IFFB still Boston’s premiere indie film fest

The Independent Film Festival of Boston has made it to the age of 13, and it’s looking stronger than ever. Last year, you could have seen “Boyhood,” “Obvious Child,” and other soon-to-be hits well in advance of their theatrical releases. This year, the IFFB remains the city’s premiere curated festival for new independent movies, combining buzz films from Sundance, South by Southwest, Berlin, and other festivals with discoveries by the IFFB’s own programmers. The 2015 lineup includes 53 feature films and 44 shorts unspooling over eight days beginning Wednesday, mostly at the Somerville Theatre but also at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, the Brattle in Cambridge, and UMass Boston.

In addition, IFFB 2015 will host the inaugural IFFBoston/UMass Boston Film Summit, featuring two days of screenings, panels, and workshops spotlighting local filmmakers. All this, plus the usual parties, panels, visiting directors, and local heroes, like caustic Boston comedian Barry Crimmins, whose life and career get a galvanizing look in Bobcat Goldthwait’s “Call Me Lucky.” He is, and so are we.

Here are some of our picks. More information at



  • The festival’s opening-night film was one of the unexpected pleasures of Sundance this year: a dramatic re-creation of a 1996 road trip in which journalist David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) interviewed and philosophically wrestled with the late, great author David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel). Think of the ways this project could have gone wrong and then marvel at how much it gets right, especially Segel’s wonderful performance as Wallace: verbose, regretful, shambolic, above all honest about the separate businesses of writing and living. Segel and director James Ponsoldt (“The Spectacular Now”) will be in attendance. (April 22, 7:30 p.m., Somerville Theatre)



  • A lean revisionist western from first-timer John Maclean, this carries echoes of both last year’s “The Homesman” and Sergio Leone’s epic sagebrush pop-art. Michael Fassbender plays an Eastwood-esque Man with No Name reluctantly accompanying a young Scottish fop (Kodie Smit-McPhee) across the prairies of 1870 America in pursuit of the fop’s lost love (Caren Pistorious). Elegiac, bloody, and often quite funny, it sees the American West as an underpopulated landscape of predators and victims, with a lingering sadness concerning the high body count necessary for civilization to take root. (April 23, 7:15 p.m., and April 25, 7:30 p.m., Somerville Theatre)



  • From the wilds of western Massachusetts comes this low-budget, quirkily charming black comedy about a rap-loving local farmer (Bob Tarasuk, hopefully not playing himself) who’s going round the bend from bad luck and his own bad temper. His favorite cow is sick, the stand of trees he’s logging is infested with ants, his wife and son are losing patience, and Bob is threatening to go DeNiro. Moviemaking doesn’t get more farm-to-table than this, a deadpan but loving depiction of a tenacious way of life and one character chafing away in it. (April 26, 3:15 p.m., Somerville Theatre)



  • For the Centerpiece Spotlight of the IFFB, we have a homecoming: a documentary about the unstoppable Boston area comic Barry Crimmins. Director Bobcat Goldthwait is a comedian himself, but the movie is essentially serious — if occasionally seriously funny — as it surveys Crimmins’s groundbreaking work in creating the Boston stand-up scene of the 1980s before detailing his political activism, his coming to terms with childhood abuse, and his vocal stands against the Catholic church and Internet child pornography. Video of Crimmins on Capitol Hill taking senators to task is a highlight. Both director and star will be present at the screening, making this an absolute can’t miss. (April 25, 7 p.m., Somerville Theatre)



  • Lo-fi auteur Andrew Bujalski (“Funny Ha Ha,” “Computer Chess”) inches closer to the mainstream with a droll, endearing romantic comedy about pumped-up misfits. Small-town gym owner Guy Pearce and his best trainer Cobie Smulders are in top physical condition and at rock-bottom in terms of making their lives work, alone or together. Along comes a paunchy newfound millionaire (Kevin Corrigan) who decides to get in shape mostly because he’s bored. Moving to the eccentric rhythms of Bujalksi’s skewed worldview, it’s a lower-case delight and a reminder that Smulders is capable of more than “Two and a Half Men.” (Although here it’s more like one and a half men.) (April 23, 7 p.m., Brattle Theatre)



