Posts Tagged 'Eric Hatch'

MFF Programming Director Eric Hatch reports back from the 2013 New York Asian Film Festival!


MC Yan and Fab 5 Freddy’s “Kung Fu Wildstyle” exhibit.

The New York Asian Film Festival, now in its twelfth year, occupies a valuable niche in the festival world. A co-production of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Subway Cinema, NYAFF isn’t the sort of festival that takes over a city or neighborhood, being just one of many exciting series housed on the Lincoln Center campus throughout the year. But for those who love Asian cinema and want a filter that lets through not just high-brow art-house titles but also genre, cult, and psychotronic fare, the festival makes for a generous buffet.

While the setting is the dignified Walter Reade Theater, NYAFF goes out of its way to cultivate a lively and accessible vibe. In fact, as I attended the festival last week, I was reminded fondly of the scrappy, laid-back screenings at Baltimore’s beloved underground festival MicroCineFest.  Each NYAFF screening begins with an energetic intro and prizes (DVDs, blu-rays, t-shirts) tossed to an enthusiastic audience for whom Johnnie To is a household name and Ip Man generates more excitement than Iron Man. Meanwhile, the Walter Reade’s waiting area was enlivened by a playful art exhibit entitled “Kung Fu Wildstyle,” featuring Bruce Lee-inspired artwork created by hip-hop legend Fab 5 Freddy in collaboration with Hong Kong’s MC Yan.

This year’s NYAFF (ongoing through July 15, if you happen to find yourself in Manhattan) presents approximately 65 features over the course of 18 days, many of them U.S. premieres. Finding its center in emerging titles from around the continent, NYAFF 2013 also includes special focuses on a rediscovered wave of Taiwanese pulp films from the early 80s, a retrospective of work by S. Korean actor Ryoo Seung-beom, a slate of contemporary Filipino independent features, a revival of Enter the Dragon with a post-film discussion on its impact on hip-hop culture, and a lifetime achievement award given to special guest Jackie Chan. I took in a dozen NYAFF films during 4 days in New York, and was greatly impressed with the variety of work on display.

The Challenge of the Lady Ninja

Challenge of the Lady Ninja

Festival attendees were particularly buzzing about NYAFF’s slate of Taiwanese “black films,” exploitation films from the late 70s into the early 80s that have remained obscure even among cult-film enthusiasts. NYAFF offered a number of these rarely screened films, as well as a documentary about the genre for context, with The Lady Avenger emerging as a crowd favorite. The Taiwanese film I caught, Lee Tso-nam’s Challenge of the Lady Ninja (1981), doesn’t fall squarely into the Taiwanese black-film genre, but is of the same vintage, and proved endlessly entertaining. A fairly standard-issue martial-arts story of honor and revenge magnified to a point of psychedelic absurdity by bizarre characters, deranged dialogue, and a few instances of absolutely insane costume design, the film approached the exquisite, otherworldly strangeness of films like House and The Boxer’s Omen (which readers may remember from MFF 2011, when it was presented as a favorite film by members of Animal Collective). Films like these challenge and expand our expectations of what the art form can be, and it’s always a pleasure to encounter a work so singularly strange.

Confession of Murder

Confession of Murder

South Korea was heavily represented in NYAFF, as one would expect from what is arguably the most robust and exciting film industry in the world at this moment. One of the more interesting S. Korean films I took in was Jeong Byeong-gil’s loud, clever, and genre-hopping Confession of Murder. The film opens with a prologue full of moody references to Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder (2003), a masterful thriller about a detective’s long struggle to crack an unsolved serial-killer case. But the many early nods to Bong’s masterpiece prove to be just points of departure, as Confession of Murder quickly fast-forwards to a present-day in which the statute of limitations on a series of gruesome murders has expired, and a smooth character has claimed responsibility for the crimes in a best-selling tell-all autobiography. This central concept admittedly requires substantial suspension of disbelief, yet becomes more and more appropriate as the tone of the film shifts from the subtlety of Zodiac-era David Fincher to the deliriousness of, say, a Face/Off-era John Woo or Snake Eyes-era Brian De Palma. Certainly, the film becomes more cartoonish as it goes along, occasionally to its detriment, but this progression is clearly intentional; the mind games between the central characters remain engaging throughout, and the film’s many action scenes are nothing short of spectacular.

