Boston Film Festival rolls out the red carpet for it’s 37th season with a colorful kaleidoscope of intriguing and entertaining features, documentaries and film shorts.
Festival (September 22-26) Will Kick Off with World Premieres of Sports-themed “War on the Diamond” and “A Grand Romantic Gesture”; “Martin Eden” Feature from Boston-area Director Jay Craven to Have Special Screening; Multiple Screening Locations Will Include Newly Opened Omni Boston Hotel at the Seaport
BOSTON – September 15, 2021 – Enhancing its growing legacy of showcasing inspiring and daring new films, the Boston Film Festival (September 22-26) unfurls its 37th edition with an accent on sports-themed movies along with the world premiere of the documentary “War on the Diamond” on opening night at the newly opened and expansive Omni Seaport Hotel. In addition, several films are either based in New England or have Boston roots on the creative team.
The inclusive live program spotlights the world premiere of the sports documentary “War on the Diamond” that recalls the only death of a Major League Baseball player as a result of playing the game when star Cleveland shortstop Ray Chapman was fatally beaned by New York Yankee pitcher Carl Mays in 1920. Emmy and Peabody Award winner Andy Billman (ESPN’s “30 for 30” shorts) is the director and a producer. A panel will follow the premiere moderated by noted sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy with Andy Billman, Hall of Fame sports broadcaster Leslie Visser and Sports Executive Dan Duquette. In addition, the inclusive program spotlights the sports documentary “The 5th Man” by famed director Trey Nelson (“Lost in the Sun”).
Other films with a New England connection are “Open Field,” a sports-themed documentary, is from Charlestown, MA native Kathy Kuras as well as the feature “The Secret of Sinchanee,” which was shot in Deerfield, MA, the documentary “I Come from Away,” which was filmed in Maine, and director Nora Jacobson “Ruth Stone’s Vast Library of the Female Mind” which shot in Vermont.
Additional documentaries to be featured are: “Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly” by director Kim Smith, which can be viewed at the Shalin Liu Theater, a state-of-the art performance center in Rockport, MA, and “Zero Gravity,” a science-based film from director Thomas Verrette “Phenoms”), which will be screened at MIT and will include a question-and-answer session with Verrette after the film. “The Final Nineteen” is an unblinking depiction of the final 19 prisoners of war (POWs) to return home from the Vietnam War by director Timothy Breitbach.
Many of the BFF films will be presented in a virtual format on the Eventive site beginning on September 23. Two short programs and an animation program are also available for virtual viewing. With safety at the forefront, all live activities of the Boston Film Festival (BFF) will be in alignment with current state and local COVID-19 health precautions. Masks are mandated for inside from Governor Baker, bring proof of vaccination. Two short programs and an animation program will be available for virtual viewing.
Presentations will be held at multiple locations. Foremost is the new Omni Seaport– which also is a sponsoring partner of the BFF – features a novel theater experience as part of the hybrid festival. The hotel complex will be the anchor of the festival with several alluring restaurants, a rooftop bar, a full-service sports bar and an open-air terrace. The live-screening venues, are Rabb Hall at the Boston Public Library, the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, MA, and the Shalin Liu Performance Hall n Rockport, MA.
The festival kicks off with the world premiere of “War on the Diamond” (September 23, 7:00 p.m.) as director producer Andy Billman looks back a century ago when talented shortstop Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians was fatally struck in the head by a pitch from New York Yankee pitcher Carl Mays in 1920. Chapman died later that night and the incident touched off a bitter if complicated rivalry between the Indians and the Yankees that has spanned 100 years. The documentary, based on the book “The Pitch That Killed” by Mike Sowell, offers a never-before-heard audio interview with Mays, exclusive discussions with noted baseball players and insiders, and a re-enactment of the killer pitch. The other producers are Art Horan, Danielle Alberico and Pamela Lynn Sullivan. Grammy winner Brian Keane composed the music.
The world premiere of the feature film “A Grand Romantic Gesture” tracks the story of a woman of a certain age who is forced into early retirement. While her husband and daughter encourage her to take up gourmet cooking — and settle into a new role as a grandmother — she chooses a different path. Instead, she enrolls in an amateur drama class where she is cast as Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet’ – and falls in love with her Romeo. The stars are Gina McKee (“Catherine the Great”), Tony Award winner Douglas Hodge (“Lost in Space”) and Rob Stewart (“Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist”). Joan Carr-Wiggin is the director and writer. The feature film “The Right Bus” (world premiere) is a poignant, soul-stirring story that centers on two strangers who are drawn inexorably to the Scottish west coast. The couple must discover if the bond they’ve made is strong enough to keep them together – or will they be just two ships that pass in the night. Glasgow-born Robbie Moffat (“Dracula on Holiday”) is the director.
