Several MFF Alums Featured in Sundance 2015 Lineup!

sundance-618x400Sundance Film Festival has recently announced its 2015 lineup and we’ve spotted several MFF alums who will be presenting films in the competition.  Sundance takes place January 22-February 1, 2015 in Park City, Utah. MFF Director Jed Dietz will be in attendance once again this year; stay tuned for updates from him on the MFF blog! In the meantime, here is a list so far of MFF alums presenting films at Sundance (film descriptions taken from the Sundance website):

In the U.S. Dramatic Competition:

Marielle Heller, one of the recipients of our 2012 Maryland Filmmakers Fellowship, will present THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Marielle Heller) – Minnie Goetze is a 15-year-old aspiring comic-book artist, coming of age in the haze of the 1970s in San Francisco. Insatiably curious about the world around her, Minnie is a pretty typical teenage girl. Oh, except that she’s sleeping with her mother’s boyfriend. Cast: Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Christopher Meloni, Kristen Wiig.
Andrew Bujalski, who directed MFF 2013’s COMPUTER CHESS, will present RESULTS / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Andrew Bujalski) – Two mismatched personal trainers’ lives are upended by the actions of a new, wealthy client. Cast: Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders, Kevin Corrigan, Giovanni Ribisi, Anthony Michael Hall, Brooklyn Decker.

Long time MFF alum Kris Swanberg will present her new film UNEXPECTED / U.S.A. (Director: Kris Swanberg, Screenwriters: Kris Swanberg, Megan Mercier) – When Samantha Abbott begins her final semester teaching science at a Chicago high school, she faces some unexpected news: she’s pregnant. Soon after, Samantha learns that one of her favorite students, Jasmine, has landed in a similar situation. Unexpected follows the two women as they embark on an unlikely friendship. Cast: Cobie Smulders, Anders Holm, Gail Bean, Elizabeth McGovern.

Craig Zobel, who directed MFF 2012’s COMPLIANCE, will present Z FOR ZACHARIAH / U.S.A. (Director: Craig Zobel, Screenwriter: Nissar Modi) – In a post-apocalyptic world, a young woman who believes she is the last human on Earth meets a dying scientist searching for survivors. Their relationship becomes tenuous when another survivor appears. As the two men compete for the woman’s affection, their primal urges begin to reveal their true nature. Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Margot Robbie, Chris Pine.

In the U.S. Documentary Competition:

Bobcat Goldthwait, who directed MFF 2013’s WILLOW CREEK, MFF 2011’s GOD BLESS AMERICA and MFF 2007’s John Waters pick SLEEPING DOGS LIE, will present his documentary debut CALL ME LUCKY / U.S.A. (Director: Bobcat Goldthwait) – Barry Crimmins was a volatile but brilliant bar comic who became an honored peace activist and influential political satirist. Famous comedians and others build a picture of a man who underwent an incredible transformation.

Daniel Junge, who co-directed MFF 2014’s FIGHT CHURCH, will be presenting his film BEING EVEL / U.S.A. (Director: Daniel Junge) – A candid portrait of American icon Robert “Evel” Knievel and his legacy.

E. Chai Vasarhelyi, who directed MFF 2009’s YOUSSOU NDOUR: I BRING WHAT I LOVE will be presenting MERU / U.S.A. (Directors: Jimmy Chin, E. Chai Vasarhelyi) – Three elite mountain climbers sacrifice everything but their friendship as they attempt the never-before-completed Shark’s Fin on Mount Meru, the most coveted first ascent in the dangerous game of Himalayan big wall climbing.

The Ross brothers (Bill Ross and Turner Ross), who directed MFF 2012’s TCHOUPITOULAS, will present WESTERN / U.S.A., Mexico (Directors: Bill Ross, Turner Ross) – For generations, all that distinguished Eagle Pass, Texas, from Piedras Negras, Mexico, was the Rio Grande. But when darkness descends upon these harmonious border towns, a cowboy and lawman face a new reality that threatens their way of life.

In the NEXT <=> Lineup:

Diego Ongaro, whose short BOB AND THE TREES screened within MFF 2012, will be presenting his feature BOB AND THE TREES / U.S.A., France (Director: Diego Ongaro) – Bob, a 50-year-old logger in rural Massachusetts with a soft spot for golf and gangsta rap, is struggling to make ends meet in a changed economy. When his beloved cow is wounded and a job goes awry, Bob begins to heed the instincts of his ever-darkening self. Cast: Bob Tarasuk, Matt Gallagher, Polly MacIntyre, Winthrop Barrett, Nathaniel Gregory.

