Posts Tagged 'Joe Berlinger'

MFF Programmer Scott Braid reports on the 16th Annual Provincetown Film Festival

Sunday a week ago marked the wrap of the 16th annual Provincetown International Film Festival, a delightful and thoughtfully programmed festival centered in Cape Cod’s most charming and friendly town. PIFF pulled out all the stops this year in bringing world-class film and filmmakers to town. Their formidable line-up included a number of fantastic films and several wonderful special events.

Among the films in the PIFF line-up, a dozen or so appeared within MFF 2014 back in May. One of the notable overlaps in programming was Desiree Akhavan’s hilarious and heartfelt, APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR which was very warmly received by Ptown audiences and took home the fest’s Tangerine Entertainment Juice Fund award, a cash prize given at several different festivals in support of outstanding female filmmakers.


Desiree Akhavan with Tangerine Entertainment’s Anne Hubbell

MFF 2014’s FORT TILDEN (SXSW Grand Jury prize winner), the uproarious satirical dark comedy that offers a withering critique of a certain kind of vapid Brooklynite also made its way to the Cape, making a big splash with Ptown audiences in its 3 screenings there.


Directors Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers host a lively Q&A after screening their film FORT TILDEN at the Art House.

Other MFF 2014 narrative titles that made their way to PIFF included Gillian Robespierre’s breakout Sundance hit OBVIOUS CHILD, Joe Swanberg’s HAPPY CHRISTMAS, and Joel Potrykus’ BUZZARD. Meanwhile the documentary section included such MFF standouts as Marshall Curry’s POINT AND SHOOT, Joe Berlinger’s WHITEY, Ben Cotner and Ryan White’s THE CASE AGAINST 8, and Sam Cullman and Jennifer Grausman’s ART AND CRAFT.

As with any Maryland Film Festival, no Ptown Film Fest would be complete without the participation of the great John Waters. Here John was doing double duty reprising his MFF presentation of Catherine Breillat’s ABUSE OF WEAKNESS for Ptown audiences and acting as host/interviewer for legendary cult director David Cronenberg, who was being honored with the PIFF Filmmaker On The Edge award. Waters conducted a fascinating interview in which Cronenberg recalled turning down the chance to direct THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, watching Tom Cruise get passed over at an audition with Dino De Laurentiis, and a plethora of other fascinating stories about his nearly 50 years as a filmmaker. The same event saw a fun conversation between film critic B. Ruby Rich and PIFF Career Achievement honoree Debra Winger.


Cronenberg and Waters, seen here with PIFF’s Career Achievement Award-winner Debra Winger (photo from


Cronenberg talks about his career in conversation with John Waters at Provincetown’s Town Hall

Of course I didn’t travel all the way to the tip of Cape Cod just to watch and talk about movies I’ve already seen during the programming period for MFF. The main reason for me to go to any festival is to discover wonderful films I haven’t seen and Ptown did not disappoint in this department.

My two favorites films that I had yet to see at PIFF both came out of their documentary section. Nancy Kates’ REGARDING SUSAN SONTAG was an unexpectedly artful and fascinating look into the life of the late writer, filmmaker, political activist, etc. Constructed over the course of 8 years, the film goes to great lengths to create an atmosphere that reflects Sontag’s (and of course the filmmaker’s own) aesthetic sensibilities while offering an interesting and insightful appraisal of her life and work.


Director Nancy Kates discusses REGARDING SUSAN SONTAG, after PIFF screening at the Schoolhouse Gallery

The documentary that really knocked me out however, was Jesse Moss’ THE OVERNIGHTERS, an intense and powerful doc about the small town of Williston, North Dakota that is overwhelmed by its near overnight transformation into a fracking boom town. Thousands of men and women seeking employment in the oil fields or in ancillary industries springing up around them, overwhelming the towns resources, real estate and many folks nerves. At the center of the story is a local Lutheran pastor who is devoted to helping and housing the many desperate unemployed who come to town. At times his devotion to the plight of the “overnighters” as they’re called, puts him at odds with the town and even his own congregation. A fascinating insight into human nature, small town politics and the brutal reality of searching for employment during lean times, THE OVERNIGHTERS provides a riveting viewing experience throughout building to a mind-blowing crescendo, leaving the viewer much to ponder upon leaving the theater.


