Thursday, November 02, 2006

Our own local film festival is coming up with some interesting entries this year. Here's a piece I did on it. I think the festival has finally come into its own after many years of thrashing about searching for some sort of identity. It's not Sundance....thank God !

NORTHAMPTON While the Sundance Film Festival may get a lion's share of the attention from the media and Hollywood, David Leo, the director of the Northampton Independent Film Festival (NIFF), said the local festival is sticking to its "core values" of being committed to establishing a northeast center for the exploration, examination, and celebration of independent filmmaking.

"Our motto is 'Films for Independent Minds,'" Leo told Reminder Publications. "My personal vision is the festival is as diverse and accepting as the culture of Northampton."

And this year is no exception, as the festival, which runs from Nov. 8 through 12, will feature a wide variety of 130 films, a number of which were produced in New England.

NIFF "gives local and regional filmmakers a local audience and to compete with film made all around the world and country," Leo said.

Among the local films that will be screened are two shorts by Longmeadow filmmaker Scott Kittredge and "Cathedral Pines," a supernatural thriller produced by starring WRNX radio personality Donnie Morehouse.

The festival includes both films for children under the age of 12 and films from the "Best of the Boston Underground." There are also documentaries that "bring to life injustices," Leo added.

Leo sees the festival "take a higher place on the indie film stage, but I don't want to see it as commercial as others."

Screenings will be at the Academy of Music, Smith College, and the Pleasant Street Theater.

NIFF will begin with a reception Nov. 8 at 5:30 p.m. at the Northampton Center for the Arts featuring some of this year's filmmakers. The film that will open the festival will be Vermont director Jay Craven's "Disappearances" at 7:30 p.m. at the Academy of Music.

"Disappearances" is based on the novel by Howard Frank Mosher, and stars Kris Kristofferson, Academy Award-nominee Genevieve Bujold, and Charlie McDermott in a story set in Prohibition-era Vermont.

NIFF's Saturday night lineup includes director Claudia Myers' romantic comedy "Kettle of Fish" at 7 p.m. in the Academy of Music. The film stars Matthew Modine as a lifelong bachelor who confronts his intimacy issues by subletting his apartment to a fetching biologist (Gina Gershon), and then is forced to move back in as her roommate. Producers Laura Bernieri (Next Stop Wonderland), Michael Mailer, and Christy Scott Cashman (who has a starring role in the film) will attend the screening and take questions from the audience.

On Nov. 9, "Cathedral Pines" will be seen at the Academy of Music at 7 p.m. Kittredge's two shorts, "Snacks" and "Terminal Conversation," included in a program of local and regional shorts on Nov. 12 at 3:15 p.m. On Nov. 11 at 7 p.m., The Norman Rockwell Code highlights a slate of comedy shorts. Set in Stockbridge's Norman Rockwell museum, the spoof of "The Da Vinci Code" was recently selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress' official film collection.

Western Massachusetts musician Roger Salloom is the subject of "So Glad I Made It: The Saga of Roger Salloom, America's Bets Unknown Songwriter," a documentary on his life and career that will be shown on Nov. 10 at 6:30 p.m., Smith College's Stoddard Hall. Salloom will perform following the screening.

Rock and rollers The Unband are also the subjects of a documentary, "WE LIKE TO DRINK: We Like to Play Rock and Roll," showing Nov. 11 at 9 p.m. in Smith College's Stoddard Hall. Following the movie, The Unband will perform live at The Elevens in a special event sponsored by The Valley Advocate.

For Saturday and Sunday mornings, NIFF has partnered with the Coalition for Quality Children's Media/Kids First! to offer children's matinees each morning at 10:30 a.m. Tickets for the matinees will be $4 for children 12 and under.

NIFF has partnered with the Veterans Education Project and the Northampton Office of Veterans Services to present two films in honor of Veterans' Day weekend. On Nov. 9 at 7 p.m., the Pleasant Street Theater will show the critically acclaimed film " The Ground Truth." Patricia Foulkrod's documentary tells the story of patriotic young Americans who heeded the call to serve in Iraq, and offers an unflinching look at the war's physical and emotional impact on the soldiers.

Also on Nov. 9 at 2 p.m. at the Academy of Music, filmmaker Daniel Lohaus will appear at a screening of his film "When I Came Home," which chronicles the stories of homeless veterans from Vietnam to Iraq.

Audiences will have the chance to get inside the independent filmmaking process with several panels discussions. On Nov. 11, "From Script to Screen" and "Producers Panel" will feature writers who have sold to the industry and producers who have made independent films discussing how to get an independent film made. On Nov. 12, award-winning filmmaker Larry Hott of Hott Productions/Florentine Films will present "Anatomy of a Documentary." Hott has received an Emmy Award, two Academy Award nominations, and a George Foster Peabody Award. All panels are free.

Tickets for individual screenings and all festival passes will be sold at the Academy of Music box office and all venues during the festival before each screening. Advance general admission tickets will be available starting Nov. 1 at the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce and the Academy of Music Box Office.

Tickets are $8 for general admission and $7 for students and seniors, except for opening night ($10). WGBY Public Television members receive a $2 discount off individual tickets, and $15 off all festival passes. For more information, including a complete festival schedule, visit

©2006 by G. Michael Dobbs. These words are mine alone.

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