Shannon O’Connor ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor-in-Chief
Neatly tucked away inside the Revere Hotel lies Theatre 1, the picturesque screening room and official venue of the 28th Annual Boston Film Festival. Thursday, September 20 through Monday, September 24 afternoons and nights were jam-packed with screenings of documentaries, short documentaries, feature films and short films.
Easing attendees in, the initial day of the festival consisted of only two showings, Butter and Head Games. While Butter, previously released in film festivals throughout the fall of 2011, kicked off opening night the headlining film was none other than the World Premiere of Academy Award Nominated Director Steve James’ latest documentary, Head Games. Within a 100 minute documentary, audiences travelled through life of Chris Nowinski, a Harvard football player and professional WWE wrestler, whom after his own experiences realized the threats of successive concussions, a discovery that in turn led him to pen his novel, Head Games. The film not only documents the work Nowinski conducted after the publishing of his novel, including the founding of the center for the study of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University, but delves into the risks athletes are taking and the lack of protection that are offered.
After the screening, James divulged the nature of his upcoming projects in a quick one-on-one interview.
“There are two projects that are in development one is called ‘Generation Food’, which is about food sustainability and looking at stories from around the world in unexpected places where people are waging that fight and succeeding in many ways,” he said. “The second one is a biography of Roger Ebert, the film critic, based on his memoirs.”
Kicking off the festivities on day two was director Stephan Marro’s feature-length film Broadway’s Finest. The comedy told the story of three struggling Broadway actors, whom write the first act of their play based off a news article of an ongoing police investigation. Suddenly the trio is tasked with finishing the play, a mission that leads them to impersonate cops and live the investigation.
“[The idea came from] a newspaper article, my experiences of being in the directors/writers unit at the Actor Studio and just personal history,” Marro said of his source of inspiration for the film.
“It was crazy some days,” said actor Adam Storke of being on the set of Broadway’s Finest, which was shot in only 22 days.
The headlining film of the night was the World Premiere of To Redemption, a dark family drama that revolves around the unraveling of dark secrets and a son determined to prove his worth to his father.
“The thing is that with John [Faughnan] the writing is so raw and hardcore and it’s something I was really interested in doing,” said To Redemption star Chris Riggi (Vampires Suck), of working with co-star and co-screenwriter John Faughnan. “I just found a lot of great friendship and respect for John as an actor.”
When it comes to the deeper meaning of To Redemption, actress Chelsea Amoroso, who portrays daughter Teresa Reed, has a few thoughts.
“I think that it teaches about the importance of family,” she said. “I think it’s all about sticking together in the end and making it through all the struggles.”
“Working with John and Alexia [Oldini] was a pleasure, because it was in a sense like working on Rescue Me, there’s a lot of laughs, but when you have to do the real work you get in the car and do some really long scenes,” said James McCaffrey, who plays the father Nick Reed, on his favorite part of working on the film.
The night ended with the U.S. Premiere of A Dark Truth, a political thriller about the actions of corrupt government officials, the subsequent effects of these actions, and a former CIA agent’s quest undercover evidence of a huge cover-up operation.
Beginning the day Saturday was the first of three “short programs” that included the screening of the short films Nani, Last Remarks, Little Moon Lost, Towing, Mind Field, Literally, Right Before Aaron, The Couch, We Do Too and New, Broken Calculator.
Immediately following the screening of the short films, were the World Premieres of two documentaries In His Footsteps and Lost Reunions, followed by the East Coast Premiere of the documentary An Affair of the Heart.
Saturday night’s headliner was The Citizen, a drama that focuses on the persecution against Middle Eastern immigrants following the September 11 attacks on the US and a man trying to achieve the coveted “American Dream.”
“What I love about this is of course the point of attack is 9/11, but the movie digs more to talk about the immigrant through his journey to achieve the citizenship,” said The Citizen star Khaled Nabawy.