  • From filmmaker Mia Hansen-Love (“Goodbye First Love”), the wife of director Olivier Assayas, comes a decades-spanning history of electronic dance music as seen through the eyes of one DJ (Felix de Givry) as he evolves from French club brat to master of the international house scene. The soundtrack is great, as you’d expect, and it’s fun to see actors playing such stars of the scene as Daft Punk (sans helmets). The problem is the movie’s hero, who’s not very likable and, worse, not very interesting. (April 23, 9:45 p.m., Brattle Theatre)



  • A minor-key entertainment in the Noah Baumbach vein: Taylor Schilling (“Orange Is the New Black”) and Adam Scott (“Parks and Recreation”) play a couple new to parenthood and new to LA who meet the bizarro couple down the block, played by Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godreche. A long night of party games and increasingly baffling behavior ensues. It doesn’t add up to a lot, but Schwartzman has never been funnier, and writer-director Patrick Brice gets it done in 80 fleet, funny minutes. (April 24, 7:30 p.m., Somerville Theatre)



  • All the partisan rancor, pettiness, and irrationality of what passes these days for news looks like play-acting when compared with the broadcasts that may well have caused it all – the William F. Buckley Jr/Gore Vidal debates that highlighted the ABC coverage of the 1968 Republican and Democratic Conventions. The last ranked network, ABC was desperate for a gimmick to draw an audience (not unlike the 1976 movie “Network”). So they pitted the liberal Vidal against the conservative Buckley, eloquent patrician spokesmen of antithetical visions of America who loathed each other. They got more than they bargained for, as the two engaged in a multisyllabic war of personal destruction that rivaled the riots in the streets during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville’s documentary includes contextualizing commentary from experts and participants, but it’s all eclipsed by the actual debates, which culminate in an ad hominem attack that was shocking at the time but is business as usual today on talk radio and cable news. (April 25, 4:30 p.m., Brattle Theatre)



  • “Freaks,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Terror of Tiny Town,” “Even Dwarves Started Small” – the image of little people on the screen seldom rises above cute or creepy caricature. Matthew Salton’s ambiguous, unsettling documentary about the World Ecological Garden of Butterfly and Little People Kingdom, suggests otherwise. Though the hundred or so residents claim that the place grants them dignity and allows them to be themselves, the songs and dances they perform in demeaning costumes in a deranged version of Hobbiton for the amusement of tourists suggests otherwise. One beautiful, diminutive woman, though she enjoys the opportunity to sing (movingly) before applauding audiences, leaves because the management apparently treats the inhabitants like children and cheats them on their wages. She relocates to Tokyo, where she finds a job that pays better but requires her to wear a costume that covers her face. Should she return to the place that offers her the illusion of stardom but treats her like chattel or stay where the job is fair but requires her to abandon her dreams? With her story and others, Salton universalizes the plight of his courageous subjects. (April 23, 9:45 p.m., Somerville Theatre; director present)



  • For those concerned about the state and future of pop culture, Shannon Sun-Higginson’s glimpse into the misogynistic swamp of gamers won’t be reassuring. It attempts to comprehend how the $30 billion industry has developed a dominant young white male constituency so hostile to female players that it regularly engages in sexual insults, shocking threats, and violent fantasies. Featuring interviews with female gamers and pop cultural commentators who have already been savagely trolled and bravely risk more of the same by appearing in this film, “GTFO” accounts for the phenomenon by analyzing the origins and marketing of the product. What the film lacks is a confrontation with those who spew this poison with anonymous impunity – what fears, inadequacies, or ignorances compel them? (April 25, 3 p.m., Somerville Theatre; director present)



  • Along with festival selection “They Look like People” by Perry Blackshear, Rania Attieh, and Daniel Garcia’s cryptic nightmare is another example in the new no-frills horror genre (others include “Downstream Color,” “Under the Skin,” and “It Follows”) that favor the surreal terrors of the subconscious over the spectacle of special effects. A meteor — or something — explodes near Troy, N.Y., and people, lemming like, leave their lives and disappear into the woods. Among those affected are an elderly man who might well have been driven to such desperation by a wife who nurtures a life-like fake baby, and a pregnant woman who might have been motivated by the infidelities of her spouse and fellow avant-garde artist. With its eerie, beautifully photographed imagery and its alternately hypnotic and abrasive soundtrack, H. plays like an M. Night Shyamalan movie as envisioned by Greek auteur Theo Angelopoulos. At times the obliqueness verges on mannerism, but at its best the film verges on the visionary. (April 25, 2:45 p.m., Somerville Theatre)



