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Boston Indie Film Festival 2006: Gritty, Noirish, and Fun

The Boston Indie Film Festival 2006: Gritty, Noirish, and Fun
By Julian Peterson

The 4th annual Independent Film Festival shuttered April 23 after six days of films, galas, and workshops. The Festival grows steadily each year as evidenced by the round the block lines at the Somerville Theater and an array of corporate sponsors. But the festival is refreshingly free of the corporate definition of "independent", which in other festivals have threatened a truly independent agenda. The hard work and of this festival's all-volunteer staff and enthusiasm of its audience capture the spirit of the IFFB as much as the film lineup.
In addition to the films the IFFB invites all to its panels and workshops, and to enter into conversations with actors Chris Cooper and Lilli Taylor. Highlights include a documentary director’s panel and “Getting Your Film Seen and Sold” offered by Page Ostrow. The fest is not only a place to learn but a way to improve your Rolodex.
The festival offers world and regional premiers and a competition. Festival growth has grown to include The Somerville Theater, The MFA, the Coolidge Corner, and the Brattle. The festival opened with the New England premiere of Half Nelson, helmed by Ryan Fleck, the story of a school teacher who inspires his kids but outside the classroom leads a life of addiction to drugs and alcohol.
Each viewing was introduced with humor and gusto by the staff who laced their introductions with the names of such sponsors as Ford, Rule Broadcasting, Jet Blue, Onyx hotels, and the Sundance Channel. We were exhorted to buy “stuff” from these sponsors as well as purchase the festival catalogue by a personable presenter and aud members who gave suspect testimonials.
However, this is not a festival that shrinks from controversy. Documentaries include El Immigrante, Forgiving Dr. Mengele, and The Giant Buddhas which explores the motives of the Taliban and by implication all those who seek the destruction of all non-Muslim images.
With 74 movies -- 22 narrative features, 28 documentaries, and 24 shorts -- plus panels, discussions, and parties, the IFFB has expanded its running time, from four to six days (April 19 to 24), to accommodate its more than 100 screenings and special events. ''Half Nelson” (photo above) was helmed by by Newton native Anna Boden and her filmmaker partner Ryan Fleck.
Friday the NE premiere of David Mamet’s Edmond, was introduced as a film that had something to offend everyone but which an IFFB audience might welcome. It featured a bravura performance by William H. Macy as a man who leaves his wife only to sink into a noirish world of blood, sex, and not a few tears, only occasionally relieved by gallows humor. At the end we sat stunned for a moment by its relentless dark message (“stunned” means everyone sits through the credits). But then many applauded the director, who was the in audience; directors attend most performances and welcome questions.
On Saturday the world premiere of Red, White, Black and Blue was offered , a real testimonial by two WWII GI’s who return to the Aleutian Islands, the only US territory occupied by Japan. Also of note is The Well including found footage shot by Orson Welles documenting his obsession with Spain. After the viewing of The Authors Project we were treated to a live performance on guitar, theramin and klezmer by the principals of the documentary.
The closing night feature on Sunday is Walking to Werner, documenting a long walk by director Linas Philips to replicate one made by Werner Herzog from Munich to Paris, in his case to visit a dying friend. This film is a tribute to Herzog who is said to have inspired young film makers to follow their bliss.
The IFFB offers a competition and Grand Jury and Special Jury prizes for narrative (drama) and documentary. It offers a Tools for Indie Filmmakers seminar staffed by local film directors, producers and vendors, and separate Four Eyed Monster talk on how to self-distribute and how to use other emerging technologies. A showcase of digital imaging tools is offered on site by the Boston University Center for Digital imaging, including 3D animation and visual effects.
The closing night party at Middle East restaurant celebrates a successful end to the fourth festival. What’s a good film festival? When it seems like your fellow cineastes are friends you’ve been tight with them for years.

2006 Jury Prizes are:

Narrative Grand Jury Prize: Chalk
Narrative Special Jury Prize: BROTHERS OF THE HEAD
NEW ADDITIONAL SCREENING: 8:45pm - Monday April 24 - Somerville

Documentary Grand Jury Prize: THIN
NEW ADDITIONAL SCREENING: 6pm - Monday April 24 - Coolidge

Documentary Special Jury Prize: AMERICAN BLACKOUT

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