Feng Shui

Feng Shui

Also of interest was Wang Jing’s Feng Shui, a heavy Mandarin drama about a relentlessly miserable young bride and her long-suffering husband, struggling together to make ends meet on a factory worker’s salary as they raise their young son in a cramped Wuhan apartment. The extremely effective first half of the film, set roughly 20 years in the past, mixes Sirk-ian melodrama (by way of Fassbinder or Haynes) with dark comedy notes that would feel at home in a film by Todd Solondz or Alexander Payne. I wasn’t as convinced by the second half of the film, which features an abrupt jump to the present (coupled with tweaks of tone that reduced the dark comedy and ratcheted up the pathos), but its overall impact lingered effectively and agreeably. I’ll definitely be seeking out more of Wang Jing’s kitchen-sink dramas.

More than anything, the variety on display at NYAFF hammered home how much Baltimore needs more of this type of cultural activity—namely, focused film series that take viewers deeper into the films of particular eras, regions, genres, and directors. The world of film is broad enough as to approach the infinite in terms of any one viewer’s ability to see and process it all—but when we rely on corporate distributors to shed light on a tiny corner of that world, cinema can seem not only finite but stale. Depending solely on these channels to curate our film viewing, we’re frequently not seeing the most entertaining or artistically rich films so much as we are the most marketable films; too often whole nations or even continents go unrepresented, even in the art-house marketplace, as the profit motive gives precedence to the easy and familiar over the challenging and unique.

Festivals like NYAFF—and the year-round creative programming on display at New York institutions like Film Society of Lincoln Center, Anthology Film Archives, Museum of the Moving Image, and BAMcinematek—deserve credit for blowing the lid off that limited view and helping audiences access the bigger picture. As Maryland Film Festival works towards establishing a year-round venue, the impact created by passionately programmed festivals like NYAFF will serve as valuable points of reference. My second year attending NYAFF was every bit as enjoyable and enlightening as the first; cheers to their programmers, staff, and volunteers for a job very well done.

MFF Staff with Zachary Treitz and Kate Lyn Sheil at SUN DON’T SHINE

Scott Braid, Eric Hatch, Jed Dietz, Zachary Treitz and Kate Lyn Sheil.

Scott Braid, Eric Hatch, Jed Dietz, Zachary Treitz and Kate Lyn Sheil.

MFF staff including Programming Administrator Scott Braid, Director of Programming Eric Hatch, and Director Jed Dietz with Zachary Treitz and Kate Lyn Sheil at the screening of SUN DON’T SHINE last night.  Zachary Treitz’ short film WE’RE LEAVING screened in the MFF 2011 Opening Night Shorts Program.  Kate Lyn Sheil starred in SUN DON’T SHINE and has acted in several other MFF-screened films including THE COMEDY, V/H/S, EMPIRE BUILDER and THE COLOR WHEEL, among others.

Check Out MFF Alum Skizz Cyzyk’s Maryland Film Festival Video for Artscape 2012!

MFF Alum and former Program Manager Skizz Cyzyk has crafted a video for Maryland Film Festival for Artscape 2012.  This video features interviews with MFF Staff members Jed Dietz, Eric Hatch, Scott Braid, and Rahne Alexander on the program Maryland Film Festival has put together for Artscape 2012, including a Friday night screening of GIRL WALK // ALL DAY with special guest Anne Marsen at 7pm at the Charles Theater, and shorts programs on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6pm at the Charles Theater.  All MFF programming at Artscape is FREE to the public! 

