Director Zach Clark’s “Little Sister,” playing at the 2016 Maryland Film Festival. (Handout art)
By: Chris Kaltenbach. Contact Reporter
Another 25 films have been announced for this year’s Maryland Film Festival, along with the annual film to be introduced by John Waters.
The latest announcement includes the acclaimed documentary “Life, Animated,” about an autistic child and his love of Disney movies; director Bobby Miller’s fantasy-drama “The Master Cleanse,” starring Johnny Galecki, Anna Friel, Anjelica Huston and Oliver Platt; and the documentary “Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You.”
Waters will host a screening of British director Terence Davies’ “The Deep Blue Sea,” starring Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston as a judge’s wife and a former Royal Air Force pilot having a destructive affair in postwar Britain.
The announcement brings to 37 the number of films announced for the annual festival, set for May 4-8 at venues in and around Station North.
The 25 films, along with synopses provided by the festival, are:
“Always Shine” (Sophia Takal) The director of “Green” (Maryland Film Festival 2011) and star of “Wild Canaries” (MDFF 2014) helms this feminist psychological thriller, following two L.A. actresses on a weekend sojourn to Big Sur that takes a dark turn. Mackenzie Davis and Caitlin FitzGerald star.
“The Apostate” (Federico Veiroj) The director of “A Useful Life” (MDFF 2011) finds wry humor and quiet discoveries in telling the story of a determined man squaring off against the bureaucracy of the Catholic Church, seeking removal of all mentions of his name from their records.
“Boone” (Christopher LaMarca) This experiential documentary gives us intimate access to three young farmers, recalling both the bucolic beauty of Sweetgrass and the visceral sweat and toil of Leviathan as it paints a heartfelt and intimate portrait of human beings’ relationship to animals and the soil.
“Cameraperson” (Kirsten Johnson) The fearless cinematographer of pivotal documentaries such as “Two Towns of Jasper” and “The Oath” reframes footage from previous projects into a radical personal essay about life and filmmaking.
“Cemetery of Splendor”(Apichatpong Weerasethakul) From the director of festival favorites “Syndromes and a Century” (MDFF 2007) and “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” (MDFF 2011) comes another mysterious and atmospheric masterpiece of slow cinema.
“Donald Cried” (Kris Avedisian) Fresh from its premiere at South by Southwest, this biting yet emotionally resonant dark comedy follows a Wall Street suit pulled back into his head-banging stoner past when he returns home to settle his grandmother’s affairs.
“He Hated Pigeons” (Ingrid Veninger) Anguished Elias tries to cope with the death of his Canadian lover Sebastian in this moody and evocative road trip through the stunning countryside of Chile.
“Hotel Dallas” (Livia Ungur, Sherng-Lee Huang) Documentary and magical-realist fiction intersect in this look at the ripple effects of TV’s “Dallas” in Romania — broadcast there in the ‘80s with the intention of exposing corrupt American capitalism, but instead fomenting fantasies of materialist wealth and financial freedom.
“Ixcanul” (Jayro Bustamante) This memorable feature debut, which won the prestigious Silver Bear Alfred Bauer award at Rotterdam, offers an intimate look at a young Mayan girl’s hardscrabble existence on a coffee plantation. As she dreams of a life outside the plantation’s volcano-sloped confines, she comes to realize that the big city may prove an even harsher reality.
“Kate Plays Christine” (Robert Greene) The director of “Fake It So Real” (MDFF 2011) and “Actress” (MDFF 2014) returns with another rich work situated at the intersection of documentary, artifice, and performance. Here, Greene and actress Kate Lyn Sheil reconstruct a stylized vision of the life of television host Christine Chubbuck, who committed suicide on air in 1974.
“Koza” (Ivan Ostrochovský) A former Olympic flyweight boxer, already down on his luck, finds himself in a bind when he learns his girlfriend is pregnant. Out of shape and slowed by years of hard living, he sets out on a dark tour of cold Eastern Europe with a dubious manager, in search of fights for small fistfuls of cash.
