Starting tonight, a parade of filmmakers, artists and cinephiles will flood into the Station North Arts District of Baltimore to begin celebrating the Maryland Film Festival. The city’s most exciting movie event has organized three days and four nights of films, speakers and panels chock full of recognizable faces, fresh talent and engaging and inventive cinema. The likes of Point Break director Kathryn Bigelow, native sons Barry Levinson and John Waters, and comedian/director Bobcat Goldthwait will be among those haunting the Charles Theatre this weekend and presenting the films.
Things kick off this evening with Opening Night Shorts!, featuring an eclectic and colorful collection of short subject films by artists both local and national. Playing at 7 p.m. at MICA’s Brown Center, the annual shorts program opens the festival with a flurry of marching concertina soldiers, gyrating claymation critters, would-be murderesses and a Korean-American family’s pilgrimage back to Grand Teton National Park.
All of the compelling content aside, there is a bittersweet note to the opening program’s presence at the Brown Center; this is the first year it won’t be shown at the historic Senator Theatre on York Road where it has resided for several years previously. The Senator, no longer operating as a first run theater, has been in an uncertain state of flux since First Mariner foreclosed on it back in March.
While the Senator looks for a non-profit to take over and faces an uncertain future, the folks at the MFF make up for the location change by providing the opening night with a special guest host. Bobcat Goldthwait, who has both an entry in the opening short’s program and a feature film playing in the rest of the festival, is probably best known for his comedic acting work in the 80s and 90s where his wavery voice and hyperactive presence graced such screwball fare as Police Academy, Scrooged and Shakes the Clown(which he also directed). C’mon, who can forget him screaming “Hewwo Wabbit!” as he waved a shotgun at Bill Murray?
Goldthwait has left the acting behind for a quirky and occasionally controversial film career. His last project to play the fest, Let Sleeping Dogs Lie dealt with the sort of taboo act that usually stops a film dead in it’s tracks. I haven’t seen said movie, but his new one, World’s Greatest Dad looks to tread the similar waters of black comedy.
Besides World’s Greatest Dad, which stars Robin Williams in the titular role and screens on May 9th @ 7:30 p.m., MFF offers a veritable feast for the hungry filmgoer; blending indie edginess with art-house experimentation, hollywood thriller with foreign drama, and beloved talents with faces completely new to the scene.
John Waters will host another film he hand-picked (but is not associated with creatively) on Friday night with the quirky French comedy Love Songs . In the mood for something more horrific than the French trying their hand at humor? How bout Seventh Moon(10:00 p.m. on Friday night) where Blair Witch director Eduardo Sanchez sends two young honeymooners to China and smack-dab in the middle of the Hungry Ghost Festival where, most likely…there are hungry ghosts. Barry Levinson will unveil his latest documentay Poliwood on Sunday afternoon, the Alloy Ochestra will provide musical accompaniment to the silent era wonder Man With A Movie Camera, and action director Kathryn Bigelow will close out the festival on Sunday night with The Hurt Locker, her tale of a bomb defusing unit in Iraq facing a particularly dangerous assignment. Former Baltimore Sun film critic Ann Hornaday will conduct a live interview with Bigelow directly following the movie.
So, if you are looking for something cinema-related this weekend, give the multiplex a break and take a peek over at the MFF website where you can peruse all the panel listings, schedules and film descriptions. One of the best deals going is the daily 3 for 25$ deal, where you can purchase tickets to any three films on the spot(online purchases excluded). I’ve already made my itinerary for the fest, and though there’s a busy weekend of birthdays, Star Trek and taking time to spend with Mom, I’m hoping to get in a full festival experience. The weather looks primed for a soggy hike up and down Charles street, but what better meteorological conditions for enjoying a weekend of watching movies?
I’ll be back later with my festival schedule and the stuff I’m most looking forward to. Anyone else planning to go? I’d love to hear back on what you think looks promising, what you plan to see, what you end up seeing, and any other MFF related tidbits! Happy film-watching!