It may take a bit of star power to get vacationers off the beaches and into movie theaters, but the Nantucket Film Festival, celebrating its 18th season this year, knows how to combine show biz allure and indie cred. The NFF (running Wednesday through next Sunday) distinguished itself early on as a writer’s festival, emphasizing features and documentaries with strong scripts and its centerpiece event, the Screenwriters Tribute (Saturday). This year’s honoree is David O. Russell, who wrote and directed “Silver Linings Playbook” and “The Fighter,” among other films.
The fest also honors two-time Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple for Special Achievement in Documentary Storytelling. Kopple’s newest documentary is “Running From Crazy,” which follows actress Mariel Hemingway, granddaughter of writer Ernest Hemingway, as she explores her celebrated family’s history of mental illness and suicide. Kopple will present three screenings.
Lake Bell will be presented with the New Voices in Screenwriting Award. The writer/
actress makes her directing debut with “In a World. . . ,” a comedy about a young woman (Bell) breaking into the voice-over business. Bell will introduce her film at a screening on Friday.
Actress Glenn Close participates in one of the NFF’s signature events, In Their Shoes . . . With Chris Matthews, on Thursday, engaging in a one-on-one chat with the MSNBC host. Matthews will also interview Russell on Saturday.
Audiences have come to expect powerful documentaries at the NFF. The festival’s opening night selection is Morgan Neville’s “20 Feet From Stardom,” about some of the music industry’s unheralded but significant backup singers. Director Roger Ross Williams will introduce “God Loves Uganda” (Friday and Saturday), an investigative look at the complexities of the US evangelical movement in that country. Director Jim Bruce discusses his expose “Money for Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve” on Thursday and Saturday.
Vermont filmmaker Jay Craven presents “Northern Borders” (Thursday), his feature about a young boy sent to live on his grandparents’ Vermont farm in 1956. Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini will present their new comedy, “Girl Most Likely” (Saturday), starring Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening, and Matt Dillon.
The Nantucket festival boasts other signature events, including NFF board member Ben Stiller’s All-Star Comedy Roundtable (next Sunday) and Late Night Storytelling
(Friday ), which features unscripted, unpredictable stories on a theme — this year’s is The Great Escape — by writers, actors, filmmakers, and Nantucket islanders.
Shock and substance
Cinema Slumber Party, a summer series of sci-fi, horror, action, and cult midnight movies at the Somerville Theatre curated by local film maven Chris Hallock, isn’t just for the pleasures of schlock. On Saturday, Toronto-based film writer Alexandra West will give a lecture as part of the series, “Ghosts in the Machine: The Evolution of Found Footage Horror.” Hallock says the lecture includes conversations about such groundbreaking works as “Cannibal Holocaust” and “Paranormal Activity,” as well as the influence of Asian horror films like “The Ring.” West will stick around to introduce a midnight screening (separate admission) of that found-footage, shaky-cam classic “The Blair Witch Project.”
Those adventurous cinephiles at Channel Zero, celebrating its 18th year, present “The House of Rothschild” (1934) at its next event. Set in 1815, the film chronicles the rise of the Rothschild financial empire. George Arliss heads a cast that includes Boris Karloff, Loretta Young, and Robert Young. It screens July 12 at the Somerville.
RIFF hosts LeBron (on film)
“Losing LeBron,” a documentary about the impact that NBA superstar LeBron James’s decision to depart Cleveland and sign with the Miami Heat had on the city, will have its Boston premiere next Sunday at the Museum of Fine Arts as part of this year’s Roxbury International Film Festival. Two Boston-based filmmakers, Allyson Sherlock and Nicole Prowell Hart, began their documentary as a class assignment in the MFA program at Emerson College. The co-directors spent the 2010-2011 NBA season in Cleveland as they chronicled Akron, Ohio, native James’s relationship to Cleveland Cavaliers fans and the city itself.