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Boston’s Independent Film Festival is back — and back in theaters

Last year’s Independent Film Festival Boston was virtual. Now it’s reunited with live audiences.

Aubrey Plaza in "Emily the Criminal."Low Spark Films/Sundance Institute via AP

After being presented virtually last year, the Independent Film Festival Boston returns to live screenings. This is fitting, since the IFFB is the area’s liveliest festival. Boston does not lack for excellent specialized film fests. But the IFFB, which this year runs from April 27-May 4, has no local rival for range and quality of selections.

More than 60 films are on this year’s program. Screenings will take place at the Somerville Theatre, Brattle Theatre, Coolidge Corner Theatre, and WBUR’s CitySpace. For information, go to iffboston.org/series/the-festival.

The schedule includes narrative and nonfiction features as well as narrative and nonfiction shorts, filmmaker Q&As, panel discussions, and, yes, parties.


Peter Keough offers a look at nonfiction highlights. Here are a dozen narrative features of interest.

Aubrey Plaza plays the title character in writer-director John Patton Ford’s debut feature, “Emily the Criminal.” It’s the festival’s opening-night film. Student debt leads a young woman down a shady path, and the further down she goes, the shadier it gets. Somerville, April 27, 7:30 p.m.

Grégoire Colin and Juliette Binoche in "Both Sides of the Blade."Curiosa Films

One way to assess the quality of a film festival is the stature of the top directors on the program. It’s hard to get higher quality than Claire Denis or Zhang Yimou (see “One Second,” below). Denis directed “Both Sides of the Blade.” Her first film since “High Life” (2018), it stars Juliette Binoche as the woman in a love triangle involving her partner (Vincent London) and his best friend (Grégoire Colin), her onetime lover. Brattle, April 28, 7 p.m.

Gwendoline Christie and Asa Butterfield in "Flux Gourmet."IFC Midnight

Writer-director Peter Strickland’s “Flux Gourmet” has easily the festival’s best title, though its combination of comedy and horror (when was the last time the word “alimentary” figured prominently in a plot summary?) may not be to everyone’s taste. It stars Gwendoline Christie and, with a truly impressive head of hair, Asa Butterfield. April 28, Brattle, 9:30 p.m.


Cooper Raiff and Dakota Johnson in "Cha Cha Real Smooth."Sundance Institute via AP

Writer-director Cooper Raiff’s previous film, “S#!%house,” won the 2020 grand jury prize at SXSW. No, that’s not exactly it’s title, but you get the idea. Raiff’s latest has an even less conventional title, though it’s far more printable. “Cha Cha Real Smooth” stars Raiff as a recent college grad who becomes friends with a young mother (Dakota Johnson) and her autistic child. April 29, Brattle, 7 p.m.

Rebecca Hall in "Resurrection."IFC Films

Having triumphed last year with her writing-directing debut, “Passing,” the great Rebecca Hall returns to acting. In “Resurrection,” she plays a single mother whose past, in the person of Tim Roth, returns and radically rearranges her life. Andrew Semans wrote and directed. April 29, Brattle, 9:30 p.m.

Thandiwe Newton in "God's Country."GC Film, LLC

The title of “God’s Country” is and isn’t ironic. Thandiwe Newton stars in this thriller about a college professor in the rural American West who runs afoul of a pair of hunters. Director Julian Higgins, making his feature debut, helped adapt James Lee Burke’s short story. April 30, Brattle, 1 p.m.

Writer-director James Morosini draws on his own experiences in “I Love My Dad,” about a father reaching out in unusual online ways to his estranged son. Patton Oswalt, as the father, heads a cast that includes Morosini, Rachel Dratch, and Lil Rel Howery. April 30, Somerville, 7:30 p.m.

Zhang has demonstrated his mastery of cinematic spectacle in such films as “House of Flying Daggers” (2004) and “Shadow” (2018). In “One Second,” he returns to the smaller scale and emotional intensity of the film that made his international reputation, “Raise the Red Lantern” (1991). May 1, Brattle, 8:30 p.m.


The writer-director team of Scott McGehee and David Siegel braid together family drama with modern-day western in “Montana Story.” Owen Teague and Haley Lu Richardson star as siblings who clash over the care of their aging father and the future of the family ranch. May 2, Somerville, 6:45 p.m.

In “My Old School,” director Jono McLeod does braiding of a different sort. The film is both documentary and drama, focused on a high school classmate of McLeod’s. Alan Cumming memorably figures in the film, in a highly unusual way. May 2, Somerville, 7 p.m.

Daryl McCormack and Emma Thompson in "Good Luck to You, Leo Grande."Nick Wall/Associated Press

Emma Thompson plays a retired teacher who decides that her sex life needs improving. She thinks she’s figured out how to do it, with the help of the title character (Daryl McCormack), in “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande.” Sophie Hyde directed the comedy/drama. May 2, Brattle, 9:30 p.m.

"Marcel the Shell With Shoes On."

The IFFB’s closing-night film is “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On.” Dean Fleischer-Camp’s debut feature is an animated/live action mockumentary. Isn’t that the case with every movie about a mollusk? It’s based on the series of YouTube shorts Fleischer-Camp did in 2010. Voice talent includes Jenny Slate, who helped write the script, and Isabella Rossellini. May 4, Coolidge Corner, 8 p.m.

Mark Feeney can be reached at mark.feeney@globe.com.