Boston’s 10th annual Independent Film Festival will enthrall
“Welcome to Pine Hill” explores the struggles of confronting one’s past
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 21:05
For the seasoned Bostonian, one local film festival harkens the arrival of New England spring. From Wednesday, April 25 through Wednesday, May 2, Boston’s 10th Annual Independent Film Festival will take place in various theaters throughout the Boston area. Although the majority of films will play at Somerville Theatre in Cambridge, others will show at Brattle Theatre, also in Cambridge, as well as on Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline. Featuring around 100 independent films—many of which premiered earlier this year at the esteemed Toronto and Sundance Film Festivals—this spring’s Boston film festival brings a diverse assemblage of well-developed, heartfelt and thought-provoking independent films to the Boston public.
While independent film festivals have consistently been a feature of the American arts scene for decades, Nancy Campbell, one of the managing directors for the Boston Independent Film Festival, said that up until ten years ago film festivals had been missing in Boston. “What Boston needed was a grounded film festival that was of the same caliber as Sundance,” Campbell said, “or any of the regional festivals you see in other cities such as Cleveland, Ohio.”
A small group of Bostonians recognized the need for a local film festival in 2003 and persuaded Adam Roffman, the current program director of the current film festival, to manage a Boston program.
According to Campbell, the first festival consisted of only a handful of films and was held at a single venue in Boston. “From that point, we began to curate films that were really interesting. And each year the festival just seems to get bigger and bigger,” Campbell said.
As one of the managing directors, Campbell not only looks through films submissions sent from independent filmmakers, but also attends numerous other national and international film festivals in order to look for new and exciting films to show at the festival. Receiving approximately 1,200 film submissions each year, Campbell says sorting through all the submissions, watching them closely and narrowing them down to less than a hundred is an arduous task that takes many months.
Campbell, along with the other managers, spent the entire year planning for the festival, a difficult task due to the sheer magnitude of the event. The task was only made more daunting because of the difficulty in accurately gauging the possible public reaction to the festival. “We get nervous until we see faces and people [at the festival]… Most of the year we feel as if we’re in darkness and we don’t know how people will react to the films, or even if anyone plans on showing up [to the festival] at all,” Campbell said.
This year’s film festival has no overarching theme, and Campbell states that she hopes people draw conclusions about each film’s message for themselves. “We don’t choose films to fit a particular theme; instead, we try to pick the best films we can find,” she said.
The festival will include many lighthearted films such as, for instance “Beauty is Embarrassing,” a film about Wayne White, the artist and art director behind “Pee-wee’s Playhouse,” an iconic children’s television show, and “Time Zero: The Last Year of Polaroid Film,” a film about the redevelopment of the Polaroid film after Polaroid officially filed bankruptcy in 2011. Conversely, other films that explore some of the darker aspects of society and human nature, touching on topics such as classism and racism, will also be central to the festival. “Cerro Rico, Tierra Rica,” a film from Bolivia, depicts how mining has become a way of life for various indigenous communities in the Bolivian Andes. Most film screenings are followed by a question and answer session with the directors of each film, as well as an after-party for passholders and filmmakers.
Campbell emphasized the diversity of films to be shown this year. “We’ve chosen a lot of films suitable for a lot of people and their various interests. We have a film about baseball called ‘Knuckleball,’ if someone is a baseball fan. We have wonderful documentaries and foreign films. If you could throw a dart, there is almost nothing that you would hit that could not please you in some way,” she said.
One of the films that will be screened at this year’s festival is “Welcome to Pine Hill” by Keith Miller, which will be shown at the Somerville Theatre on Sunday, April 29 at 8 p.m. The film explores the journey of a reformed drug dealer after he receives devastating news regarding his health. Miller said that the idea for his film was conceived after an altercation between him and the leading actor, Shannon Harper, over a puppy. After the argument, the two men became close and realized the incident brought up interesting questions regarding class as well as race. Miller said, “[The film] became based on a lot of my conversations with Shannon. It wasn’t as if I picked a topic and decided to film that particular topic. It all just came together pretty organically.”
Miller’s decision to allow for long, uncut scenes, as well as his decision to have a large portion of the film unscripted, makes “Pine Hill” unique. During the shooting for each scene, there were two or three cameras filming at once and each scene was 45 minutes long. “We let reality come in for as long and as much as possible,” Miller said. “In a normal movie shoot, if a non-actor was to walk on to a set, you’d shout, ‘Cut!’ and start the scene over again because they just ruined a shot. With this film, I tended to allow for those kinds of things and even invited them.” He cited a particular incident where an old woman walked onto the scene collecting bottles and asked crew members for a cigarette.