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Friday, May 6, 2011

Go to for 2011 posts!

My 2011 Maryland Film Festival blog appears on the Urbanite website. Please visit and comment!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A weekend of tough decisions

Something's gotta give. From the description, "The Catechism Cataclysm" looks like it's right up my alley. But both of the showings this weekend at the 2011 Maryland Film Festival are conflicting with two other films I want to see: "Domaine," which was chosen by John Waters and will be presented with a live Q & A with him, and "Cafeteria Man," about Tony Geraci, the chef has begun what I hope will be a true revolution in the world of school cafeteria food, and right here in the Baltimore City Public Schools.

Speaking of schools, I'm also hoping to catch "The Learning," by Baltimore-based filmmaker Ramona Diaz. Her earlier documentary, "Imelda," is a jaw-dropping-- but balanced -- depiction of the woman who either pillaged a country or gave it hope, depending on one's politics. "The Learning" is Diaz's latest doc. She followed four of the several hundred Filipino teachers who accepted jobs with the city schools and came to make up 10 percent of the faculty. I'm expecting to learn a lot from this film.

Other films that look good: "Small Pond," "Meek's Cutoff" (but this will be back in commercial release anyway), "The Sleeping Beauty" by Catherine Breillat and therefore NOT for kids. More later. I'm sure to hear more buzz at the opening night shorts screening and party tonight.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Check out Chris Reed's take on "Casino Jack" and "Tiny Furniture"

I met Christopher Llewellyn Reed at the 2008 festival, when he was standing behind me and reading my notes over my shoulder. He couldn't help but make a suggestion -- a very good one. And since it was a very long line, we had time to become friends.

Chris teaches film and video at Stevenson University. I'm posting a link to his review of two films I really wanted to see but couldn't make it to -- hard choices when so many films are showing simultaneously. Read his blog here.

Happy Mothers' Day for film-loving moms

This festival always falls on Mothers' Day weekend. There's good and bad in that, so embrace the good. The closing night film is Mother and Child, but that's sold out. I'm sure you'll have a chance to see it when it is released widely, which isn't the case for a lot of other films at this festival.

There are a few screenings here that you could take a child to, as long as you're not too uptight about the content. I could have taken my 12-year-old to the Animated Shorts program I saw last night, and it screens again today at 4 p.m. I would call it PG-13, although no films here are rated.

Music by Prudence, which won best documentary at this year's Academy Awards and has a strong local connection, shows at 5 p.m., but be prepared for that to be sold out.

(See the Film Guide for information on these films.)

Earthling would appeal to teens and moms who love alien body-invasion sci-fi. I got to see only the trailer, and it looks intense.

Putty Hill would appeal to anyone -- the multi-generational tale has 15-year-olds front and center, but the most moving moment in the film for me was between the mother and grandmother of the character whose death brings together his family and friends. I saw it Friday, and it was only the second film in 12 years of the festival that brought tears to my eyes.

I did, in fact, bring my son this morning to the Alloy Orchestra accompaniment to the 1927 silent film Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness. He grumbled, but I know he got a lot out of it. We sat right in front of the musicians so he could watch them play. Otherwise, it's easy to forget they're there playing along; the music so perfectly complements the film.

Michael Sragow, film critic for The Baltimore Sun, hosted the screening and gave some terrific background information on the film, which is a fictionalized depiction using the real jungle and wild animals. Filmmakers Merrian C. Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack made King Kong a few years later in 1933.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

"Gabi on the Roof in July" star and director in video interview

I had a chance to talk to the director/star and his co-star, who both describe a film with a complex sibling relationship.

See the short interview with Lawrence Michael Levine and Sophia Takal.

Saw a lot on Saturday, ready for more on Sunday

The Maryland Film Festival always falls on Mothers' Day weekend, and I'll be trying to use this to convince my 12-year-old son to join me to see Chang: A Tale of the Wilderness, and old silent film with live accompaniment by the Alloy Orchestra.

Too tired to write much, I'll just say that I've loved almost everything I've seen since Friday, thanks to the MFF staff for a thorough program book with notes on each film -- even the individual shorts.

Here's what I've seen:
Putty Hill -- (Friday night) magnificent, and more coming on this later.
La Pivellina -- a film that Fellini might have made if he had been a neorealist.
Faces -- an old John Cassevetes film that was bold for its time and which stars the lovely and talented Gena Rowlands, his wife. But I wasn't in the mood for its intensity and I left early. I think Woody Allen did a better job with Husbands and Wives.
12th & Delaware -- absolutely loved it and admire the fairness, boldness and intimacy. By the duo that made Boys of Baraka and Jesus Camp.
American Jihadist -- see earlier posts.
Animated Shorts -- this had the lovely effect of feeling like "dessert" after a long day at the movies. It was packed -- SRO and people sitting on the steps (I was one of them).

Mark Claywell and Ramona Diaz

Ramona Diaz, right, introduced Claywell's film at the Maryland Film Festival. Diaz is a Baltimore-based documentary filmmaker whose work includes Imelda, about Imelda Marcos. She is currently working on The Learning, about teachers hired from the Philippines to teach in Baltimore City Public Schools.

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