Speeding in tandem, the train invariably runs through a series of names undeniable to higher learning. Stops along the MTBA in Boston speak to the highest echelons of education from Harvard to MIT. Watching the different students make their way to and from the cars, studying and pondering their lives, gives an insight into the next generation dealing with the current national crisis and beyond.
Arriving at Davis Station emerging into Somerville just outside Boston, the aspect of college life around Tufts University resigns itself in a very different way to the annals of Downtown Boston where schools like Suffolk and Emerson surrounded by the pedigree of history take on a more somber tone.
Hidden within this structure just into the fresh air is the main theater point for the Independent Film Festival Boston. The fest, in its 9th year, takes a more community-based approach to its texture. Unlike many festivals, it skews purely to the films and filmmakers, not indulging in the blistering visage on honorees or overdone parties. Both aspects can be interesting in their own way but this balance against allows for the movies to stand on their own.
While the movies experienced were diverse and intriguing, almost all decidedly have distribution of some sort which makes a bit of its independent pedigree slightly misleading.
The first film, the documentary “Superheroes” (which was picked up by HBO) focuses on the psychological progression of certain people who take on the aspect of real life crime fighters and outreach. While aspects of Comic Con and dress-up undeniably come into the discussion, the notion becomes one of elevation. Some of the characters (like Master Legend out of Orlando) have comedic repercussions which provide levity in the film while a group of activists in Brooklyn and Bed-Stuy takes a little more proactive approach almost to the point of entrapping criminals to provide their own idealization of justice. The diametric perceptions of this is what gives the film its depth.
“El Bulli: Cooking In Progress” by comparison is a little more homegrown but no less eccentric. It follows the team behind this famous coastal restaurant in Spain where the approach resides in molecular gastronomy. While culinary diatribes can be a dime a dozen, what makes the element that transpires here interesting is the unfettered humor at times between the owner [Ferran Adria] who tastes every dish and his head chefs. From the anger of wanting the notes on computer instead of on paper to the minute changes to dishes like switching tangerines and oils with elements of dried ice optimizing liquid nitrogen, the film provides a dynamic (if not a little humorous progression) of a highly anticipated venue from the inside without a view of beyond.
“Sons Of Perdition“, the best film seen at the festival, doesn’t overdo the resolute nature of its subjects but instead almost brings the filmmakers into the idea of what it means to be involved, not internationally but here on America’s home soil. The story follows a polygamist movement in Colorado City, Arizona where a fundamental sect of Latter Day Saints live and are controlled by Warren Jeffs, a millionaire recently convicted of sexual charges who calls himself “The Prophet”. What filmmaker Tyler Measom, himself formally a Mormon, is able to classify is a sense of life while showing the psychological effects that go on among children who try to escape and then are considered “exiled”. The two boys at the center of the picture escape only to try in protracted regiments to get their mother and sisters out. The filmmaker’s car becomes the getaway car of sorts really bringing the issue to focus of the hunter almost becoming the hunted. The film was picked up by Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network.
The remaining two pictures seen were the only narrative elements in play seen. Both in essence have been picked up by Samuel Goldwyn Films. Their intentions could be none the more disimilar in terms of the subject matter but again the progression showed the dynamics of the festival.
“Terri” directed by Azazel Jacobs (who also had two of his previous films shown at this festival), creates almost a “Kids” coming of age story feeling but set in unnamed rural would-be suburbs. Its voice might have been that of an unnecessary vision, much like Sundance intention “Septien”, but the performance of John C. Reilly as a wily yet unhinged assistant principal perfectly saves the idea. The whole theater reacted to his barely branded comedy with intense laughter turning what could have been an almost Harmony Korine-textured ode to high school glandular farcicity into a diatribe on the notion of personalities lost in limbo who never truly grow up.
“The Whistleblower”, which has also been making the rounds at festivals, is a lot more esoteric and serious in its vision crafting out an exceptional thriller with some challenging subject material. The story follows a UN special investigator played by Rachel Weisz who, surrounded by a sea of internationally based groups (mostly men), must navigate a sea of cover-ups and lies in regards to girls being used in human trafficking schemes as prostitutes. The psychological approach of the situation is quite realistic in certain ways with the issues of denial and notions of safety playing into decisions dictating what is told as much by those not saying anything. The resolution is not feel good by any extension but shows the inherent expansion of Weisz’s Oscar movement.
Key to the IFF Boston structure is The Liberty Hotel which played host to its Awards Night party. Encompassing itself within a national landmark and making a high-rated hotel out of a former prison (the Suffolk County jail) is a intentioned feat for sure, especially given weight that the architectural structure gives it an almost gothic feel. The atrium rises to a buttress-fueled arc which plummets with almost “Pirates”-inspired chandeliers that are both old school and oddly fitting. Sam Adams pours in candlelight offering dark crevices from which to discuss the day’s films.
Boston, rich with history and a knowledge of its intent, resounds greatly since it knows how to exist within its own virtuosity. With a great amount of arts outlets like the Independent Film Festival Boston and countless others, the city balances its ideal of great outlays with a sense of fun.