Festivals, series, and more for local film fans

From top: “Phantom of the Opera” will screen at Coolidge Corner Theatre; “Zemene” is part of the Boston Film Festlival; “Wander, Wonder, Wilderness” is at  the Institute of Contemporary Art.
Coolidge Corner Theatre
“Phantom of the Opera” will screen at Coolidge Corner Theatre.

Boston’s longest-running film festivals open and close the fall season. The Boston Film Festival (BFF), running Sept. 24-28, turns 30 this year. The Boston Jewish Film Festival (Nov. 5-17) hit that milestone last year and now heads into its fourth decade. In between those events, the area offers enough new and notable festivals, series, and special screenings to coax all cinephiles into theaters.

The environment is the focus of this year’s BFF, which will show 25 features and 20 short films at Theatre One at the Revere Hotel. Among the highlights are the world premieres of “Zemene,” a documentary about efforts to provide clean water in Ethiopia, directed by Boston native Melissa Donovan; “Love Thy Nature,” narrated by Liam Neeson and directed by Sylvie Rokab; and “Slingshot,” director Paul Lazarus’s profile of Dean Kamen (inventor of the Segway) and his efforts to bring clean water to Third World countries. The BFF will also screen “Wild,” the adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling memoir starring Reese Witherspoon, which is expected to open theatrically on Dec. 5.

The Institute of Contemporary Art may not be known primarily as a film venue but there are some notable screenings this fall. The interactive documentary “Wander, Wonder, Wilderness” (Sept. 20 and 21) explores the relationships among humans, community, and nature. Participants visit Boston’s parks and preserves to create content including text, images, and sound, and share it with future visitors via an interactive website and app. Also at the ICA, “The Notorious Mr. Bout” (Oct. 19), the latest film from “Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer “ codirector Maxim Pozdorovkin, about notorious Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout.


Two of the region’s newer festivals return this fall. The fourth annual Arlington International Film Festival runs Oct. 15-19 at the Regent Theatre in Arlington ( and the Boston International Kids Film Festival, back for its second year, is at the Somerville Theatre Nov. 7-9.

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A notable offering at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is the animated “Rocks in My Pockets,” in which filmmaker Signe Baumane uses papier-mâché stop-motion and classic hand-drawn animation to create five fantastical tales — all based on the women in her family and their battles with madness. Baumane will attend the Sept. 24 screening. The film plays through
Oct. 2.

The MFA also hosts the eighth annual Boston Palestine Film Festival (Oct. 17-26), which opens with Cherien Dabis’s new comedy-drama “May in the Summer,” set in contemporary Jordan.

The Coolidge Corner Theatre hosts another of its popular Sounds of Silents screenings on Oct. 16: the 1925 classic “Phantom of the Opera” starring Lon Chaney, with live musical accompaniment by Berklee College of Music students. And save the date for the annual Halloween Horror Marathon starting Oct. 25 at midnight, with spooky fare including “Frankenstein” (1931) and “The Lost Boys” (1987).

But the Coolidge isn’t just about proven traditions. This season, Brookline’s venerable arthouse embarks on a collaboration with the Huntington Theatre Company. Called Stage & Screen, the joint effort offers films drawn from key themes of productions at the Huntington, and a chance to hear those themes discussed by Huntington artists and experts. “Sweet Smell of Success” (1957), with a memorable script by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, screens Nov. 17 during the Huntington’s production of Odets’s 1935 classic “Awake and Sing!” (Nov. 7-Dec. 7). The Coolidge hosts a post-screening conversation moderated by Huntington dramaturg Charles Haugland with director Melia Bensussen, who will discuss how Odets’s language enhances both the film and the play.


Emerson College’s Paramount Center hosts the Boston Asian American Film Festival Oct. 23-28. The BAAFF is billed as New England’s largest Asian-American film festival.

1. "Zemene" (courtesy of the Boston Film Festival) -- 07fall preview - 07local
Boston Film Festival
Zemene” is part of the Boston Film Festlival.

Also at the Paramount, ArtsEmerson: The World on Stage presents the Polish Film Festival (Oct. 31-Nov. 15). The festival features selections from Martin Scorsese’s acclaimed series “Masterpieces of Polish Cinema” and the US premiere of Andrzej Wadja’s “The Possessed Years Later,” a documentary about the creation of his theatrical adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s “The Devils.” The festival will also include a screening and discussion of “In the Name Of” (2013) with lead actor Andrzej Chyra.

The Harvard Film Archive hosts Film as Film: The Cinema of Gregory Markopoulos (Sept. 19-Oct. 6), one of the most extensive retrospectives of the experimental filmmaker. More well-known to audiences is William Friedkin, director of the Hollywood classics “The French Connection” and “The Exorcist.” He will be at the HFA for two nights, Sept. 26-27, with his films “Sorcerer” and “Killer Joe.” And then there is Also Like Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-Hsien (Oct. 2-Nov. 3), an extensive retrospective of one of the masters of Taiwanese cinema. The program will include “The Green, Green Grass of Home,” “City of Sadness,” and “A Time to Live, a Time to Die.”

The Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square will show a new restoration of the Beatles’ 1964 classic “A Hard Day’s Night” (Oct. 3-5), followed by the restoration of Bertolucci’s Italian masterpiece “The Conformist” (Oct. 10-13.) Later in the month, The Master of Schlock: A Centennial Tribute to William Castle (Oct 25-30) features such fright classics as “Rosemary’s Baby,” “House on Haunted Hill,” “The Old Dark House,” “The Visitor,” “The Tingler,” “13 Ghosts,” “Homicidal,” and “Strait-Jacket.”

The Massachusetts Flash Film Festival offers anyone the chance to be a filmmaker and compete for a $500 cash prize. There’s one catch: Everything must be done within a 72-hour period. The event starts Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. at the Belmont Media Center. Teams have 72 hours to write, shoot, edit, and deliver back to BMC a 4-7 minute fictional narrative film. A panel of three industry professionals will judge each entry and select the winner. For guidelines, go to

3. "Wander, Wonder, Wilderness" (courtesy of Paul Turano) -- 07fall preview - 07local
Paul Turano
“Wander, Wonder, Wilderness” is at the Institute of Contemporary Art.


Portsmouth, N.H., offers not one but two film festivals this fall. The Music Hall’s Telluride by the Sea Festival offers six films, including upcoming releases “The Imitation Game” and “Mr. Turner,” Sept. 19-21 (, followed by the New Hampshire Film Festival (Oct. 16-19), which began as a small, grass-roots event in 2001 and now offers four days of indie films, workshops, discussions, and parties. For more information, go to


Two other festivals showcase top documentaries. The ninth annual Newburyport Documentary Film Festival takes place Sept. 19-21 in Newburyport ( and the Camden International Film Festival , one of the best all-doc festivals in the country, celebrates its 10th anniversary Sept. 25-28 (

Loren King can be reached at