Charles Poekel, who was a producer on MFF 2011’s FAKE IT SO REAL, and Hannah Gross and Kentucker Audley, who are alums for multiple prior MFF films, are part of
CHRISTMAS, AGAIN / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Charles Poekel) – A heartbroken Christmas tree salesman returns to New York, hoping to put the past year behind him. He spends the season living in a trailer and working the night shift, until a mysterious woman and some colorful customers rescue him from self-destruction. Cast: Kentucker Audley, Hannah Gross, Jason Shelton, Oona Roche.

Rick Alverson, who directed MFF 2012’s THE COMEDY, will present ENTERTAINMENT / U.S.A. (Director: Rick Alverson, Screenwriters: Rick Alverson, Gregg Turkington, Tim Heidecker) – En route to meeting with his estranged daughter, in an attempt to revive his dwindling career, a broken, aging comedian plays a string of dead-end shows in the Mojave Desert. Cast: Gregg Turkington, John C. Reilly, Tye Sheridan, Michael Cera, Amy Seimetz, Lotte Verbeek.

Click here for the complete list of released titles for Sundance 2015!

John Waters’ Top Films of 2014!

JohnWatersChristmas510x210John Waters has revealed his top 10 films of 2014, and we are pleased to announce that MFF 2014’s documentary WHO TOOK JOHNNY? has made the list!  Click here for the complete article in Artforum.

Here is the list of John Waters’ top 10 films of 2014 (with his comments):

1 MAPS TO THE STARS (David Cronenberg) Hilariously funny and, dare I say it, yes, pernicious. I love this film more than I love my own mustache.

2 CHARLIE VICTOR ROMEO (Robert Berger, Patrick Daniels, and Karlyn Michelson) A nail-biting, fear-of-flying 3-D experimental movie where you are locked in six separate cockpits with the flight crew as they reenact black-box dialogue from actual aviation mishaps and crashes. The scariest airplane movie ever.

3 THE KIDNAPPING OF MICHEL HOUELLEBECQ (Guillaume Nicloux) My favorite writer is now a movie star, and he’s great playing himself in a literary whodunit that revisits his supposedly factual but still vague and unexplained book-tour kidnapping. Did it really happen, or was Houellebecq just drunk? Who knows? Who cares? I do, a lot.

4 THE SMELL OF US (Larry Clark) When the director, playing a wino savant named Rockstar, actually sucks the toes of his French teen male star on-screen (with subtitles yet!), you’ll know you’re beyond Odorama. The smell here may be ripe, but Larry Clark is back in top form. Oh, yeah . . . it’s a great musical.

5 GLORIA (Sebastián Lelio) A feel-bad date movie for old people who love their lives but hate romantic comedies.

WHO TOOK JOHNNY (David Beilinson, Michael Galinsky, and Suki Hawley) An amazing, lunatic head-scratcher of a documentary about missing children with plot twists that will leave you creeped out, surprised, and excited. As good as Capturing the Friedmans.

LI’L QUINQUIN (Bruno Dumont) Yes, there is such a thing as hillbillies in France. A comic barnyard mystery that asks the nagging question: Who is killing people in the countryside, cutting up their bodies, and stuffing the pieces up cows’ asses?

NYMPHOMANIAC: VOLUME I and VOLUME II (Lars von Trier) I, a Woman meets Salò. I thank the director for every hideous second of this comic masterpiece.

VIOLETTE (Martin Provost) An upbeat biopic about one of my longtime literary idols, Violette Leduc (aka the “female Genet”), a doubly miserable bisexual who only fell in love with gay men or heterosexual women yet found salvation through writing. The fact that she doesn’t commit suicide seems like a happy ending.

10 THE FILMS OF JOANNA HOGG (Unrelated [2007]; Archipelago [2010]; and Exhibition [2013]) As the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s miniretrospective last summer made clear, this British director’s perfectly framed scenes of simmering family resentments and embarrassed silences will thrill you in a severely modest way, and that should be enough. More than enough.

Support Maryland Film Festival this #GivingTuesday (12-2-14)!