Still from Jesse Moss’ THE OVERNIGHTERS

In the narrative department, Ira Sachs’ haunting and heartfelt LOVE IS STRANGE provided a very satisfying viewing experience. The film stars John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a senior-age gay couple who finally are able to marry after 39 years together, only to be forced out of their Manhattan apartment shortly thereafter by rising real estate prices. As they try to find a new home the couple has to separate for the first time in decades, staying with friends and relatives, putting a strain on both their relationship and those they’re staying with. Excellent performances are the key here and Molina and Lithgow deliver as does the supporting cast which includes Oscar-winner Marisa Tomei.


Director Ira Sachs discusses his latest film, LOVE IS STRANGE at Provincetown’s Town Hall

To close out the weekend, PIFF brought in acclaimed filmmaker Jonathan Demme to present his latest work A MASTER BUILDER. A film which finds Demme collaborating with the legendary Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn, the duo perhaps most famous in cinematic circles for their 1981 collaboration with Louis Malle, MY DINNER WITH ANDRE. Their latest outing, A MASTER BUILDER is an ambitious adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s The Master Builder Solness. The two elder statesman of stage and screen (Gregory and Shawn also star in the film) were in attendance and with Demme hosted a rousing Q&A following the screening. The three greats discussed their excitement to have had the opportunity to work on this project together and the challenges of shooting such a project on a limited budget in just over a week. Reminding the audience that even legendary film artists often have to struggle to fund a project that they wish to complete on their own terms. It was a fitting and fun way to close out such a fine year for PIFF. The fun and festive closing party and awards ceremony made the evening all the more delightful. I look forward to visiting both Provincetown and its film festival again in June 2015!

From l to r: Wallace Shawn, Andre Gregory and Jonathan Demme, discussing their collaboration on A MASTER BUILDER

(All photos by Scott Braid unless otherwise noted.)

MFF Unveils Next 12 Titles of 2014 Film Lineup!

Maryland Film Festival continued unveiling the lineup for its 16th annual festival today, announcing 12 more feature films in addition to the 10 announced last week. Among the titles announced today are SXSW buzz films Fort Tilden, Evolution of a Criminal, and The Mend; the latest from Oscar-nominated documentarians Joe Berlinger and Marshall Curry; cutting-edge films made in Greece, South Korea, Taiwan, and Nepal; and the premiere of Maryland-made Lovecraftian horror film Call Girl of Cthulhu.

Lineup announcements will continue this week and next, including more than 20 additional emerging feature films, several revival screenings, and a favorite film selected and hosted by legendary filmmaker John Waters.

The 12 feature films announced today for MFF 2014 are:



CALL GIRL OF CTHULHU (Chris LaMartina) Baltimore-based D.I.Y. horror helmer Chris LaMartina’s latest tells the Lovecraft-inspired story of a virginal artist who falls in love with a call girl that turns out to be the chosen bride of the alien god Cthulhu.



EVOLUTION OF A CRIMINAL (Darius Clark Monroe) In this gripping blend of documentary, true-crime, and personal essay, a filmmaker confronts his past, dissecting the circumstances that led him to commit a bank robbery as a young man, and his journey since that act. Executive-produced by Spike Lee.



FORT TILDEN (Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers) Winner of the grand jury award for narrative feature at SXSW 2014, this satire of Brooklyn hipsters making their way to a day at the beach takes on Samuel Beckett-esque barbs as ordering coffee and locking a bicycle become almost insoluble dilemmas.



THE HIP-HOP FELLOW (Kenneth Price) The points of intersection between hip-hop culture and academia are explored in this documentary following Grammy Award winning producer 9th Wonder’s tenure at Harvard University. Interviewees include Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Kendrick Lamar, Young Guru, Phonte, and DJ Premier.



