FILM FEST FRENZY LISTINGS

ABUSE OF WEAKNESS (Presented by John Waters)

Directed by Catherine Breillat

The original French title of Catherine Breillat’s newest film is Abus De Faibless, a legal term that describes the crime of taking advantage of someone’s disability or sickness. This happened to the director herself; during the difficult recovery following a stroke in 2004, a con man convinced her to pay him thousands to adapt and act in her next film. Weakness fictionalizes this experience in order to explore what happens when a person’s agency is compromised by someone they trust.

Directed by Robert Greene

Director Robert Greene follows former actress Brandy Burre (The Wire’s Theresa D’Agostino) as she moves away from her career in order to stay at home and take care of her children, resulting in a documentary-drama that may be more Tree of Life than Leave It to Beaver. Green leads us to question, in this age of copy-pastes and digitalizations, where the role ends and the real life begins.

APPROACHING THE ELEPHANT*

Directed by Amanda Wilder

The term “free school” has many connotations. Essential to the idea is an alternative system to traditional education, one that often places the students and teachers on equal footing, and allows both parties to have a say in what and how things are taught. Amanda Wilder’s black-and-white film documents the first year at the Teddy McArdle Free School in New Jersey, an elementary school that gives the students as much power over the curriculum as the adults.

APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR*

Directed by Desiree Akhavan

Iranian-American writer-director-actor Desiree Akhavan stars in this comedy-drama about confused identities. She plays Shirin, a young bisexual woman living in Brooklyn, caught between her conservative family and her unconventional sexuality. When her brother decides to marry, she feels the pressure ratchet down on all sides: Her family wants her to settle down while her friends want her to come out.

ART AND CRAFT*

Directed by Sam Cullman and Jennifer Grausman

With the recent discovery of a lost Renoir in Baltimore, the intersection of fraud and art made itself known close to home. This documentary explores such territory, focusing on diagnosed schizophrenic Mark Landis, who cheaply recreates near-perfect forgeries of masterful paintings. Landis isn’t interested in money, though; he just gives his fake Picassos and Matisses away, often to prestigious institutions who consider themselves the arbiters of authenticity. When museum registrar Matthew Leininger discovered one of Landis’ fakes in his collection a few years ago, he set out on a quest to out the consummate forger.

THE AUCTION

Directed by Sebastien Pilote

Aging is hard: creaky joints, the back pain, the sagging skin . . . and that’s only the physical side of it. You also have a legacy to worry about. Such is the plight Gaby, the central character played by Gabriel Arcand in French-Canadian Sebastian Pilote’s new drama. He’s worked his family’s farm his whole life, pouring all his years into the earth to support his children. Now, they’ve all grown up and moved to more urban environs, leaving Gaby to wonder what will happen now that he has grown too old to keep his farm running.

BALTIMORE IN BLACK AND WHITE*

Directed by Mary Posatko and Emily Topper

(See review)

BARBARELLA (presented by Matmos)

Directed by Roger Vadim

M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel of Matmos host this screening of Barbarella—they took their band’s name from a monster in the movie. Jane Fonda stars in the lust-driven sci-fi cult classic from the same screenwriter behind Dr. Strangelove and Easy Rider.

BUZZARD*

Directed by Joel Potrykus

It is, of course, true that many of today’s young people are having trouble making their way in the world. Director Joel Potrykus’ second film focuses on one such specimen: chronic deadbeat Marty, who glides from temp job to petty scams and back again on a downward spiral that ends in video games, heavy-metal music, and junk food. But when he can’t sink any lower, he becomes dangerous.

CALL GIRL OF CTHULHU*

Directed by Chris LaMartina

(See feature)

THE CASE AGAINST 8*

Directed by Ben Cotner and Ryan White

(See review)

THE CELESTIAL WIVES OF THE MEADOW MARI

Directed by Aleksey Fedorchenko

Blurring the line between fiction and nonfiction, Russian filmmaker Aleksey Fedorchenko uses the culture and language of the Mari ethnic group that lives in Russia and Ukraine as a launching point for a series of vignettes. This is no anthropological study; rather, the filmmaker revels in the folklore and mythology of the pantheistic Mari—perhaps the best way to understand a people whose life is so different from our own.

CLUB SANDWICH

Directed by Fernando Eimbcke

(See review)

DEEP CITY: THE BIRTH OF THE MIAMI SOUND*

Directed by Dennis Scholl, Marlon Johnson, and Chad Tingle

The last decade has seen a slew of crate-digging compilations and retrospectives that document the regional music of the ’60s that has mostly been forgotten. Now it is Miami’s turn. This doc tells the story of Deep City Records, a label that released soul and R&B out of a small record store. Though it’s now been overshadowed by giants like Motown and Stax, many future stars passed through Deep City’s rotation.