GivingTuesdayWebsiteBanner_edited-2xxxSince 1999, Maryland Film Festival has been enhancing the cultural landscape of Baltimore by providing top-notch film programming and uniting filmmakers with audiences.  Thanks to your support, we have been able to enrich the lives of Charm City and inspire audiences through film.  But in order to continue to grow and provide this much-needed art form to our city, we are calling on you, the film lovers of Baltimore, to help us get there. Please support the work of Maryland Film Festival by making your donation today!

As the holidays draw near, we’re excited to join forces with #MarylandGivesMore, a state-wide campaign to declare Maryland the “Most Generous State” in America by raising $12.2 million for nonprofits on 12/2/14, #GivingTuesday. Maryland Film Festival is working to raise at least $5,000 on #GivingTuesday to help contribute to this effort.  Click here to find out more!

- $25 will help us feed a filmmaker for a day at Artscape;

- $50 will help us purchase supplies for our Filmmakers Conference, the unique gathering run by filmmakers that takes place each year during our festival;
- $200 will help pay for a local high school or university student to attend our festival;

- $1,000 will open the door for us to bring in an international filmmaker to present her work;

- $2,500 will help sustain our partnership with the Sundance Labs through the Maryland Filmmakers Fellowship;

- $5,000 will get you a Screening Sponsorship, providing exclusive festival access and great branding exposure opportunities for your company; contact us for details!
Every little bit counts and all donations are tax-deductible! Every gift over $50 will receive a complimentary year-long Friends of the Festival membership, offering access to dozens of screenings and sneak previews throughout the year, as well as special access at our 2015 festival!

MFF Named One of “The 25 Coolest Film Festivals In The World” by MovieMaker Magazine

Copy-2-of-Spread1-620x400Maryland Film Festival is thrilled to be named in MovieMaker Magazine’s top “25 Coolest Film Festivals In The World” a list that chronicles “the world’s weirdest and most wonderful cinematic celebrations” across the globe.  Other festivals honored include Lumière Film Festival, Hong Kong International Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, South by Southwest, and Zürich Film Festival. Click here for the complete “25 Coolest Film Festivals In The World” List inMovieMaker Magazine.

Included in this year’s judging panel was MFF alum Josephine Decker (BUTTER ON THE LATCH, THOU WAST MILD AND LOVELY) whose films had their theatrical debut at IFP in New York this past weekend.  We send a huge thank you out to the selection panel and promise to bring you another incredible festival in 2015!

Here is what MovieMaker Magazine had to say about us:

More and more, we will find this fest world-premiering the best of indie cinema, because they are regularly drawing filmmakers in for a one-of-a-kind weekend of parties and delicious food. Plus, filmmakers can attend their Filmmaker Conference and get confidential inside information on the industry, directly from other filmmakers. A priceless resource.”

In Memory of Visionary Filmmaker Michael Shamberg

Michael ShambergMaryland Film Festival is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of beloved filmmaker and MFF alum Michael Shamberg, who passed away on November 1st, 2014 after a long battle with illness.

Michael Shamberg (1952-2014) was a music video pioneer, filmmaker, collaborative artist and founder of Factory Records in New York.  He worked with Joy Division and produced several music videos for bands including New Order, Patti Smith, Grace Jones, B-52’s, R.E.M, Throwing Muses, Kristin Hersh and Electronic. He collaborated with artists and filmmakers including Robert Breer, William Wegman, Robert Frank, Phillip DeCouflé and Robert Longo to make groundbreaking music videos. He also brought in artists such as Lawrence Weiner, John Baldessari and Barbara Kruger to do posters for the bands.

Michael was an unconventional moviemaker whose filmmaking lived outside the mainstream. Chris Marker was a close friend and collaborator, and Michael was able to provide work in the early careers of prominent filmmakers like Jonathan Demme and Kathryn Bigelow.

He was a part of the Maryland Film Festival family both as an alum and longtime member of the MFF Screening Committee.  Michael’s deep appreciation for film culture included a rich knowledge of contemporary international cinema, a passion he shared with MFF audiences in his eloquent introduction of Tsai Ming-liang’s I DON’T WANT TO SLEEP ALONE within MFF 2007.

Pioneering in its time, Michael’s feature film SOUVENIR played within the 1999 Maryland Film Festival. SOUVENIR was shot on 35mm film, video and super 8, with computer graphic elements, all components digitized for editing, and then re-transferred to film for the final print.  It was shot in Paris over a period of 15 days and is a meditative exploration of memory, technology, history, chance, environment and geographical displacement.

