It has been said that there are no newcomers in New England, only outsiders. At 15 years of age, the Independent Film Festival Boston is no longer newcomer or outsider but an established force and a rite of spring in these parts. As the croci lift their wee purple heads above the late-season snow, so IFFBoston sends shoots of challenging cinema into the local air, bringing in the best of Sundance and other festivals while debuting new movies from directors in New England and around the country.
The organizers have just announced the lineup for the 2017 edition, running from April 26 through May 3 at four local venues: the Somerville Theatre, the Brattle, the Coolidge, and UMass Boston. Opening the festival at the Somerville is a cheeky, involving documentary New England premiere: Robin Berghaus’s “Stumped,” about filmmaker/educator Will Lautzenheiser’s journey as a quadruple amputee from stand-up comedy to a double arm transplant at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Closing the festival at the Coolidge will be “Band Aid,” the directorial debut of actress-writer Zoe Lister-Jones (TV’s “Life in Pieces”). An indie comedy that found favor at the most recent Sundance Film Festival, the movie casts Lister-Jones and Adam Pally as a battling married couple who form a band to work out their anger toward each other; Fred Armisen costars.
In between those two will be more than 100 feature films and shorts, interspersed with panel discussions, parties, and to-be-announced appearances by filmmakers and stars. Local documentary legend Errol Morris will bring his latest, “The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography,” for a New England premiere screening. In the festival’s Centerpiece Narrative Spotlight will be “The Hero,” a rare starring role for the great, gruff Sam Elliott as an aging film star on the road to rediscovery (Laura Prepon and Nick Offerman costar).
Also arriving on waves of Sundance enthusiasm is “Patti Cake$,” an audience-rousing comedy about a plus-size white teenage Jersey Girl (the amazing Danielle Macdonald) who burns to be a rap star; it’s the first film for director Geremy Jasper. “Landline” is the latest collaboration between director Gillian Robespierre and her BFF star, Milton’s own Jenny Slate; since their last movie was “Obvious Child” (2015), this comedy-drama about sisters in 1990s New York will be one to catch.
As always, locally grown filmmakers are well represented at IFFBoston. BU grad Melissa Dowler debuts her documentary “Letting Go of Adele,” about the relationship between a heart patient and her service dog, and Boston-based director Dan Girmus brings “Oyate,” an observational year in the life of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
All film festivals provide looks into varied lives and peoples, and IFFBoston is no exception. “Menashe,” from director Joshua Z. Weinstein, is a drama about a custody battle in Orthodox Brooklyn, with the subtitled dialogue entirely in Yiddish. “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” is a documentary from the great Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”) about the one bank indicted in the 2008 financial crisis: a family business in New York’s Chinatown.
And for armchair tourists — and lovers of film comedy — “The Trip to Spain” reunites Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden (“The Trip,” “The Trip to Italy”) for further adventures of our favorite Idiots Abroad.
A full schedule and further information can be found at iffboston.org.
Ty Burr can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @tyburr.