MANAKAMANA (Stephanie Spray, Pacho Velez) This new feature from Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab (Leviathan, Sweetgrass) offers immersive access to an ancient journey now taken in a modern cable car, as viewers ride along in real-time with pilgrims and tourists bound for Nepal’s Manakamana temple.



THE MEND (John Magary) Shades of Cassavetes’ Husbands and Mike Leigh color this revelatory mix of comedy and drama, as estranged brothers (Josh Lucas and Stephen Plunkett) reconnect at a moment of crisis and embrace increasingly wild and impulsive behavior.



MOEBIUS (Kim Ki-duk) South Korean maverick Kim Ki-duk returns with perhaps his most shocking and darkly humorous exploration yet of the connections between pleasure, penance, spirituality, and the human impulse for violence.



POINT AND SHOOT (Marshall Curry) When Baltimore native Matthew VanDyke traveled to Libya to join the rebels who were taking up arms against Gaddafi, his experiences became international news. His stranger-than-fiction story is told by the director of MFF documentaries Street Fight, Racing Dreams, and If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front.



SEPTEMBER (Penny Panayotopoulou) After a seemingly solitary woman’s beloved dog passes away, she becomes overwhelmed by her loneliness. In her search to ease the pain of losing her best friend, she unexpectedly connects with a sympathetic family that lives in her neighborhood. This expertly crafted and warmly human film from Greek director Penny Panayotopoulou signals her triumphant return after a decade-plus hiatus from filmmaking.



STRAY DOGS (Tsai Ming-liang) The first digitally shot feature from master director Tsai (whose films I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone and Walker screened within the festival) continues his unique 25-year collaboration with lead Lee Kang-sheng, this time situating him as the homeless guardian to two young children in Taipei.



WATER LIKE STONE (Zack Godshall, Michael Pasquier) A documentary portrait of Leeville, Louisiana, a fishing village among the fastest-disappearing wetlands in the United States—and the unforgettable characters who call it home.



WHITEY: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA V. JAMES J. BULGER (Joe Berlinger) This documentary dissects legend from fact in investigating the story of Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, uncovering a web of corruption in the process. From the director of Crude and co-director of Brother’s Keeper, Some Kind of Monster, and the Paradise Lost trilogy.

Stay tuned for more program lineup announcements coming soon! Current members are invited to join us for our Members Only Film Festival Preview on Thursday April 17th at The Walters Art Museum at 7:00pm. This event is free for Friends of the Festival; to join or renew your Friends of the Festival membership, click here. If you are a current member and would like to reserve a spot for two to our Festival Preview, email Angie at

Announcing International Titles, Rare Classics, and More

Maryland Film Festival (May 3-6 in downtown Baltimore) continues to roll out its 2012 line-up with films from Argentina, Turkey, Colombia, South Africa, and Iceland, our vintage silent and 3D titles, as well as a dozen more new narrative and documentary features by some of the most exciting names in American independent film.

We’ve got a few titles yet to unveil, including our Opening Night and Closing Night films, 8 jam-packed shorts programs, and a few very exciting, late-breaking additions. But following on the heels of two dozen already-announced features, this announcement of 18 more features from around the world reveals the bulk of Maryland Film Festival’s 2012 line-up.

Keep checking for breaking news and our final round of exciting announcements.


THE BLACK BALLOON (Josh and Benny Safdie)
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 for a charming feature-length program of balloon-themed shorts.

ETHEL (Rory Kennedy)
Rory Kennedy’s intimate documentary about her mother Ethel combines rich archival footage with unprecedented private access to deliver a film that is both personal homage and vital historical document all at once.

FRANCINE (Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky)
Melissa Leo stars in this riveting, artful drama about a woman just released from prison, having difficulty finding work and positive human relationships in the outside world. As interacting with humans becomes more difficult, she turns to animals for solace. From the directors of the documentary THE PATRON SAINTS, also screening within MFF 2012.

