Beginning with its inaugural year in 1999, each Maryland Film Festival has included a favorite film selected and hosted by legendary filmmaker (and MFF board member) John Waters. This year’s selection is Abuse of Weakness, the latest feature from Catherine Breillat (Fat Girl, Romance). The film stars Isabelle Huppert as a filmmaker who suffers a stroke and, on the path to recovery, welcomes notorious hustler Vilko Piran (French rapper/producer Kool Shen) into her life. This brave and extraordinary work tells a painful and very personal story that parallels Breillat’s own recent real-life experiences.
Roger Vadim’s wild and irreverent 1968 sci-fi film Barbarella has been a source of direct inspiration for Baltimore-based electronic-music duo Matmos (Drew Daniel and M.C. Schmidt): as part of Barbarella (Jane Fonda)’s mission, she must survive the decadent city Sogo’s evil slime, Matmos. Whether it’s your first time seeing this cult classic or your hundredth, join us in submitting to the irrepressible adventures of Barbarella and dashing rebel leader Dildano!
Each Maryland Film Festival since 2003 has included a silent feature or short-film program presented with live music by Alloy Orchestra (Terry Donahue, Ken Winokur, and Mission of Burma’s Roger Miller). Victor Sjöström’s 1924 drama stars Lon Chaney, Norma Shearer, and John Gilbert in telling the story of a scientist who, betrayed by his superior and abandoned by his wife, starts a new life as a circus clown outside Paris.
1982 underground hit Liquid Sky is a high-concept science-fiction film set in Manhattan against a new-wave backdrop, telling the story of heroin-hungry aliens who discover that the human orgasm provides a kick stronger than any drug. Known for its eerie electronic soundtrack, brash neon post-punk aesthetic, and as a time capsule of a crucial moment in the downtown New York arts scene, the film was also ahead of its time in its unfettered exploration of sexuality and gender. Liquid Sky will be presented by director Slava Tsukerman from his own 35mm print, with filmmaker and Tsukerman colleague Clay Liford (Earthling, Wuss) moderating the Q+A.
Robert Downey, Sr.’s countercultural landmark Putney Swope (1969) stars Arnold Johnson as the new head of a formerly conservative advertising agency, who transforms the company into the bold and revolutionary Black Power operation Truth and Soul, Inc. This special screening has been curated by musician, composer, multimedia artist, and author Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky, who will introduce the film.
Brandy Burre had a recurring role on HBO’s The Wire before giving up her career to start a family. When she decides to reclaim her life as an actor years later, the domestic world she’s carefully created crumbles around her. The latest non-fiction film from the director of Fake It So Real (MFF 2011).
This documentary recalls the pioneering early work of Frederick Wiseman as it embeds viewers in the inaugural year of a democratic free school where classes are voluntary and children and staff have equal votes in creating the rules.
For several decades, gifted and incredibly prolific forger Mark Landis compulsively created impeccable copies of works by a variety of major artists, donating them to institutions across the country and landing pieces on many of their walls. Art and Craft brings us into the cluttered and insular life of an unforgettable character just as he finds his foil in an equally obsessive art registrar.
This poignant character study from Quebec follows a sheep farmer who’s stayed true to the way of life he inherited from his father even as, one by one, his neighbors sell off their farms to developers. As he reaches old age, his two daughters come back into his life in ways that change him forever.
One night in 1972, a murder rocked a Baltimore family. Years later, Emily Topper returns to the city, seeking closure for a crime that has haunted her family over 40 years—and uncovers complex issues of race and class in the process.
In the unnerving and darkly comic tradition of Frownland and Bad Fever comes the story of Marty, a bored and angry office worker who takes his penchant for cheating the system over the edge. Fresh from screenings at SXSW and New Directors/New Films.
Baltimore-based D.I.Y. horror helmer Chris LaMartina’s latest tells the Lovecraft-inspired story of a virginal artist who falls in love with a call girl that turns out to be the chosen bride of the alien god Cthulhu.
With the passing of California’s Proposition 8 in 2008, the right for same-sex couples to marry was repealed. A very unlikely pair of lawyers—Theodore Olson and David Boies, who faced off during Bush v. Gore—decided to challenge Prop 8, and take their case all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. This riveting documentary offers remarkable access as it follows that fight from day one to its emotional conclusion.
