With its decidedly unconventional focus, it might be a surprise that the Boston Underground Film Festival (BUFF) has survived two decades — albeit on and off — since its humble beginnings as an all-night film marathon run by founders David Kleiler and Dima Ballin. The festival bounced from venue to venue in those early years, but since 2012 it’s found a home at the Brattle Theatre, where it unspools March 21-25.
Screenings kick off at 7 p.m. with “My Name is Myeisha,” a phantasmagorical meditation on a teen’s life that was cut tragically short, told from her perspective and fueled by her love of hip-hop, dance, and spoken word. Director Gus Krieger will be in attendance along with star Rhaechyl Walker, who won the Slamdance Acting Award for breakout performance. It’s followed at 9:30 p.m. by the 35th-anniversary screening (in 35mm) of the 1982 punk cult classic “Liquid Sky,” with director Slava Tsukerman in attendance.
Other highlights include “The Queen of Hollywood Boulevard” (March 23), with director Orson Oblowitz and star Rosemary Hochschild in attendance. It’s about a Los Angeles strip-club owner who, on her 60th birthday, comes to terms with an old debt to the mob that has violent consequences. Director Jenn Wexler presents her punk horror feature debut “The Ranger” (March 24) fresh from its SXSW world premiere. Director Issa López will be on hand with “Tigers Are Not Afraid” (March 25), a dark fairy tale about a gang of children trying to survive the violence of drug cartels. For the past five years, BUFF’s Homegrown Horror shorts program has showcased area talent. This year’s program, “(Un)safe Spaces” (March 23), offers 11 shorts by New England-based filmmakers.
Celebrating its 18th year at the Somerville Theatre, the Irish Film Festival Boston (March 22-25) presents its preordained award-winners among programs of features and shorts, with many guests on hand. The festival opens with the US premiere of director Aoife McArdle’s “Kissing Candice,” which debuted at the Berlin Film Festival and was selected as the Irish Film Festival’s “breakthrough feature.” It’s a coming-of-age drama about a girl who, longing to escape her seaside town, becomes involved with a dangerous local gang. It screens with “Bless Me Father,” selected as the festival’s “most inspiring short.” Director Paul Horan will present his film, about a small Irish town where secrets are rare, and the local man who goes to church to confess his own.
The spotlight is on Northern Ireland with “Maze” (March 23), inspired by the true events of the infamous 1983 prison breakout of 38 IRA prisoners from the high-security Maze prison. The film focuses on the warden and a prisoner, who are on opposite sides of Northern Ireland’s political divide. Actor Martin McCann will engage in a post-screening talk. Also on the bill is the short film “Lost Memories,” which springs from the true story of a man who must try to make peace with divided family politics to get to his mother’s deathbed. Director Eamonn Murphy will be in attendance.
Another festival with longevity is the Boston Turkish Film Festival, now in its 17th year showcasing leading and emerging Turkish filmmakers. Running March 22-April 8 at the Museum of Fine Arts, the festival opens with “Sideway,” about a seaside town where ominous signs lead the townsfolk to believe that doomsday has arrived. Director Tayfun Pirselimoğlu will discuss his film following the 6:30 p.m. screening. Also on March 22, the festival presents its annual Excellence in Turkish Cinema Award to actor, author, screenwriter, and director Ercan Kesal. Kesal’s documentary “Gone With the Hazelnuts” screens March 23 at 7 p.m. followed by a discussion with the director.
Other highlights include veteran director Ferzan Özpetek’s “Rosso Istanbul” (March 24), a semi-autobiographical dramatic thriller about Orhan (Halit Ergenc), an editor who returns to Istanbul after 20 years in London to help Deniz (Nejat Isler), a film director, complete the draft for his first book. It’s the first time in 20 years that Özpetek has shot a film in his homeland, and it’s rich with memories of his youth. Yilmaz Erdoğan’s “Sour Apples” (March 30) is set in the resort city of Antalya in the late ’90s, and centers on 40-year-old Muazzez (Farah Zeynep Abdullah) as she cares for her aging father who has Alzheimer’s.
German-born Fatih Akın, the son of Turkish immigrants, earned international acclaim with “In the Fade” (March 31), winner of the Golden Globe for best foreign film and the best actress award for Diane Kruger at the Cannes Film Festival. In the contemporary thriller, Kruger anchors the film as a young mother reeling from tragedy who decides to seek justice and revenge.
Spotlight on science
The fifth annual National Science on Screen program, an initiative launched by the Coolidge Corner Theatre, takes place March 27, when movie houses in 28 cities around the country will participate in screening science-related features accompanied by lectures from experts. The Coolidge’s event at 7 p.m. is a showing of Alexandra Dean’s documentary “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story” with MIT professor Muriel Médard, who specializes in electrical engineering and computer science, introducing the film. The highly regarded documentary chronicles legendary 1940s Hollywood actress Lamarr’s little-known technical genius, which led to groundbreaking inventions using technology that’s still employed today, and the barriers that still confront women in STEM fields.
For more information go to www.coolidge.org.