I made SOUVENIR to create an emotional journey for the viewer. The film was written in Paris, where, as a displaced person, I absorbed the influences of the familiar and the foreign – of sculpture and of architecture, and of the European cinema – to draw the story out.

- Michael Shamberg, 1999 MFF Program Book

Michael’s short film TRIBECA, an early document of the post-punk band A Certain Ratio, was also screened within the 2011 Maryland Film Festival.

Michael was an amazingly talented artist and filmmaker whose intelligence, curiosity and good will led to friendship and collaboration with an extraordinary number of prominent (and obscure) artists, musicians, filmmakers, dancers, poets, and writers around the world.  He will be dearly missed.

Our sincerest condolences go out to Michael Shamberg’s friends and family.

MFF Alum Laura Poitras’ New Documentary CITIZENFOUR Opens Friday in Select Cities!

William Binney and Laura Poitras

L to R: Former NSA Official William Binney and Filmmaker Laura Poitras at the 10/22 sneak preview of CITIZENFOUR in Washington, DC.

MFF Director Jed Dietz was in attendance at last night’s sneak preview of CITIZENFOUR, the new documentary from Academy Award-nominated director Laura Poitras about governmental surveillance and Edward Snowden. Poitras is a 2012 MacArthur Genius Fellowship recipient and two-time MFF Alum, screening both Oscar-nominated MY COUNTRY MY COUNTRY (MFF 2006) and THE OATH (MFF 2010).  She was in attendance for the screening, along with several people featured in the film, including former NSA official William Binney.

Poitras’ new documentary is a real life thriller, unfolding by the minute, giving audiences unprecedented access to the filmmaker and journalist Glenn Greenwald’s encounters with Edward Snowden in Hong Kong, as he hands over classified documents providing evidence of mass indiscriminate and illegal invasions of privacy by the National Security Agency (NSA).

“The film is so tense and surprising as you go through it.  It’s as good as any of the Bourne movies, but better because it’s real.  It’s amazing storytelling,” Dietz said.

CITIZENFOUR places you in the room with Poitras, Greenwald, and Snowden as they attempt to manage the media storm raging outside, forced to make quick decisions that will impact their lives and all of those around them. The film not only shows you the dangers of governmental surveillance—it makes you feel them. After seeing the film, you may never think the same way about your phone, email, credit card, web browser, or profile, ever again.

CITIZENFOUR opens in select cities this Friday and will tentatively open in Baltimore at the Charles Theatre on Friday 10/31.  See the Charles’ website for more details.

CITIZENFOUR Trailer

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Makes $5 Million Naming Gift for Parkway Theater!

Artist's Conception of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Film Center. (Rendering courtesy of Ziger/Snead Architects)

Artist’s Conception of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Film Center. (Rendering courtesy of Ziger/Snead Architects)

We are thrilled to announce that the Stavros Niarchos Foundation has committed $5 million to Johns Hopkins University, enabling Maryland Film Festival, JHU, and the Maryland Institute College of Art to transform Baltimore’s historic Parkway Theater into a center for the study, production, and exhibition of film.

The new Stavros Niarchos Foundation Film Center will be a cinema showplace with three screens, 600 seats and live performance space. Scheduled to open in late 2016, it will help to anchor the Station North neighborhood’s developing role as a Baltimore arts destination, supporting cultural and economic growth in the area.
“With the new state-of-the-art Stavros Niarchos Foundation Film Center, the Maryland Film Festival will greatly expand its reach,” said MFF director Jed Dietz. “The center will enable us to bring more great films and filmmakers to Baltimore, host a broad range of arts programs, serve as a cultural anchor for the film community, and continue to market Baltimore as a leading location for film and TV production.  The center will be a thriving hub for film culture and creative film-making on the East Coast.”

“This is a once-in-a-generation moment for Johns Hopkins and our partners at MICA and the Maryland Film Festival to reclaim a part of Baltimore’s storied cultural history and transform it into the heart of our community’s vibrant, dynamic future,” Johns Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels said.  “With the visionary support of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, we are seeding artistic and economic opportunities for our students, our neighbors, and our city.”

The 420-seat Parkway Theater, built in 1915 near the corner of Charles Street and North Avenue, was a classic American movie palace patterned after the West End Theater in London and the Strand in New York. It closed in the urban decline of the 1970s, but in recent years the corner of Charles and North has become a key component in planning for the Station North Arts and Entertainment District.