Click here for Maryland Film Festival’s full Artscape 2012 Schedule.

Click here for Skizz Cyzyk‘s video for Maryland Film Festival at Artscape 2012.

Last Round of Eric’s Festival Programming Highlights: DARK HORSE

Today is the final day of MFF 2012, and we have films running on all 5 screens of The Charles as well as MICA’s Brown Center and Windup Space. MFF Director of Programming Eric Hatch has been sharing “programmer’s picks” with us all week. Today, fittingly, he turns his attention to our closing-night film: DARK HORSE.

*Please note that tonight’s 7pm screening of DARK HORSE at the Charles Theater has been placed on STANDBY.  If you want to see the film and don’t have a ticket or All-Access pass, a standby line will form outside the Charles Theater 30 minutes prior to the screening.  Once ticketed patrons and pass holders are seated, we will sell the remaining seats to patrons in standby.  We promise to do our best to get as many standby patrons seated as possible!


Todd Solondz’s films have always felt very, well, Baltimore to me. When I moved here in 1996, Solondz’s breakthrough “sad comedy” (the director’s preferred term for his genre) WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE was enjoying an extended run at The Charles Theater. I saw it more than once, and was blown away. Even more of an impression was made by his 1998 masterpiece, HAPPINESS, which I took in at least three times at The Charles and The Orpheum (R.I.P.).  Yes, his films are sometimes a little sick, dark, and twisted—but how appropriate for the city that produced John Waters, not to mention the festival that has adopted Bobcat Goldthwait as an honorary citizen of sorts.

DARK HORSE is Solondz’s best film since those early sad-comedy masterpieces, as well as his most accessible film yet. Abe (Jordan Gelber) is a petulant and selfish man-child who, firmly on the far side of 30, still lives at home, working for his father and collecting toys. Deeply lonely yet full of blustery delusions of grandeur, Abe aggressively pursues troubled beauty Miranda (Selma Blair). In a moment of weakness, she goes along with his advances, built around his grandiose vision of a life together in his room full of collectibles. This stroke of good fortune surprises no one more than Abe’s long-suffering parents (a note-perfect pairing of Mia Farrow and Christopher Walken)—until, that is, things begin to unravel.

I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Solondz once (a memorable phoner for Baltimore City Paper circa STORYTELLING) as well as seeing him introduce many a film at the Toronto International Film Festival. His films are a gift, and so is his charming public presence, comparable only to the pleasure of seeing John Waters introduce a film. We couldn’t be more proud to have both Solondz and star Jordan Gelber here for our Closing Night!

A ticket to this film also gets you into our always-fun Closing Night Party (across the street in our tent village) directly after the screening. I hope you enjoy our 2012 Closing Night selection. If I were a festival-goer instead of a festival-maker, I’d be first in line for this one!

Thanks for reading these programmer’s picks this week. I hope you all had a fantastic festival, and discovered a lot of great new films.

-Eric Hatch, Director of Programming

Festival Programming Highlights #7: JEFF, GAYBY

As MFF 2012 reaches its mid-point, here’s another pair of programming picks from Eric Hatch–two very different films, both of which have their first of two screenings today, Saturday, and then repeat on Sunday.


This beautiful, brilliant, and somehow not (visually) graphic film is half-doc, half-fiction, and 100% about Jeffrey Dahmer. That said, this is a million miles from the lurid pulp that comprises most serial-killer film and literature. Instead, what we have here is sometimes quite beautiful dramatic filmmaking a la Gus Van Sant fused to documentary interviews with three people changed by Jeffrey Dahmer—a neighbor, a medical examiner, and the interrogator who got the killer’s confession. We’ll have both director Chris James Thompson and Dahmer’s interrogator, Patrick Kennedy, here for our screenings of this unique hybrid film. JEFF is something unexpected, exciting, and new.  JEFF plays tonight (5/5) at 9:30pm and again Sunday (5/6) at noon at the Charles Theater.



