IFFB in-person screenings come to life, from ‘Emily the Criminal’ to ‘Marcel, the Shell’

It has been a joy to see the return to face-to-face film festivals. The Brattle has recently hosted screenings of Wicked Queer and the Boston Underground, and on Wednesday, Boston’s premiere film event, the Boston Independent Film Festivalroars after a 2020 canceled by Covid and a remote 2021.

The 2022 lineup marks the 19 IFFB cinematic Rites of Spring to be held locally at the Brattle and Somerville theaters (as well as the Coolidge Corner Theater and WBUR CitySpace across the river). As for the whiteboard, it’s another recognition for Executive Director Brian Tamm and Director of Programming Nancy Campbell and all of their volunteer staff. There are 30 feature films (13 of them documentaries) and seven short film programs. Anticipated highlights include the Sundance crowd pleaser “Cha Cha Real Smooth” (April 29, Brattle), in which a reeling college graduate (writer/director Cooper Raiff) falls for a single mother ( Dakota Johnson, in a role she recently played in “The Lost Daughter”); the festival opener “Emily the Criminal,” in which Emily (Aubrey Plaza, “Black Bear”), a debt-ridden college graduate, finds herself involved in a credit card scam; and “Flux Gourmet” (April 28, Brattle), the latest from mysterious setting director Peter Strickland, the mastermind behind such outlandish curiosities as “The Duke of Burgundy” (2015) and “In Fabric” (2020).

IFFB in-person screenings come to life, from 'Emily the Criminal' to 'Marcel, the Shell'

From world cinema come the efforts of two of the best: “One Second” (May 1, Brattle), a film about a Cultural Revolution prison escapee directed by Zhang Yimou (“Raise the Red Lantern,” “Shadow” ) and “Both Sides of the Blade” (April 29, Brattle), a love triangle by Claire Denis (“High Life,” “White Noise”) with the ever-seductive Juliette Binoche as the object of desire. On the thriller side Then there’s “God’s Country” (April 30, Brattle) which stars Thandiwe Newton as a distraught black college professor who takes on a pair of white hunters who insist on accessing her land; “Resurrection” (April 29, Brattle) with Rebecca Hall as a woman who starts seeing her ex (Tim Roth) everywhere, and “How to Rob” (April 29, Somerville) about two thieves who rob South Africa’s bookies and drug dealers. Shore and Cape until an angry target unleashes a team of hit men to even the score.

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For a change, there’s “Piggy” (April 30, Brattle) about a bullied teenager who witnesses her tormentors being kidnapped; “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” (May 2, Brattle) with Emma Thompson as a 60-something widow who buys herself a male prostitute; and the closing night movie, “Marcel, the Shell with Shoes On” (April 30, Coolidge), an animated film about a mollusk named Marcel featuring the voices of Jenny Slate and Isabella Rossellini. The IFFB’s narrative spotlight is on “I Love My Dad,” James Morosini’s semi-autobiographical story about a father (Patton Oswalt) who cheats on his son (Morosini) in an attempt to reconnect with him. It screens April 30 at the Somerville Theatre.

In the non-narrative lineup, from renowned director Ron Howard (“Rush,” “Apollo 13”) is “We Feed People” (April 29, Somerville) about celebrity chef José Andrés and his nonprofit World Central. Kitchen; “The Janes” (May 3, WBUR), a documentary by Tia Lessin and Emma Pildes about an underground ring in 1960s Chicago that helped women get abortions and get medical care; “Fire of Love” (April 29, Somerville) about volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft, who lost their lives in an eruption in the 1990s; and “Riotsville, USA” (April 30, Somerville) about rehearsing military responses to the riots of the late 1960s. The focus of this year’s documentary will be “Girl Talk” (May 1, Somerville) from area filmmaker Lucia Small (“My Father the Genius”), which will follow five girls on a Massachusetts high school debate team.

Notable among seven short programs, the Reciprocity Project focuses on indigenous experiences, and the Fifth Annual Exhibition of Student Short Films highlights the work of local universities.

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On Sunday, the IFFB hosts “The Panola Project: Celebrating the Power of Black Women,” with a panel discussion preceded by a screening of the title short film about Dorothy Oliver, an activist who worked to get her town of Panola, Alabama, vaccinated against covid-19, and almost every adult in town did. They are thanks to your efforts. Amber Payne, co-editor-in-chief of The Emancipator, moderates the conversation with Oliver and the filmmakers.

The Student Shorts Showcase (April 30) and the “Panola Project” panel will take place at the Somerville Theater and are free to the public.

For information, tickets, and a complete listing, see the FIFB website.


Tom Meek is a writer who lives in Cambridge. His reviews, essays, short stories, and articles have appeared in The ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper, and WBUR’s SLAB literary magazines. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.