In a special screening of the documentary “The 5th Man” (September 23, 9:15 p.m.), director Trey Nelson packs an emotional punch in telling the story of Paul Limmer, a world-class track coach at Long Island’s Mepham High School whose influence extends far beyond the athletic field. While Limmer holds the New York state record with 737 track victories and was inducted into the 2016 New Balance Coaches Hall of Fame, his true legacy has little to do with amassing awards and honors. Thousands of former athletes – many of whom never broke a single record or earned a solitary trophy –credit their coach for changing their lives. “The 5th Man” is the story of all the other kids – the ones who never felt validated – until Limmer came into their lives.
From master storyteller Timothy Breitbach (“Dopamine,” “Cinderella Bride”) comes “The Final 19” (September 24, TIME TBA), a gritty and true documentary that depicts the harrowing story of Sgt. Dan Hefel, one of the “Final 19” POWS to return home from the Vietnam War. Hefel’s first-person account charts his agony starting with breaking his back in a U.S. Army helicopter crash during the war followed by his trip being carried through the jungle, ensuing torture, and attempts by the North Vietnamese Army to use him as a pawn. Breitbach — who received the Sloan Foundation Award for his documentary “Dopamine” — directs and is the Chief Creative Officer of Optimal Entertainment.
“Martin Eden” (September 22, 5:30 p.m.) is a feature film based on Jack London’s autobiographical novel that tells the story of title character Martin Eden, a poor and uneducated sailor. When Eden unexpectedly meets Ruth Morse, a magnetic young woman with wealth and education, their unconventional attraction upends both of their lives. The pair are propelled into timely themes of impossible, dogged individualism and the pursuit of the American Dream – leading to their quest for a comfortable place in a wildly inconstant world. Director Jay Craven hails from New England. Andrew Richardson stars in the title role; co-stars Missy Yager (“Manchester by the Sea”) and Grainger Hines (“Dr. Death”) will join Craven to answer questions after the screening at the Boston Public Library.
Partially filmed in Massachusetts’ Cape Ann, “Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly” (Sept. 23, 7:00pm) is a soaring tribute to a magnificent species of insect that often inhabits millions of everyday backyards and their importance to the eco-system. The 56-minute-long documentary embraces the shores of Cape Ann all the way to Mexico’s forested volcanic mountains. Audiences will see every stage of the butterfly’s life cycle in closeups, and after emerging from cocoons, the Monarchs migrate thousands of miles – the only species of butterfly to do so. The Monarchs’ beauty is contrasted by how much they are in peril as the film emphasizes the symbiotic relationship between different habitats. Kim Smith is the director and producer and will be doing a Q & A following the free screening at the Shalin Liu Performance Hall in Rockport.
In the East Coast premiere of the documentary “Zero Gravity” (September 23, 7 p.m.) a diverse group of middle school students embark on the journey of a lifetime when they compete in a nationwide competition sponsored by MIT to code satellites aboard the International Space Station. The award-winning director is Thomas Verrette (“Phenoms” for Fox Sports). Fittingly, “Zero Gravity” will be screened at the MIT Media Lab.
A plethora of films will be presented in virtual format on September 23. “Sarogeto” is directed and produced by Nico Santucci and stars Ikumi Yoshimatsu, Eric Roberts, Winsor Harmon III, Ruby Park, and Angelica Bridges. It is a story revealing the complicated and emotional struggle that Japanese American Grace / Minami Stanton faces and the controversial decision she makes on this unorthodox journey of a woman’s search to find peace for her family and spiritual enlightenment. It’s a film filled with relevant and thought-provoking subjects.
“The Secret of Sinchanee” is a feature filmed in nearby Deerfield, MA. It concerns an industrial tow truck driver who suffers from insomnia as he returns to his childhood home after the untimely death of his father. He discovers a paranormal presence that has been living in the house and haunting the sacred land it was built on. The movie is from actor-director Steven Grayhm.
As an absorbing story of risk, hope and the chase for freedom, “I Come from Away” is a documentary that addresses the plight of Nyamon Machar (“Moon”), a 30-year-old African woman who arrives in Portland, ME with her Ethiopian mother and Sudanese father as refugees in 1995. Audiences will see through Moon’s eyes the experiences of the immigrant community in Portland with its successes and the burden of racism among a largely white population. The city gamely tries to process and re-settle 600 Congolese asylum seekers as one refugee David Zwahila Mota shares his story of his six-month odyssey with his young family as they travel from Africa to reach Maine. Moon’s poetry sets the tone for the film that addresses the national debate surrounding immigration. Charles C. Stuart is the
writer, director and producer.
The documentary by director Nora Jacobson “Ruth Stone’s Vast Library of the Female Mind” tells the story of a promising young poet, living an idyllic life with her beloved husband, a poet and professor. When he died unexpectedly by suicide, Ruth Stone was flung out into the world, destitute with three daughters to support. Though not well known outside of the poetry world, Ruth won accolades and awards, such the National Book Award for Poetry, the Wallace Stevens Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, two Guggenheim Fellowships, the Delmore Schwartz Award, and she was a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, among many others. Beloved by many, Ruth’s house in Goshen, Vermont became a mecca for students, poets, friends, and family members.
