As you might imagine, the main point of conversation is the new Parkway Theatre as it should be—this building is really something (earlier today, we posted a gallery of before and after photos)—but the movies screening at this year's fest are particularly exciting. Along with John Waters presenting "Roar," a 1981 mess of a melodrama that features footage of people actually being attacked by lions, Baltimore band Beach House will be presenting Agnes Varda's 1985 movie, "Vagabond," a touching semi-mystery about a young woman wandering around France in the winter.
Another ongoing theme as of late for MFF has been a focus on documentaries that say a great deal about the fractured (or hey, maybe just plain fucked) state of the country and Baltimore. In 2015, we gave MFF a "Best Synergy" award in our Best of Baltimore due to its prescient curation of a number of social justice docs. Recall that MFF then was just a week or so out from the Baltimore Uprising, and for a moment there, the curfew was still on and it seemed possible that the fest would be operating under curfew. This year's lineup includes Theo Anthony brilliant, discursive "Rat Film," about Baltimore's rats but also about larger issues of control and experimentation on Baltimore—specifically, black Baltimore; "The Blood Is At The Doorstep," a haunting and nuanced look at the 2014 police killing of Dontre Hamilton; "Intent To Destroy," about the Armenian Genocide; "Tell Them We Are Rising," about the history of black colleges and universities, from Stanley Nelson best known for "Black Panthers: Vanguard Of A Revolution"; and "Whose Streets," a documentary about Ferguson and Mike Brown.
As usual there are also plenty of Baltimore-related films. Along with "Rat Film," there is "Kékszakállú," an Argentinian film produced by Balitmore's Matt Porterfield; "Motherland," a documentary about the world's largest maternity ward in Manilla directed by Baltimorean Ramona Diaz; "The Strange Ones," co-directed by Balitmore's Lauren Wolkstein; "Sylvio," a narrative movie based on the oh-so-popular Vine gorilla character; and "Finding Joseph I," a documentary about Bad Brains' H.R. who used to live in Baltimore.
The thing I am most excited about is "The Human Surge." I ran into MFF Director of Programming Eric Hatch not long after he'd seen it at one of the out-of-town festivals and long before I knew he'd be bringing it to Baltimore, and he was raving about this experimental feature that takes place in a whole bunch of different locations and was shot on a whole bunch of different formats and has something to do with the internet and sex work and labor and anthills? He favorably compared to "Gummo"—always a good thing.
The Maryland Film Festival kicks off on May 3 and runs into the weekend.