Looking to laugh? You can’t go wrong with GAYBY.  As much about straight people looking for love as it is an insider’s look at the pleasures and pitfalls of modern gay culture, this crossover comedy follows two thirty-something friends who, despite incompatible sexual preferences, decide to make a baby (and do it the old fashioned-way). We had director Jonathan Lisecki’s short of the same name here for MFF 2010 and again for that summer’s Artscape, and it was a runaway hit at both. This feature generously reimagines and expands upon that short, with warm and hilarious results. GAYBY brims with a contagious belief in our capacities for love and friendship—and earns it by never cheating in its honest portrayal of real life in all its messy, hilarious, awkward complexities.  GAYBY plays tonight (5/5) at 8pm and again on Sunday at 5:00pm at the Charles Theater.

– Eric Hatch, Director of Programming

Festival Programming Highlights #5: THE BLACK BALLOON; PORFIRIO; OSLO, AUGUST 31st

For today’s programming picks, I wanted to highlight three exceptional titles that are only screening once during MFF 2012. If you’re intrigued by these films, be sure to flag their single screenings as must-sees on your schedule!



If I could sit and watch one program during the festival (instead of running around like a chicken with its head cut off), it would probably be this one. This comedic and touching journey of a balloon through present-day New York City comes to us courtesy of the inimitable Safdie brothers (of MFF 2010’s DADDY LONGLEGS). The Safdies have paired their latest short with classic titles The Red Balloon, The Balloonatic, and The Pincushion Man (aka Balloon Land) for a charming feature-length program of balloon-themed shorts. This is something really different, and I’m so glad it came together.  THE BLACK BALLOON plays Sunday 5/6 at 4:30pm at the Charles Theater.



A paralyzed Bogota man, upset that his government benefits aren’t forthcoming, methodically plots a drastic action. Amazingly, not only is this dramatic film based on a true story, but also the real-life protagonist plays himself (as do many of his friends and relatives). I don’t like throwing around the phrase “brave performance” lightly, but this one more than qualifies. This film, alongside Yorgos Lanthimos-starring ATTENBERG, deserves a DOGTOOTH alert, as that film’s cinematographer also shot this one. I’d also recommend it to anyone who responded to past MFF international titles as different as Argentina’s LIVERPOOL and Thailand’s MUNDANE HISTORY, films that manage to be quiet, patient, subversive, and beautiful all at once.  PORFIRIO plays Saturday 5/5 at 5:00pm.



I loved REPRISE, the debut film by Joachim Trier, a barbed drama about a pair of aspiring authors harboring misogynistic hang-ups. Based upon the same novel as Louis Malle’s classic THE FIRE WITHIN, OSLO follows a recovering addict on his first day-leave from a rehab facility. Astonishing lead Anders Danielsen Lie’s deeply expressive face fills the screen with feeling, equal parts bemused and pained by the new ways family and old friends react to him. Nelson Kim sums it up beautifully for ace film blog Hammer to Nail: “Though the film is all about disappointment and failure, as a work of art, it’s a triumphant success. Trier has the rare gift of creating cinematic scenes and sequences that are like perfectly achieved pop songs; certain passages in OSLO…are condensations of style and story and emotion that linger in your consciousness like rooms you’ve lived in and people you once loved.”  OSLO, AUGUST 31st plays Saturday 5/5 at 10:00pm at the Charles Theater.

– Eric Hatch, Director of Programming

Festival Programming Highlights #4: WILD IN THE STREETS; COME BACK, AFRICA; and SUN DON’T SHINE

As the 2012 Maryland Film Festival starts tonight (gulp), let’s step up our programmer’s picks. Here’s not two, but three new picks from MFF Director of Programming Eric Hatch.