Atomic Cover-up is a first of its kind documentary that explores the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 from the unique perspective, words, and startling images of the brave cameramen and directors who risked their lives filming in the irradiated aftermath. It is ever so relevance for today as nuclear dangers reach peak intensity and official “cover-ups” expand. The film is Written, Directed, and Produced by Greg Mitchell. Suzanne Mitchell is also a Producer and Charlie Seaborn is the Composer.
The earth-shaking documentary “LIGO” shares the inside story of the discovery of gravitational waves from deep space that revolutionized scientists’ understanding of the universe at the LIGO observatory in Louisiana. The findings topped National Geographic’s list of “Top 20 Scientific Discoveries of the Decade.” Two discoveries – two years apart in 2015 and 2017 — detected two colliding black holes and later, two crashing neutron stars. The revelatory spectacular light shows opened up 95 percent of the universe that had been dark to observatories that was due to the efforts of 1,000 scientists from around the world who risked their careers to search for the “warped side” of the universe (as predicted by Albert Einstein). Award-winning Les Guthman (“Messner”) is the producer, writer, and director.
“The Game Is Up: Disillusioned Trump Voters Tell Their Stories” is a documentary that presents a variety of former voters for President Donald Trump who together recount their evolution from Trump supporters to vocal adversaries in 2020. Two-time Emmy Award winner Melissa Jo Peltier (“Scared Silent: Exposing and Ending Child Abuse”) is the director, writer, and producer.
In the documentary “Never Had a Bad Day,” audiences will experience the kinetic world of Bernie Karl, an inventor, entrepreneur, and engineer, who operates Chena Hot Springs Resort in Alaska year-round on 100 per cent geothermal power. The film follows Karl as he prepares for his annual Energy Fair, an important symposium that attracts high-powered politicians and academics. His mantra — that anything is possible with hard work – is always evident in his multiple endeavors. Matt Richmond (“Brauhaus: A German-American Fairytale”) is the director.
Darla Rae’s documentary “Courageous Warriors; Beauty From The Ashes” is a tale of extraordinary women, young and old, who took their recovery from breast cancer a leap beyond medical diagnosis. They created new paths of wholeness through body, mind, and spirit. Now they offer those gifts to others. In this moving journey, watch true warriors rise from the ashes. Warriors who were told that cancer treatment would not help. Warriors who were told they would not survive. Warriors who sought alternative methods of living. Warriors who came out of the fire stronger and more beautiful than ever. Director is Darla Rae, producers are Kathy Ship, Alice Atwater, and the narrator is Dee Wallace.
The resurgence of the only desert lions in the world is the focus of the documentary “Vanishing Kings: Lions of the
Namib Desert.” Surviving deep in the Namib, the oldest desert in the world in Africa’s Namibia, the lions have many outstanding hunting skills and have lived apart from their typical habitat. But due to poaching that began in the 1970s, their numbers once dwindled to 20. But the lions’ population since has roared back because of the efforts of Namibian scientist Philip Stander, who invested 30 years of conservation in the effort. The film is directed by Meng Lan Shu (“Earth Focus”).
The documentary “Open Field” provides an inside look at the women in tackle football. The film focuses on quarterback Sami Grisafe and San Francisco 49ers coach Katie Sowers, as well as other legends of women’s tackle football who play for the love of the game against all odds. Commentary includes Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris and 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. The first-time director is Kathy Kuras, who is from Charlestown, MA.
“Crows – Nature is Watching” delves into the life of the often deified, hunted, chased, and banished birds. They are thought to bring bad luck and decried as gallows birds, but they are also cherished as birds of the soul and messengers of gods. Wherever humans are present, crows can also be found. As our omnipresent companions, crows experience the full spectrum of human behavior. The documentary is directed by Martin Schilt and produced by Belinda Sallin and Helmut Grasser.
“South Shore People Power, Fore Rivers Residents Say NO Fracked Gas Weymouth Compressor Station” is a documentary film concerning the fight to stop Enbridge Corporation from building a destructive 7,700 horsepower fracked gas compressor station in a highly populated area of Weymouth and Quincy, MA. The director is Robert Flame Lamothe (“New Dreams for a New World”).
The sponsors of the Boston Film Festival are the Omni Seaport, AETN, The Wrap, SAFE@ALLSTAR; a division of SAFE@ ENTERPRISES, Boston Public Library, the Shalin Liu Performance Hall, the MIT Media Lab, Team Gateway for a Cure, Dream Alley, Marina Studios and Boston Harbor Distillery.
Filmgoers and virtual viewers can access www.bostonfilmfestival.org for more details and to obtain tickets. For Facebook: Boston Film Festival; Instagram: Bostonfilmfestival; Twitter: @Bostonfilmfest.
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