It’s not often that a film festival offers a film made by its founder, but on Saturday the BIFF presents Jerome’s 14-minute “Day by Day,” which he shot last summer in Haiti. Jerome was there with the Denver-based Living Closer Foundation, which supplied iPads to children in areas devastated by the 2010 earthquake. Jerome and other filmmakers instructed the children on how to make movies using the iPad. “This year is special to us because the festival’s mission is to bring communities together to create something positive,” he says. Other festival highlights include “A Man’s Desire for a Fifth Wife” (April 14), which is set in the aborigine culture in northern Afghanistan; and “Shudra: The Rising” a fictional film from India about 250 million ancient people who revolt against their oppressors. All features are paired with short films, and optional discussions follow each screening.
More at www.bifilmfestival.
Documentary pioneer and MIT professor Richard “Ricky” Leacock, who died in 2011 at 89, is considered a major force in shaping modern nonfiction cinema. Director and former Leacock student Jane Weiner will premiere her documentary “Ricky on Leacock” on Tuesday as part of the DocYard programming at the Brattle Theatre. Her intimate portrait blends footage that she shot over 38 years, including encounters with film luminaries such as Henri Langlois, Jean Rouch, Jonas Mekas, and Ed Pincus, scenes from Leacock’s cinematic adventures, and never-before-seen segments from his personal film archives. Weiner will be present for a post-screening Q&A moderated by the LEF Foundation’s executive director, Lyda Kuth. One of Leacock’s shorts, “A Hole in the Sea” (1994), will also screen.
More at www.thedocyard.com.
Avant-garde filmmaking legend Kenneth Anger will appear in person at Emerson College’s Paramount Center for ArtsEmerson’s “Men With Cameras” series. “The Magick Lantern Cycle” includes six of Anger’s groundbreaking films in two separate programs. “Lucifer: Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome” (1954); “Invocation of My Demon Brother” (1969), which features a soundtrack by Mick Jagger; and “Lucifer Rising” (1972) will screen on April 19 at 6 p.m. and again on April 20 at 9 p.m. Anger’s classic homoerotic short films, “Fireworks” (1947), “Eaux d’Artifice” (1953), and “Scorpio Rising” (1964), will screen April 19 at 9 p.m. and April 20 at 6 p.m. Anger will appear between screenings on April 20 to discuss his work. He will be in attendance on April 19, but no discussion is scheduled. The series concludes with Russian filmmaker Dziga Vertov’s 1929 experimental silent documentary, “Man With a Movie Camera” (April 21 at
1 p.m.), depicting a day in the life of the Soviet Union.
More at www.ArtsEmerson.org.
The eighth Annual Roving Eye International Film Festival, a collaboration between FLICKERS: Rhode Island International Film Festival and Roger Williams University, takes place April 14-19 and April 28. More than 40 international films will be showcased, many of them US premieres. All screenings are free to the general public and will take place on the Roger Williams campus in Bristol, R.I.
Local audiences will get a sneak peek at the Los Angeles-based program for children “My First Movies” when it debuts for a limited engagement at the Showcase Cinema De Lux at Legacy Place in Dedham, Saturday through April 28. This is an ongoing series that combines a live character host, Mitten the Kitten, with a movie presentation specifically designed for the 1- to 4-year-old set and their parents. Two of the films on the schedule are “Harry’s Big Birthday Countdown” and “Tilly’s Big Camping Adventure.” These animated films have no villains or scary concepts, and all of the presentations include songs, dancing, and audience interaction.
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Take a trip to an international art gallery this season courtesy of “Exhibition,” a special theatrical series that brings the world’s greatest art exhibitions to US cinemas. Three area cinemas — Regal Fenway Stadium 13, Revere Showcase, and Amherst Cinema — will participate in the series, which launches Thursday with “Manet: Portraying Life.” It features a career-encompassing collection of the works of Édouard Manet currently on exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. British documentary filmmaker Phil Grabsky shot the films, which include an in-depth look at the famed artworks, biographies of the artists, and behind-the-scenes footage as the museums mount the exhibitions. Serving as tour guide is the series’ host, art historian Tim Marlow, who will inform viewers a la Robert Osborne on TCM. The 150th anniversary of Edvard Munch is celebrated in “Munch: Munch 150” on June 27 as the National Museum and the Munch Museum in Oslo host this exhibition of the greatest number of Munch’s works ever. The final exhibition in the series, “Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure” (Oct. 10), comes from the National Gallery in London.
Tickets available at participating theater box offices and online at www.FathomEvents
Loren King can be reached at email@example.com.