“Lamb” (Yared Zeleke) This elegant, moving, and cinematically rich film tells the story of Ephraim, a young Ethiopian boy who finds meaning in the company of a lamb after the loss of his mother— but must protect his new animal companion from being sacrificed at the hands of his uncle.
“Life, Animated” (Roger Ross Williams) Years after stopping all verbal communication, a young autistic child finds his voice again through his deep love of Disney movies in this sweet and insightful documentary from the director of “God Loves Uganda” and “Music by Prudence” (MDFF 2011).
“Little Men” (Ira Sachs) From the director of “Love Is Strange” and “Keep the Lights On,” this poignant new drama follows two middle-schoolers, who both experience the effects of gentrification in Brooklyn, but in very differently ways. Greg Kinnear stars.
“Little Sister” (Zach Clark) Clark, the warped mind behind such psychotronic-tinged outings as “Modern Love Is Automatic” (MDFF 2009) and “White Reindeer” (MDFF 2013), remains rooted in his love of cult cinema, while reaching new heights in this story of a young nun whose brother was deeply scarred by the Iraq War. Addison Timlin, Keith Poulson, Ally Sheedy, Peter Hedges, Kristin Slaysman, and Barbara Crampton star.
“The Love Witch” (Anna Biller) With 2007’s “Viva,” Anna Biller displayed a unique talent for channeling the look and feel of ’60s and ’70s cult cinema. Here she returns with a modern spin on 1960s Technicolor thrillers, centered on a beautiful young witch with an itch to kill. The only emerging film presented on 35mm in the festival.
“The Master Cleanse” (Bobby Miller) When Paul (Johnny Galecki) bottoms out, he attends a self-help retreat — to his surprise, he finds himself purging something quite a bit stranger than tension and toxins. Anna Friel, Anjelica Huston, and Oliver Platt co-star in this unique SXSW-premiered blend of fantasy and drama.
“Morris From America” (Chad Hartigan) This Sundance hit comes from the director of “This Is Martin Bonner” (MDFF 2013), with much-lauded performances from Craig Robinson and Markees Christmas in a heartfelt and funny story of a father and teenage son adjusting to their new life in Germany.
“No Home Movie” (Chantal Akerman) The final work from master filmmaker Chantal Akerman stands as a strong companion piece to her pivotal early work News From Home. A series of conversations between the filmmaker and her mother, conducted both in person and over the internet, deliver a moving meditation on family and aging that has taken on new resonance after Akerman’s own recent passing.
“Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You” (Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady) The team behind festival favorites “The Boys of Baraka” (MDFF 2005) and “Detropia” (MDFF 2012) turn their lens on a living legend who changed what television meant to millions of Americans, transforming the small screen forever.
“Orange Sunshine” (William A. Kirkley) This action-packed documentary tells the story of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, a mystic group of California surfers whose passion for LSD use led them to large-scale drug smuggling in the 1960s and ‘70s.
“A Stray” (Musa Syeed) When Adan accidentally strikes a dog while on the job as a deliveryman, he feels a responsibility to the animal, even as his beliefs lead him to see it as impure. What follows is an insightful and direct slice of contemporary neo-realism set in Minneapolis’ vibrant Somali population.
“Trapped” (Dawn Porter) In many states, particularly in the South, laws have been passed under the pretense of regulating reproductive-health services that have in effect made it nearly or fully impossible for abortion providers to keep their doors open. The providers in this documentary explain their motivations for the work they do, and for maintaining their practices under new constraints.
“Under the Shadow” (Babak Anvari) During the Iran-Iraq war, a mother seeks to calm and protect her young daughter. But when a missile hits their apartment building, tension turns to terror in this fresh and inventive horror film.
“Untouchable” (David Feige) This challenging documentary brings nuance and complexity to an issue that too often has none: sex-offender laws and registries. Examining particularly punitive laws, it argues that measures that may have been intended to protect are sometimes themselves obstacles preventing redemption, closure, and functional lives.