The Massbay Film Festival Returns, Bigger and Better
By Robert Newton
November 2, 2006
The hardest part about being a little guy running a new film festival in an under-screened, between-the-markets market like Worcester is that many people, by virtue of having not had adequate access to alternative fare, have no concept of the concept whatsoever.
This is despite whatever amount of grassroots pavement-pounding you have done to make them aware of who you are and what you do. Either that or they think that your festival, by default and previous experience, is a gathering of effete intellectuals comparing and contrasting arcane bodies of work by dead foreign directors, in discussions where they get to roll out their ¸bersnob dictionary words like "oeuvre" (not in relation to appetizers), "zeitgeist" and "effete." Unless you're Sundance or Cannes, chances are that your festival falls into one of those two groups, at least as far as the general public is concerned.
The easiest part is to gush over the films that you ultimately select to present as delegate spokesmovies. Like the representative slice seen through the window on the back of a package of bacon, so are the handful of audience-worthy discoveries that, for as long as the festival runs that particular year, will actually be playing at a theater near you (where they otherwise would not). We at the MassBay Film Festival have no shortage of those this year, but the anxious question, "If we build it, will they come?" remains.
We added an extra challenge this year by taking eight days off of 2005's 18-day schedule — and adding 10 films. Does that make things too confusing, or does it add to the fun of having to choose between two movies that are playing at the same time? Also, does having filmmakers in attendance offer something more than the commentary track on a DVD, or it is money unwisely spent? Is it only a matter of time before technology makes the film-going experience obsolete?
Of course, I'm just talking out loud.
As much as technology has propelled the indie film biz in the last decade, blessed be the Luddites, videophobes and good old-fashioned purists who insist on watching films in the company of strangers, for they give the certifiable film festival programmers not only hope that they won't be put out to pasture, but also a customer base. We certainly hope that ours, after four years of building, is vibrant and eager enough to support this year's line-up so that we can continue to bring bigger and better films and guests, because culturally, the goal is to put this city of ours on as many figurative maps as possible. o
Robert Newton has been the film critic for Worcester Magazine for the last decade. More details on his 2nd Annual MassBay Film Festival, which is 60 films that run Nov. 3-12 in a dozen venues in and around Worcester, can be found in the Oct. 19 issue of Worcester Magazine or on MassBay's Web site at www.MassBayFilmProject.org.
Newton's Top 8 spaces for 2006
The Civilization Of Maxwell Bright: A lot of folks will know Patrick Warburton as Puddy from "Seinfeld," but in this confrontational drama in which he plays a big ass who is humbled by terminal cancer, he steps up and shows that he can do much more than just crack wise.
Class Act: The tragedy of the death of countless American public school arts programs is pretty well played in this documentary from executive producer Morgan Spurlock, who made Super Size Me. See also the hardscrabble Shakespeare Behind Bars, which the overly dramatic might suggest that kids whose gifts and interests aren't properly courted will end up learning the classics.
Factotum: Charles Bukowski finds a likeable champion in Matt Dillon in this liver-testing dark comedy about an occasionally employed would-be writer and his quest to get published. The lovely Lili Taylor (of "Six Feet Under") co-stars in the most accessible adaptation of Bukowski's work to date.
Hand Of God: Part of what we're all about is encouraging people to tell stories of their own, which is why Salem, Mass. native Joe Cultrera's extremely personal documentary about his abuse at the hands of his priest in the 1960s is such a good match for us. Joe will be on hand after the Friday screening for what will surely be an emotionally charged Q&A. Another engaging personal tale is 14-year-old writer Celeste Davis's inventive Purgatory House.
Heading South: While having star Charlotte Rampling in attendance would have been super (and a coup), co-star Karen Young, who also plays a thrill-seeking sex tourist in 1970s Haiti, is coming. Her performance is bold and honest, and it is so good to see an actor who is not afraid to take such chances in her work and her career. For more unbridled sexuality, check out Hedwig creator John Cameron Mitchell's controversial Shortbus.
Metropolis: Before German film pioneer Fritz Lang became an exile, he made this 1927 sci-fi spectacular. Before the advent of sound, musical accompaniment was played live in the theater, just as it will be when we present this way-cool film in an even cooler room — All Saints Church on Irving Street, with the nimble-fingered Peter Krasinski on the Aeolian Skinner pipe organ.
Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party: Unassuming and extremely genial, character actor Stephen Tobolowsky is "The Guy Who Everybody Knows But Nobody Knows They Know," having appeared in more than 150 movies and TV shows. This My Dinner With AndrČ-style visit with the actor will only be topped by the MassBay Guest Of Honor's appearance, in which he will do that voodoo that he does so well.
Tom's Nu Heaven: A lot of folks who haven't yet seen Borat might know Festival guest Dale Launer as the writer of the funniest movie ever made — Ruthless People (he also penned My Cousin Vinny and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. His directorial debut is about a priest whose long-lost brother, fresh out of prison, turns his straight-laced life upside-down.
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