Independent Film Festival Gives Voices to the Little Guys

Tonight marks the opening night of the 9th annual Independent Film Festival of Boston (IFFB). This yearly event fills the silver screens of greater Greater Boston with dozens of maverick features and shorts. The Somerville Theatre, Brattle Theatre, Coolidge Corner Theatre, and the Stuart Street Playhouse will host screenings every day, drawing back the curtain with a documentary on Sesame Street’s Elmo, and closing with a doc on hometown former-TV-exile, Conan O’Brien. But don’t worry, there are some original thoughts in between.

A couple established auteurs such as Takashi Miike and Michael Winterbottom will rub elbows the with up-and-comers from the world over. For the most part this year’s festival is receiving less buzz than in previous years, when indie sensations such as Winter’s Bone (which won Best Picture at the Sundance Film Festival, its first stop on the way to several Oscar nominations) had already broken out on the festival circuit.

It can either be viewed as a blessing or a curse–or perhaps a bit of both–that there is no “it” movie with which to emblazon the marquee this year. While other American festivals such as Seattle, Telluride, and Tribeca are slated to play some sure-fire hits, IFFB’s lineup is markedly riskier. The Beacon will be covering the festival throughout the next week, so stay tuned for reviews and interviews as the spring semester winds down. For now, we’ll take a look at a few of the more notable titles on our docket.

The Trip

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This quipy flick features the most established cast and crew of the festival, with prolific British director Michael Winterbottom helming this film adaptation of his six-part BBC series. The show of the same name premiered last August on BBC2 and has been whittled down from its original 180 minutes to a 70 minute feature length film. Comedians Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan play slightly fictionalized (though viscerally honest) versions of themselves who are asked by a newspaper to travel around the North of England as food critics for fancy restaurants. From snark-soaked arguments over each comedian’s respective fame to a Michael Caine impersonation throwdown, this largely improvised riff on celebrity and its underlying humanity is both hilarious and revealing.

13 Assassins

Veteran Japanese director Takashi Miike (of Audition infamy) directs this samurai revenge film. After Lord Naritsugu is informed he is next to in line to be appointed shogunate, he and his men head out on a senseless killing spree to take advantage of their forthcoming power. The current shogunate does not approve of such conduct, which goes against the government and the code of bushido. He hires the highly regarded samurai Shimada Shinzaemon to wipe out Lord Naritsugu and his forces. With the help of 12 other skilled samurai, Shinzaemon moves into position on the town of Ochlai to ambush the travelling lord. Little do they know the 70 bodyguards they planned on combating are 200 in actuality. Miike is revered and reviled for his bloodlust, and after directing more than 50 films in the past two decades, he has risen to the upper echelon of famous and controversial modern Japanese artists.

The Future

Miranda July writes, directs and stars in this surreal comedic follow-up to her divisive 2005 indie debut Me and You and Everyone We Know. Her sophomore effort meditates on life, love, and a talking cat. Sophie (July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater) are two down-on-their-luck 30somethings living in a one bedroom apartment, spending most of their time online. They adopt a stray cat (voiced by July) just as they realize their lives are going nowhere. Sophie decides that, after the cat comes back from the animal hospital in a month, she and Jason must finally grow up and start a family. They soon quit their jobs and stop using the Internet in order to chase down their life-long dreams in the span of that one month. While July has received exceptional acclaim as a writer and multimedia artist, her talents as a filmmaker have yet to be determined. Is she a one-trick pony? Or will lightning continue to strike for the 37-year-old?

Bellflower

Engineer-turned-filmmaker Evan Glodell writes, directs and stars in his debut, Bellflower, a hedonistic tale of two men waiting for the end of the world. Best friends Woodrow (Glodell) and Aidan spend all their free time creating powerful weapons and arming cars in the hopes that the apocalypse will arrive and their gang, “Mother Medusa,” can run rampant. Their destiny takes a turn for the worst once Aidan meets the beautiful and self-assured Milly (Jessie Wiseman) in a bar. Woodrow and Aidan’s friendship reaches a boiling point as they throw in with Milly’s violent friends, more violent than they could have imagined in their post-apocalyptic dreams.

Another Earth

While the world ends in Bellflower, a mirror planet is discovered in Another Earth. The six-figure budget boasting indie took audiences by surprise when it debuted at last month’s South By Southwest Festival to positive reviews. The story involves an ambitious young student and composer who tragically cross paths the night that an inhabitable planet in our solar system is discovered for the first time. William Mapother (Ethan, the mega-creep “Other” from Lost and Tom Cruise’s cousin) headlines a cast otherwise dominated by unknowns.

In all, thirty-five documentaries will show at the festival. The Beacon will be attending: Convento, about a 400-year-old monastery in Portugal wherein one of the monks re-animates dead wildlife by infusing the carcasses with robotics; God Willing, which chronicles the lives of families whose worlds are upended by their children leaving to join a secretive cult; Color Me Obssessed which portrays the chaotic backstage life of the band The Replacements.

Stay tuned!

For more information, including showtimes, feature running lengths, and schedules for panel discussions and special events, please visit http://www.iffboston.org/index.php