FROM MORNING TILL MIDNIGHT (directed by Karl Heinz Martin; presented by Alloy Orchestra)
Festival favorites Alloy Orchestra return with their new score to this rediscovered treasure of 1920s German Expressionist cinema.

Two 20-something travelers in neighboring rooms of the same boarding house in Buenos Aires discover they’re both Americans, sparking an unusual relationship. This quiet, exquisitely shot film stars Sophia Takal (MFF 2011’s GREEN).

JEFF (Chris James Thompson)
This experimental hybrid of narrative and documentary forms mixes sequences of quiet moments in the life of a fictional Jeffrey Dahmer with revelatory real-life interviews. Three lives forever changed by “Jeff” speak out: the older neighbor who trusted him, the medical examiner who identified the victims, and the interrogator who got the killer’s confession.

LOVE FREE OR DIE (Macky Alston)
Gene Robinson became the first openly gay bishop when elected by the Episcopal Church of New Hampshire in June 2003, beginning a long journey for acceptance and respect. This heartfelt and moving documentary tells his real-life story.

The master director of THREE MONKEYS, CLIMATES, and DISTANT (winner of the grand jury prize at Cannes in 2003) takes his aesthetic to the next level with this film about a group of men driving through rural Turkey in search of a corpse. Notes of noir, drama, thriller, and social satire blend into an exquisite film not soon forgotten.

PORFIRIO (Alejandro Landes)
In this visionary film from Colombia, a wheelchair-bound man who made international headlines stars as himself in a bold retelling of his real-life story. Paralyzed from the waist down by a policeman’s bullet, we meet Porfirio as he ekes out a modest living reselling cell-phone minutes, relying on his son and neighbor for day-to-day care. Slowly, it becomes clear that Porfirio has been planning a drastic move to better his lot in life.

RECONVERGENCE (Edward Tyndall)
This experimental documentary juxtaposes the philosophies of four very different thinkers whose life and work explores the nature of identity, history, and memory: a neuroscientist, a poet, a naturalist, and museum curator. Visually splendid and intricately edited, an intriguing web of connected ideas emerges.

SEE YOU SOON AGAIN (Lukas Stepanik, Bernadette Wegenstein)
For fifty years, Holocaust survivor Leo Bretholz has shared his story with students and community groups throughout the Baltimore area and beyond. How do students today receive his message—and what impact does continually retelling such an incredibly painful and personal story have on a person?

This sharp ensemble film mixes comedy, drama, and romance as it introduces us to Nick (Alex Karpovsky) and Darryl (Tarik Lowe), a team of film editors in New York City with complicated personal lives. Co-stars include Sophia Takal, Melonie Diaz, Kevin Corrigan, and Lena Dunham.

TCHOUPITOULAS (Bill and Turner Ross)
In this visionary documentary, three young boys venture into the New Orleans night, showing us all the sounds, colors, and evocative hidden corners of that culture-rich city with fresh young eyes. From the directors of the remarkable 45365.

THOSE REDHEADS FROM SEATTLE (Lewis R. Foster; presented in two-projector 3D!)
Maryland Film Festival is dedicated to presenting a different vintage 3D film each festival, and our tradition lives on with this 1953 musical starring Rhonda Fleming, Gene Barry, and Agnes Moorehead.

From the co-director of METALLICA: SOME KIND OF MONSTER and the PARADISE LOST series comes this documentary look at the making of Paul Simon’s classic Graceland album—a story sometimes contentious, but frequently ecstatic.

V/H/S (omnibus)
A group of burglars seek out a cache of disturbing VHS tapes they plan to resell. But the contents of the tapes are even more unsettling than they expected. This omnibus horror film contains new work from, among others Joe Swanberg and Ti West.

Jerry McGill’s life has been that of a rock-and-roll outlaw, performing with rock and country royalty and having more than his share of brushes with the law. Now in his 70s, he’s fighting to stay on top of his health and get back in the studio. This riveting documentary takes an unflinching look at a man who refuses to be tamed.