  • For those who were young in the early ’70s and alive to the changes in culture and politics, WBCN’s Charles Laquidara provided both comfort (his morning show was called “The Big Mattress”) and inspiration. His anarchic mix of cutting-edge rock, classical music, radical politics, and loopy comedy was a model of hipness. He is one of four DJs featured in Roger King’s documentary about the golden age of FM radio – the others include New York punk champion Meg Griffin, Seattle’s pop institution Pat O’Day, and Toronto legend David Marsden. Laquidara’s anecdotes are the most evocative, verging on Hunter S. Thompson territory. Yet even those suffer from the film’s flaws – quaintness and nostalgia. The DJs reminisce and King inserts jokey illustrations (O’Day talks about traveling; cut to hokey retro graphic of plane touring the globe). Except for snippets like the title verse from David Bowie’s “DJ,” the film offers little of what these greats played, and not much of who they are. (April 26, 12:30 p.m., Somerville Theatre; director present)



  • Perry Blackshear’s minimalist, powerful psychological horror film expands that passing moment of alienation felt by most people (or at least fans of Jim Morrison’s “People Are Strange”) into a nuanced, empathetic, and suspenseful portrayal of paranoia. Or is it? Sheepish Wyatt (MacLeod Andrews) crashes in the Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment of childhood friend Christian (Evan Dumouchel) after breaking up with his fiancée and losing his job and home. Except for an odd interest in Christian’s basement and a collection of edged tools and a nail gun, he seems like the same person he was as a child. Christian is also going through difficulties; he recites self-empowerment mantras while trying to advance in his job and get up the nerve to ask his boss out on a date. Blackshear subtly suggests a backstory while focusing on Wyatt’s collapsing point of view, his breakdown re-created through a nerve-racking soundtrack and skewed visual details. These incursions of madness — or revelation — contend with Wyatt and Christian’s bond, expressed in horseplay and, ultimately, a test of loyalty. (April 24, 9:30 p.m., Brattle Theatre)



  • Picking up on the flurry of interest in silent films shown by “The Artist” (2011) and “Blancanieves” (2012), Ukrainian director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s bleak, shocking, and relentless film takes place in a school for deaf youths with all dialogue expressed in sign language without subtitles. But following the story proves less difficult than expected as it consists of the bullying, beatings, muggings, pimping, and prostitution perpetrated by a mini-mob in an institution that is a microcosm of the worst in Ukrainian or any society. A shy young man enters the school and is quickly initiated into its feral society, which starts with the relative innocence of “If . . .” and quickly devolves into the horrors of “Lord of the Flies” and beyond. Shot in long, bleak takes, “The Tribe” does offer a glimmer of love among the depravity, but Slaboshpytskiy clearly sees the lack of spoken language as a metaphor for the loss of civilized restraint. “The Miracle Worker” this is not. (April 24, 9:45 p.m., Somerville Theatre)


  • Crystal Moselle’s documentary about the eldritch Angulo clan in New York begins with a re-enactment in their apartment of scenes from Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs.” Outfitted with fedoras, black suits, skinny ties, sunglasses, and prop guns made out of Styrofoam, the six Angulo brothers, now ranging in age from 16 to 23, put in electrifying performances. For good reason: banned from the outside world by their tyrannical father, they have lived life through watching movies and imitating them. Since Moselle provides one of their first links with the real world, she is also a presence and factor in the film, an element of reflexivity that relates the Angulos’ strange circumstances to the universal search for identity and connection in the alienating culture that their father unsuccessfully tried to protect them from. Or perhaps he was successful after all. When they finally march out together, with their exotic androgynous beauty and raven waist-length hair, they look like visitors from a higher realm. (April 28, 9:45 p.m., Coolidge Corner Theatre; director present)



  • IFFBoston 2015 closes with a bang: the crowd-pleasing hit of Sundance and winner of the festival’s Jury and Audience awards for US Drama. It sounds like a mawkish retread: an adaptation of a young adult novel about a disaffected kid (Thomas Mann) and the terminally ill classmate (Olivia Cook) he befriends. Yes, we’ve seen a lot of these already. But director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon maintains a tone of smart, antic sympathy that pulls the drama in unexpected directions, and Mann is a find — a hangdog hero who suggests that, at long last, Cameron from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” got his own movie. Author-screenwriter Jesse Andrews will be at the screening. (April 29, 7:30 p.m., Coolidge Corner)

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