WILD IN THE STREETS directed by Peter Baxter

Those who know me know that I wouldn’t be recommending a sports documentary unless it was something special. WILD IN THE STREETS is something special. Since medieval times, hundreds of people in the small UK town of Ashbourne have played a game. Anything goes for days, as massive swarms of people huddle a ball to goals miles away. Meanwhile, the game fights for survival as suburban homogenization creeps into the area. This very cool documentary is, on some level, about an all-consuming passion for sport, and appealing so, but the larger issues of community and tradition hold a universal appeal.  WILD IN THE STREETS plays on Friday 5/4 at 7:00pm at the WindUp Space and again on Saturday 5/5 at 1:30pm at the Charles Theater.

SUN DON'T SHINE directed by Amy Seimetz

If you share my fascination with ’60s and ’70s renegade filmmaking, well… this one’s for us. Director Amy Seimetz (who co-starred in MFF 2011’s SMALL POND, among many other credits in front of the camera) cites inspirations like A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE and TWO-LANE BLACKTOP, and it shows. This sweaty, grimy, swampy underground thriller is Florida-set and 16mm-shot, and would, not incidentally, pair very well with John Waters’ MFF 2012 pick, Barbara Loden’s 1970 feature, WANDA.  SUN DON’T SHINE plays on Friday 5/4 at 5:00pm and again on Saturday 5/5 at 7:30pm at the Charles Theater.

COME BACK, AFRICA directed by Lionel Rogosin

Those who caught ON THE BOWERY, the 1950s docu-fiction piece that played recently as part of the ever-excellent Revival Series at the Charles Theater, might be amazed that COME BACK, AFRICA comes from the same director. But Lionel Rogosin helmed this South African film, perhaps best-known for its break-out musical performances by Miriam Makeba, just three years after his stark New York-set drama. Both films were shot on location with a mixture of professional and amateur performers, with beautiful results. We’re very proud to be showcasing a beautifully restored 35mm print of this anti-Apartheid classic, to be presented by our friends Amy Heller and Dennis Doros of Milestone Films, who also brought us 2007’s restored print of KILLER OF SHEEP.

– Eric Hatch, Director of Programming

Festival Programming Highlights #3: THE SOURCE and VOLCANO

Here are another pair of programmer’s picks from MFF Director of Programming Eric Hatch.

Both titles screen Friday day (screenings to which our Friends of the Festival have FREE access!), and have second screenings later in the festival.


THE SOURCE, directed by Jodi Wille and Maria Demopoulos

Here’s a documentary full of humor, tragedy, and life. Our subject is The Source Family, a commune (some, being less kind, would say “cult”) that thrived during L.A.’s late ‘60s/early ‘70s hippie era. Formed around vegetarian restaurateur Father Yod, The Source Family counted major celebrities among their friends, self-released enduring psychedelic rock albums, and developed their own brand of spirituality (still practiced by some today). But along the way, they also became increasingly cut off from mainstream society in ways that had serious negative consequences. And for Father Yod, there was a major twist coming. Even knowing some of the Source Family’s story headed into the theater, I found this documentary endlessly entertaining and moving.  THE SOURCE plays Friday 5/4 at 2pm and Saturday 5/5 at 6:30pm at the Charles Theater.


VOLCANO directed by Rúnar Rúnarsson

I’ve been recommending this Icelandic drama, certainly one of my favorite foreign films in our line-up, to fans of Mike Leigh (NAKED, SECRETS & LIES, ANOTHER YEAR); as with Leigh’s work, it expertly offers one part serious drama, one part satiric character study. VOLCANO follows a recent retiree, Hannes, who begins losing the respect of his adult children when his post-employment life proves listless and unproductive—yet his domineering treatment of his doting wife continues unabated. When she takes ill, everyone’s life enters a new state of crisis. Can Hannes rise to the occasion? As a bonus, this screening will also include the Icelandic short film REVOLUTION REYKJAVIK, fresh from the renowned New Directors/New Films festival.  VOLCANO and REVOLUTION REYKJAVIK play on Friday 5/4 at 11:30am and Sunday 5/6 at 11:00am at the Charles Theater.