EVERYBODY STREET*

Directed by Cheryl Dunn

Street-photography heavyweights like Jamel Shabazz, Elliott Erwitt, part-time Baltimorean Martha Cooper, and Boogie appear in this documentary, which explores New York street photography over nine decades—from the invention of the portable camera to the present.

EVOLUTION OF A CRIMINAL*

Directed by Darius Clark Monroe

(See review)

FAULTS*

Directed by Riley Stearns

A man who works as a counselor reintegrating former cult members finds himself down and out, unable to draw an audience on his tour for a failed book. When a family approaches him and asks him to help find their daughter, the large amount of money they offer catches his attention.

FIGHT CHURCH*

Directed by Daniel Junge and Bryan Storkel

Helmed by Academy Award-winning documentarian Daniel Junge, Fight Church takes look at Pastor Paul Burress, who also—oddly enough—trains members of his church in mixed martial arts, something Burress practices at an amateur level. Burress faces off verbally with another religious figure in this film, which examines the culture of the aggressive sport in conflict with biblical values.

FORT TILDEN*

Directed by Sarah Violet-Bliss and Charles Rogers

(See review)

FREEDOM SUMMER*

Directed by Stanley Nelson

This doc details the balmy Mississippi summer of 1964, when large-scale protests swelled, were brutally quelled, and then swelled again, all in the name of equal voting rights for all. The film is an apt selection for 2014, 50 years after civil rights activists bloomed in full force all over the United States.

GLENA*

Directed by Allan Luebke

One of two documentaries at MFF this year to focus on mixed martial arts fighting, Glena tells the story of one of female MMA’s stars, Glena Avila, a single mother who works multiple jobs and pummels people on the side. Avila will be on hand for the film’s screening.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS*

Directed by Joe Swanberg

Mumblecore luminary Joe Swanberg (whose Drinking Buddies played last year’s MFF) directs this film about an uncomfortable holiday experience centered on Jenny, played by Anna Kendrick. Jenny makes things awkward for everyone, inserting herself where she doesn’t belong and dragging skeletons from out of the closet. Using Swanberg’s own house as the set and casting some of his family members, the film is close to home even as the director’s fame gets bigger and bigger.

HELLION*

Directed by Kat Candler

Thirteen-year-old Jacob is a bad kid. He’s destructive and angry, and failing at school. His father (played fittingly enough by Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul) has no investment in his family life, making matters worse and effectively forcing Jacob to parent his younger brother. Juliette Lewis plays the boys’ aunt in this drama with hints of dark humor.

HE WHO GETS SLAPPED (presented by the Alloy Orchestra)

Directed by Victor Sjostrom

The Alloy Orchestra, who creates original scores for silent films, revisits the MFF, this time backing this strange 1924 film (adapted from a Russian play) starring Lon Chaney as a disgraced man who becomes a clown that gets smacked over and over again in a reenactment of his fall from grace.

THE HIP-HOP FELLOW*

Directed by Kenneth Price

Maybe those kids over at Harvard need some street smarts included in all that book learning: Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Kenneth Price follows 9th Wonder, a hip-hop producer who now teaches a class called “The Standards of Hip Hop” at one of the country’s most prestigious schools.

I PLAY WITH THE PHRASE EACH OTHER*

Directed by Jay Alvarez

A small-town dude moves to the city at the behest of his friend, only to find that the friend has disappeared. He has a terrible fear of radiation in the air, and the whirring and buzzing of the city exacerbates his paranoia. Oh yeah, and the entirety of director Jay Alvarez’s feature debut unfolds via cellphone conversations.

KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER*

Directed by David Zellner

A Japanese girl (played by Rinko Kikuchi) becomes obsessed with the possibility that the buried treasure in her VHS copy of Fargo is real. She travels to the States and into that frigid Midwestern winter in order to find the booty that gives her life meaning in the latest output from the Zellner brothers.

LITTLE ACCIDENTS*

Directed by Sara Colangelo

Recent history has not been kind to West Virginia, which for the last 40 years or so has been experiencing the worst symptoms of late-stage capitalism. Sara Colangelo’s film follows a slew of great movies made in the past decade about the woes of the Appalachians. When a mining accident rocks a tiny mountain town, lone survivor Amos (played by newcomer Boyd Holbrook) must face the questions of the families that the dead left behind.