“We needed to make a movie that matters to people, that people feel they belong to,” said director/co-writer Sam Kadi of his reasons for making the film. “We want them to be entertained, but at the same time we want them to see something different and this is what I felt as a filmmaker this my duty and this is the thing I live for.”
“What I love and lived the experiment through this movie as if its real is the meaning of cooperation, [and] how cooperation can help humanity get together,” said Nabawy of the greater purpose of the film.
After the The Citizen, the night ended with a special screening of The Oranges, a film that was released last year at the Toronto Film Festival and will be in theaters October 5.
Sunday began with the second part of the “shorts program” that included the screenings of Knocked Down, Whiskey, Water of Life, The Boat, In Our Hands, Pedestrian Jar, Willowbrook, Exit 7a, and Eli’s Overcoat.
Soon after the shorts finished, attendees had the opportunity to see an advance screening of the documentary Greedy Lying Bastards, followed by the Northeast Premiere of Wolves Unleashed along with the short documentary Recovered.
On every other day of the festival, there would be a red carpet for the headlining film of the night, however Sunday no such event occurred. Instead, on Sunday night the festival offered a special screening of the buzzed about film, The Sessions and a big screen presentation of a restored version of The Shining.
As the festival winds to a close, the last three short films The Last Race, The Bunglers and You Got This are screened.
Despite it being closing night, the Boston Film Festival got Sudbury native Chris Evans to attend the red carpet premiere for one of his hometown friends Myles Jewell’s film Stranglehold: In the Shadow of the Boston Strangler, in which Evans did the narration.
“I grew up with Chris and we have been friends over the years, he has been a real class act in staying in touch with his hometown buddies,” said Jewell on Chris Evans. “I called him and he got right back to me and said ‘Yeah, I’ll do whatever you need.’”
The documentary goes through the heavily detailed investigation archives of Phillip DiNatale, a lead detective on the Boston Strangler case, and uncovers the truth behind the Boston Strangler investigation and settles the question of whether or not Albert DeSalvo was the Boston Strangler.
“This story does need to get told, because of all the alternate theories that have come out about the fact the guy my grandfather believes is the Boston Strangler is not the Boston Strangler,” said Jewell. “We just really wanted to put it out there on record what actually happened according to my grandfather’s point of view.”
Maintaining his status of being a class act, Chris Evans declined to speak with the press in order to keep the focus on his friend, Myle’s film.
Closing out the festival was director Court Crandall’s documentary Free Throw, which followed seven student’s from Compton High School on their journey to contend for a $40,000 scholarship.
After five days of films, fans and red carpet premieres the Boston Film Festival bid adieu to another year, while welcoming the exciting prospect of next year’s event.
List of Awards
Best Director, Damian Lee, A Dark Truth
Best Documentary, Head Games, Director Steve James, Producers; Steve Devick, Chris Nowinski, Alan Schwarz
Best Short Comedy, The Bunglers, Director Glenn Camhi
Best Ensemble Cast, The Citizen, Stars; Kahled Nawaby, Agnes Bruckner, Cary Elwes, Rizwan Manji, William Atherton, Director Sam Kadi
Best Screenplay, To Redemption, Alexia Oldini (Director/Writer)
Ecofilm Award, Greedy Lying Bastards, Director Craig Rosebraug, Executive Producer Daryl Hannah
Mass Impact Award, The Citizen, Director Sam Kadi, Writer Samir Younis Producers; Fayez Kabour, Chris Wyatt
Best Cinematography, Wolves Unleashed, Director Andrew Simpson, Camera Operator Guillaume Mazille
Best Editing, Stranglehold: In the Shadow of the Boston Strangler, Myles Jewel, Editor/Director
Best New Director, Danny Diaz, Lost Reunions
Best Music, An Affair of the Heart, Director Sylvia Caminer, Songs by Rick Springfield
Audience Award, Free Throw, Director Court Crandall
Best Film, The Sessions, Director Ben Lewin, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Best Actor, John Hawkes, The Sessions
Best Actress, Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Best Short, Willowbrook, Director Ross Cohen