VOLCANO (Rúnar Rúnarsson)
With masterful assurance, Rúnar Rúnarsson’s feature debut Volcano offers a character study of a curmudgeonly Reykjavik retiree that probes life’s banal indignities for dark comedy, drama, and, ultimately, cosmic truth. Fans of Mike Leigh and the Dardenne Brothers take note.

Note for press: Festival artwork and images for these titles are available for download here:

Academy Award Nods to MFF Documentary Alums Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky, Marshall Curry

PARADISE LOST 3: PURGATORY by MFF Alums Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky

After over 20 years of painstaking work, MFF Alums Joe Berliner and Bruce Sinofsky have received a Best Documentary Academy Award nomination for their film PARADISE LOST 3: PURGATORY, the conclusion of the award-winning trilogy on the West Memphis Three, a trio of Arkansas teenagers who were found guilty of a triple homicide despite questionable evidence.

MFF Alums Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger

Arriving on the scene just days after the 1993 arrests, the filmmakers initially assumed they were making a documentary about guilty teenagers. But, after embedding themselves in the community prior to the 1994 trials, they came to question the guilt of the West Memphis 3 and, by the time the trials were over, they were convinced that Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley were the victims of a modern-day witch hunt.

Also receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary is MFF alum Marshall Curry for his film IF A TREE FALLS: A STORY OF THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONT.

In December 2005, Daniel McGowan was arrested by Federal agents in a nationwide sweep of radical environmentalists involved with the Earth Liberation Front— a group the FBI has called America’s “number one domestic terrorism threat.”

For years, the ELF—operating in separate anonymous cells without any central leadership—had launched spectacular arsons against dozens of businesses they accused of destroying the environment: timber companies, SUV dealerships, wild horse slaughterhouses, and a $12 million ski lodge at Vail, Colorado.

IF A TREE FALLS: A STORY OF THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONT tells the remarkable story of the rise and fall of this ELF cell, by focusing on the transformation and radicalization of one of its members.

IN DARKNESS by Agnieszka Holland

Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland (director of several films, among which include WASHINGTON SQUARE and two episodes of The Wire, shot in Baltimore) has received a Foreign Language Film Academy Award nomination for her new film, IN DARKNESS.

During World War II, numerous Jews hid from Nazis in the underground sewer systems of major cities. This veritable labyrinth of underground passages, full of rats and waste, provided a safe haven as the Nazis starved and ultimately liquidated the ghettos.  Based on a true story, IN DARKNESS portrays this subterranean life through the experiences of Lvov sewer worker Leopold Socha (Robert Wieckiewicz) and the people he meets on his rounds.

Sundance Update: WEST OF MEMPHIS Builds on Legacy of MFF Alums Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky

Jed was in attendance for the high profile 2012 Sundance documentary screening of WEST OF MEMPHIS, the fourth film made about the infamous West Memphis Three murder trial.  This story was first chronicled in the acclaimed HBO documentary series PARADISE LOST made by MFF alums Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky.

With the help of filmmaker Peter Jackson, the investigation of the West Memphis Three was able to continue, and investigators brought DNA information to light that proved the men who had been convicted of the crimes (Jessie Misskelley Jr., Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols) were wrongly imprisoned for the last 17 years.

After the screening, Jed got this picture of the crew (from left to right): film director Amy Berg, followed by the great Peter Jackson in the checked shirt, followed by his longtime partner Fran Walsh (producer, writer, composer, and wife) who is holding the hand of Lorri Davis, a principal in the film and advocate for the West Memphis Three. To Lorri’s left is Damien Echols, the one member of the West Memphis Three who was sentenced to death. He was on death row for 17 years, ending last August when the State of Arkansas released them.

The three great PARADISE LOST films were made over 17 years and are available On Demand now.

From Left to Right: Amy Berg (director), Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Lori Davis, Damien Echols