From the writer/director team behind 2010’s Silent Souls comes this frank exploration of the sex lives of female members of the Meadow Mari, a western Russian ethnic group that prizes fertility, beauty, and happiness.
Poignant drama, gentle comedy, and a hint of transgression mix brilliantly as we observe the coming of age of a 15-year-old teen vacationing with his single mother in a sleepy Mexican beachfront resort. From the director of Lake Tahoe and Duck Season.
While the soulful sounds of Detroit and Memphis are celebrated worldwide thanks to influential labels like Motown and Stax, the 1960s and 1970s saw explosions of soul and funk scenes throughout the country. Deep City mixes wonderful music and archival footage with new interviews as it documents the songwriters, performers, and entrepreneurs behind a vibrant Miami record label that should’ve been huge.
Screening with THE HIGH FIVE - Directed by Michael Jacobs
The origin of the seemingly most instinctual of celebratory gestures can be traced to a spontaneous moment between Los Angeles Dodgers Dusty Baker and Glenn Burke on October 2nd, 1977.
More than a dozen photographers (including Ricky Powell, Jamel Shabazz, Martha Cooper, and Boogie) are the subject of this visually rich documentary celebrating artists who have given us new ways to see both the streets of New York and the colorful characters that populate them.
In this gripping blend of documentary, true-crime, and personal essay, a filmmaker confronts his past, dissecting the circumstances that led him to commit a bank robbery as a young man, and his journey since that act. Executive-produced by Spike Lee.
Christianity and the world of Mixed Martial Arts collide in this thought-provoking and expectation-challenging documentary from Academy Award Winner Daniel Junge and Bryan Storkel.
Winner of the grand jury award for narrative feature at SXSW 2014, this satire of Brooklyn hipsters making their way to a day at the beach takes on Samuel Beckett-esque barbs as ordering coffee and locking a bicycle become almost insoluble dilemmas.
In the summer of 1964, a thousand civil-rights volunteers worked to combat segregation in Mississippi. Master documentarian Stanley Nelson (Freedom Riders; Jonestown: The Life & Death of Peoples Temple; The Murder of Emmett Till) tells their story.
This rousing documentary follows Glena Avila, a woman who, despite no background in the sport, gave cage fighting a try. In the process, she discovered a deep passion and strong talent—but also put new pressures on her finances, love life, and relationship with her teenage son.
Following his breakthrough hit Drinking Buddies, Joe Swanberg re-teams with star Anna Kendrick and cinematographer Ben Richardson (Beasts of the Southern Wild) for an insightful look at family and friendship centered around a Chicago Christmas. Cast includes Melanie Lynskey, Mark Webber, and Lena Dunham.
Juliette Lewis, Aaron Paul, and newcomer Josh Wiggins shine in this drama following a Southeast Texas teen trying to find himself amidst a group of hell-raising friends and a father tormented by his own personal demons. A feature developed from Candler’s short of the same name, which screened within the festival in 2012.
The points of intersection between hip-hop culture and academia are explored in this documentary following Grammy Award winning producer 9th Wonder’s tenure at Harvard University. Interviewees include Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Kendrick Lamar, Young Guru, Phonte, and DJ Premier.
The first feature film composed entirely of cellphone calls centers around Jake, a young neurotic who moves to the city to live with his friend Sean, a fanatical poet who survives by swindling inexperienced Craigslist customers. Winner of a Special Jury Prize for Original Vision at Slamdance 2014.
The Zellner brothers (Goliath, KID-THING) bring their unique mix of resonant drama and offbeat comedy to an expanded canvas, following a young Japanese woman who believes her worn VHS copy of Fargo contains instructions to recover that film’s buried treasure.
This new feature from Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab (Leviathan, Sweetgrass) offers immersive access to an ancient journey now taken in a modern cable car, as viewers ride along in real-time with pilgrims and tourists bound for Nepal’s Manakamana temple.
Shades of Cassavetes’ Husbands and Mike Leigh color this revelatory mix of comedy and drama, as estranged brothers (Josh Lucas and Stephen Plunkett) reconnect at a moment of crisis and embrace increasingly wild and impulsive behavior.