Maryland was one of the first states to create arts and entertainment districts as an economic model and Station North was Baltimore’s first, generating significant economic development, tax revenue and employment since its inception in 2002.

“The Stavros Niarchos Foundation is firmly committed to supporting community development such as that at the Station North Arts and Entertainment District and excited to partner with this unique alliance of academic and cultural institutions in Baltimore,” said Andreas Dracopoulos, co-president of the board of directors of the foundation. “We believe the combination of universities and arts organizations is a great untapped resource for improving our cities, and seek to provide support for the best initiatives such coalitions develop. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Film Center will be one of these.”

MFF Alum Rory Kennedy’s LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM Opens Today at the Charles Theater!

LDVMFF Alum Rory Kennedy‘s new award-winning documentary about the chaotic final days of the Vietnam War, LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM, opens in Baltimore today at the Charles Theater.  Click here to purchase tickets.  LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
Perhaps the most striking thing about LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM, Rory Kennedy’s eye-opening documentary about the 1975 evacuation of the American Embassy in Saigon, is how calmly it surveys what was once among the angriest topics in American political life. The story is full of emotion and danger, heroism and treachery, but it is told in a mood of rueful retrospect rather than simmering partisan rage. Ms. Kennedy, whose uncle John F. Kennedy expanded American involvement in Vietnam and whose father, Robert F. Kennedy, became one of the ensuing war’s most passionate critics, explores its final episode with an open mind and lively curiosity. There are old clips that have never been widely seen and pieces of information that may surprise many viewers.
The New York Times, 9/4/14
Rory Kennedy’s award-winning documentary ETHEL screened within the 2012 Maryland Film Festival and again as part of the MFF/WYPR Spotlight Series. 

Film Synopsis
During the chaotic final days of the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese Army closes in on Saigon as South Vietnamese resistance crumbles. The United States has only a skeleton crew of diplomats and military operatives still in the country. As Communist victory becomes inevitable and the U.S. readies to withdraw, some Americans begin to consider the certain imprisonment and possible death of their South Vietnamese allies, co-workers, and friends. Meanwhile, the prospect of an official evacuation of South Vietnamese becomes terminally delayed by Congressional gridlock and the inexplicably optimistic U.S. Ambassador. With the clock ticking and the city under fire, a number of heroic Americans take matters into their own hands, engaging in unsanctioned and often makeshift operations in a desperate effort to save as many South Vietnamese lives as possible.

Sweaty Eyeballs Animation Invitational Returns Friday 10/17!

SWEATYEYEBALLSMaryland Film Festival is proud to be a sponsor of the 3rd Annual Sweaty Eyeballs Animation Invitational, which returns to the MICA Brown Center on Friday 10/17 at 7:30pm with a mind-blowing array of international, independent short animations. Curated by Phil Davis (Towson University) and Max Porter (Maryland Institute College of Art); including narrative, experimental, and music video work made with a variety of techniques ranging from stop motion, hand drawn, to CGI. Come on out for a night of weird and beautiful animation and cast your vote for the audience choice award!

3rd Annual Sweaty Eyeballs Animation Invitational Screening
Friday October 17, 2014
7:30 PM
Falvey Hall Auditorium – MICA Brown Center
1300 W. Mount Royal Ave. Baltimore, MD
$5 general admission;
FREE for Friends of the Festival, students (with valid student ID), and University faculty/staff

MFF Named “Best Film Festival/Series” in City Paper’s “Best of Baltimore” Reader’s Poll!

bcp-best-of-baltimore-2014-intro-20140912-001Thank you, Baltimore! We’re very happy to announce that MFF has once again been named Best Film Festival/Series in the City Paper‘s 2014 “Best of Baltimore” Reader’s Poll!

Issues hit newsstands today — be sure to pick one up or click here to check it out online!

Also honored in this year’s “Best of Baltimore” issue is MFF alum Chris LaMartina who won for Best Filmmaker. LaMartina’s film CALL GIRL OF CTHULHU had its premiere at MFF 2014.

Also receiving a shout out is MFF’s own Operations & Development Manager, Rahne Alexander, whose band The Degenerettes was part of Ladyfest, which received the honor of Best Music Festival in this year’s awards.

We’re thrilled to be part of what makes the Charm City art scene so vibrant and look forward to bringing you another amazing film festival next year!



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