– Eric Hatch, Director of Programming

Festival Programming Highlights #2: ATTENBERG and THE PATRON SAINTS

Each day leading up to the festival, director of programming Eric Hatch is highlighting a pair of titles in our line-up for your consideration.

Ariane Labed and Evangelia Randou star in ATTENBERG.

ATTENBERG – One of the biggest surprise hits in MFF history was 2010’s Greek dark comedy DOGTOOTH, which went on to an Academy Award nomination for best foreign picture and had one of its best theatrical runs in the country right here in Baltimore. Much of that team (including DOGTOOTH director Yorgos Lanthimos, who co-stars here) is back for Athina Rachel Tsangari’s ATTENBERG, an appropriately offbeat drama about a woman with a lot of distance between herself and “normal” social behavior. As she sits with her dying father, trading philosophies and plotting to fulfill his dying wish, she begins to reconsider the ways she’s approached friendship and romance. Citing inspirations as quirky as Monty Python and nature documentaries, we think we detect some notes of early Fassbinder here as well.

THE PATRON SAINTS gives us a poignant look into the daily lives of residents of a home for the aged and disabled.

THE PATRON SAINTS – This one won’t be for everyone, but many of you will absolutely love it; it’s unquestionably among the very best and most provocative two or three films I saw at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival in 2011—and I watched 30 movies there, so that’s saying something. A documentary that looks at residents of a nursing home—most, but not all, elderly—the film becomes an essay of sorts on the human mind, and the strange, wonderful, horrible things that it produces when it’s in an unfettered and compromised state. It’s a sad and unnerving film at moments, humorous at others, but with a very compassionate tone running underneath it all from start to finish. The directing duo behind this film have had a busy year, and will also be presenting FRANCINE, their brand new Melissa Leo-starring drama, for a single screening within MFF 2012.

– Eric Hatch, Director of Programming

Festival Programming Highlights #1: VITO and PILGRIM SONG

As we roll out the Baltimore premieres of over 100 new movies within MFF 2012 this weekend, we know it can be hard to make your final selections. Each day this week, MFF director of programming Eric Hatch will be highlighting a few titles he thinks you’re going to love.

Today’s programmer picks are the documentary VITO and the narrative PILGRIM SONG. Both have Friday daytime first screenings (to which our Friends of the Festival have FREE access!), and second screenings on Saturday.

VITO – A documentary about the inspiring story of gay-rights activist and Celluloid Closet author Vito Russo.

VITO is an incredibly moving documentary about Vito Russo, a lifelong film lover and activist who wrote The Celluloid Closet and co-founded ACT-UP. Courageous, full of personality, and unapologetically his own person, Vito was a true inspiration. Everyone I know who has seen this film has been blown away; file this one alongside The Times of Harvey Milk as an absolutely crucial documentary about gay activism in the United States. MFF regulars will remember director Jeffrey Schwarz from his William Castle documentary Spine Tingler! Head’s up: his next project is a documentary about Baltimore icon Divine!  VITO plays Friday 5/4 at 1:30pm and Saturday 5/5 at 2:30pm at the Charles Theater.  Click here for tickets.

PILGRIM SONG is an atmospheric, sensory-rich mix of comedy and drama by Martha Stephens.

PILGRIM SONG is an exquisitely shot drama with plenty of laughter along the way. Director Martha Stephens tells the story of a laid-off teacher in a sagging relationship who sets off on a solitary hike along a Kentucky trail. Along the way, he meets a cast of characters both poignant and humorous, worthy of comparison to the films of Kelly Reichardt (especially Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy) and Jim Jarmusch. Fresh from its world premiere at SXSW 2012, Pilgrim Song is a true gem of American indie filmmaking.  PILGRIM SONG plays Friday 5/4 at 2:30pm and Saturday 5/5 at 4:30pm at the Charles Theater.  Click here for tickets.

-Eric Hatch, Director of Programming