LIQUID SKY*

Directed by Slava Tsukerman

(See review)

MANAKAMANA*

Directed by Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez

(See review)

THE MEND*

Directed by John Margary

(See review)

THE MILITANT

Directed by Manolo Nieto

When young Uruguayan Ariel relocates from Montevideo to provincial Salto, he tries to maintain his involvement with politics as a student organizer. But he finds the small-town students to be lazy and uninspired, and has a hard time getting any real revolutionary action off the ground.

MOEBIUS

Directed by Kim Ki-duk

Of all the Korean films that filter through to America, an unusually high proportion seem to be disturbing freak fests. That probably has more to do with America than Korea, but those guys sure know how to make disturbing freak fests. Enter Moebius, a sparse film from celebrated South Korean director Kim Ki-Duk with no shortage of violence and sex to flinch at. If you’re squeamish, skip this one.

OBVIOUS CHILD*

Directed by Gillian Robespierre

TV-comedy veteran Jenny Slate plays a 20-something standup comedian, Donna Stern, who keeps falling off the horse but keeps getting back on too. David Cross and Jake Lacy co-star in this well-cast comedy from writer-director Gillian Robespierre.

PING PONG SUMMER*

Directed by Michael Tully

(See feature)

POINT AND SHOOT*

Directed by Marshall Curry

(See review)

PUTNEY SWOPE (presented by DJ Spooky)

Directed by Robert Downey Sr.

(See review)

SEPTEMBER*

Directed by Penny Panayotopoulou

When a lonely woman’s dog dies, she must find a place to bury him in the crowded city where she lives. When she spots the perfect spot in a nearby neighbor’s backyard, she poses the awkward question and finds a place for her dog to rest in peace. The burial opens the door to an uncomfortable and sometimes-intrusive relationship between the woman and the neighbor’s family.

THE STRANGE LITTLE CAT

Directed by Ramon Zurcher

The entirety of this strange little film takes place inside a Berlin apartment and centers upon a boy and the eponymous kitty. The occupants are preparing for a party; meals are cooked, conversations had; and people enter and exit like a stage, making for an almost two-dimensional experience.

STRAY DOGS

Directed by Tsai-Ming Liang

Director Tsai-Ming Liang is famous for his long takes, and Stray Dogs is no exception. This slow film centers on a homeless man who has taken on the role of unofficial guardian to two wayward children. He makes a little money as a dancing billboard guys during the day, and at night he and the children try to find shelter from the ever-present rain.

SUMMER OF BLOOD*

Directed by Onur Tukel

Brooklyn-based nobody Erik (played by the director himself) is adrift in a world of non-commitment and ennui. His girlfriend is too good to him, but he screws it up, and she leaves. Erik commences upon a series of botched hook-up attempts before he is approached by a stranger that changes his path.

THOU WAST MILD AND LOVELY*

Directed by Josephine Decker

When Akin (played by the director of another MFF 2014 film, Joe Swanberg) is hired as a seasonal laborer on Jeremiah’s farm, sexual tension mounts between him and the farmer’s daughter. Weeks pass and the electricity only heightens, until unbeknownst to him, Akin’s wife and child come to visit him.

THE VANQUISHING OF THE WITCH BABA YAGA*

Directed by Jessica Oreck

This documentary attempts to create a narrative from the many stories about mythical witch Baba Yaga, whose presence is described throughout rural Eastern Europe. Director Jessica Oreck uses multiple genres of film here, including animation and experimental film, to provide a look at the region beyond just its folklore, and into the societal factors that mark its everyday life.

WATER LIKE STONE*

Directed by Zack Godshall and Michael Pasquier

The coastline of Louisiana is experiencing much of the same type of land loss to erosion as many places on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Every time a big storm rolls around wetlands, beaches, and even graveyards are lost to the tides. This documentary explores the annual loss occurring in this region, one that unfortunately will become more common as climate change continues.

WHITEY: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA VS. JAMES J. BULGER*

Directed by Joe Berlinger

Whitey Bulger was the head of a huge crime racket in Boston which included racially motivated political corruption, intimidation, and many murders. He was captured after decades on the run in 2011, and convicted and sentenced last year at the age of 84. This doc tells the story of his rise, his flight, and his fall.

WHO TOOK JOHNNY*

Directed by David Beilinson, Michael Galinsky, and Suki Hawley

(See review)

WILD CANARIES*

Directed by Lawrence Michael Levine

Barri’s neighbor just died, and she’s not sure that it was from natural causes. She sets out to figure out the circumstances of the death, dragging along her fiancé and their roommate (played by Arrested Development alum Alia Shawkat), who may have stronger feelings for Barri than a good roommate should.

YOUNG BODIES HEAL QUICKLY

Directed by Andrew T. Betzer

(See feature)