A wave of exciting films from Uruguay has hit the festival circuit over the last decade, evidence of a rich film culture previously under-represented on U.S. screens. As with Gigante and A Useful Life (MFF 2011), films that share beautiful camerawork from The Militant’s Arauco Hernández Holz, this film focuses on an idiosyncratic loner struggling to find his rhythm with the people around him—in this case, a taciturn student organizer who relocates from the big-city university to a rural outpost after his father passes away.
South Korean maverick Kim Ki-duk returns with perhaps his most shocking and darkly humorous exploration yet of the connections between pleasure, penance, spirituality, and the human impulse for violence.
When a 20-something Brooklyn comedian gets dumped, her comedic material and personal life both head in impulsive new directions, leading to an unwanted pregnancy and an appointment at Planned Parenthood. Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffmann, David Cross, Gabe Liedman, and Richard Kind star in this comedy that mines a divisive issue for surprisingly warm and hilarious returns.
The director of Septien returns with a sweet and hilarious love letter to summers spent in Ocean City, MD during the golden era of hip-hop, boasting a cast that includes Susan Sarandon, Lea Thompson, Amy Sedaris, and Robert Longstreet.
When Baltimore native Matthew VanDyke traveled to Libya to join the rebels who were taking up arms against Gaddafi, his experiences became international news. His stranger-than-fiction story is told by the director of MFF documentaries Street Fight, Racing Dreams, and If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front.
After a seemingly solitary woman’s beloved dog passes away, she becomes overwhelmed by her loneliness. In her search to ease the pain of losing her best friend, she unexpectedly connects with a sympathetic family that lives in her neighborhood. This expertly crafted and warmly human film from Greek director Penny Panayotopoulou signals her triumphant return after a decade-plus hiatus from filmmaking.
Cutting edge animated short films from across the globe!
Films that explore the boundaries of cinematic form and content.
A program of short films from the edge of reason!
The best in short form documentary film from across the continent!
A stellar collection of dramatic short films!
A mind-expanding, brain-melting shorts program for the adventurous viewer only!
This strikingly original film builds on Robert Bresson’s ideas of space and sound to create a moving-image sculpture inside a Berlin apartment during a family gathering. Notes of gentleness and tension merge to form a strange visual symphony.
The first digitally shot feature from master director Tsai (whose films I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone and Walker screened within the festival) continues his unique 25-year collaboration with lead Lee Kang-sheng, this time situating him as the homeless guardian to two young children in Taipei.
Neurotic romance collides with bloody horror and the mixed blessing of immortality in this vampire comedy set in contemporary New York. Starring writer/director Tukel (co-star and co-writer of MFF 2011’s Septien) alongside Anna Margaret Hollyman (star of MFF 2013’s White Reindeer), Dakota Goldhor, and Dustin Guy Defa.
Following her Butter on the Latch, which premiered at MFF 2013, Josephine Decker further explores themes of budding romance and psychological terror against a backdrop of bucolic beauty. Fresh from its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale).
From the director of Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo and Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys, both of which screened within the festival, comes this mysterious feature that descends into Eastern Europe’s haunted woodlands to deliver a captivating mix of documentary, experimental film, folklore, and animation.
A documentary portrait of Leeville, Louisiana, a fishing village among the fastest-disappearing wetlands in the United States—and the unforgettable characters who call it home.
This documentary dissects legend from fact in investigating the story of Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, uncovering a web of corruption in the process. From the director of Crude and co-director of Brother’s Keeper, Some Kind of Monster, and the Paradise Lost trilogy.
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
When Johnny Gosch disappeared in 1982, his picture appeared on milk cartons, catapulting the issue of missing children into the public’s imagination. The team behind Horns and Halos and Battle for Brooklyn follows the search for answers over decades of stunning twists and turns, resulting in an unforgettable documentary experience that will have audiences questioning everything and everyone.
From the director of 2010’s Gabi on the Roof in July comes this captivating blend of comedy, romance, and mystery set in contemporary Brooklyn. The all-star indie cast includes Levine alongside Sophia Takal, Alia Shawkat, Annie Parisse, Jason Ritter, and Kevin Corrigan.
At once meditative and transgressive, this challenging art film shot in and around Maryland brings to mind the work of Harmony Korine and Bruno Dumont in telling its story of two young brothers on the run as they hope to reconnect with their estranged father, a key figure in a disturbing subculture. Cast includes Kate Lyn Sheil (Sun Don’t Shine, The Comedy) and Julie Sokolowski (of Dumont’s Hadewijch).