A patron reads the heavy Montclair Film Festival 2017 catalogue, on Sunday, April 2. Courtesy Neil Grabowsky.

By GWEN OREL
orel@montclairlocal.news

It’s the same, but bigger. And a little smaller.

The catalog is definitely bigger.

The name is a little smaller, and so is the party space. Montclair Film opened its new building last Thursday, March 30, and announced its line-up on Sunday, April 2.




The building, the Investors Bank Film and Media Center, at 505 Bloomfield Ave., holds 65 in its main screening room, and 225 total. That’s a little smaller than the spaces where it’s held some of its parties before.

The printed catalog for the festival, on the other hand, is the largest it’s ever been.

Lisa Ingersoll, one of Montclair Film’s marketing directors, said with a laugh that it’s the first time the spine of the catalogue has been big enough to print on. The spine says 2017, Montclair Film Festival Guide and, helpfully, #MFF17.
Montclair Film’s Executive Director Tom Hall told the crowd of sponsors, donors and supporters on Sunday night that the main room of the building, named Cinema505, is “the smallest venue in the festival.” It’s an intimate space, Hall said.

That means those who want to get tickets to the filmmaker’s party on Saturday, May 6, should “get their tickets early,” Hall said.

Tickets for the Montclair Film Festival went on sale for members on Monday, April 3, and will be on sale to the general public on Friday, April 7, at montclairfilmfest.org, or at the box office in the new building.

For some time, the Montclair Film Festival has been active all year and not just during the spring festival. Dropping “festival” from its name makes that year-round mission clearer, Hall said.

Montclair Film will show movies five or six days a week “during the summer and beyond.” The organization will collaborate with the Clairidge, across the street from Montclair Film’s home, to complement what they are showing, he said.

MFF Executive Director Tom Hall runs down some of the stand-outs in the Montclair Film Festival 2017 on Sunday, April 2. Courtesy Neil Grabowsky.

On Sunday, Hall described key films that will show during MFF. This year there are 72 features, and more shorts than last year. The opening night film is “Step,” which follows a team of dancers at a Baltimore school. “It was a huge hit at Sundance,” Hall said.

“Band Aid,” the closing night film, is “about a couple who works out problems by starting a rock band with their neighbor.” The suburban comedy will resonate, he said, to an appreciative laugh.

John Turturro, fresh off his performance in HBO’s “The Night Of,” will appear in MFF’s conversation series, with Stephen Colbert, on Sunday, April 30. “He’s bringing his feet,” Hall said. The character Turturro played in “The Night Of” suffered from a bad foot skin condition.

Another star coming to Montclair is scientist Bill Nye, who will also appear in conversation with Stephen Colbert, on Saturday, May 6, after a screening of his film “Bill Nye: Science Guy” at the Wellmont Theater.

Montclair’s own Jonathan Alter will participate in a panel conversation titled “True or False? The Challenge of Reporting in the ‘Fake News’ Era.”

Hall quickly ran through a number of films he loves in the festival, adding that he’s seen and loves them all.
Among them:
• “The Hero,” starring Sam Elliott, about a cowboy movie star diagnosed with cancer. Despite the topic, Hall described it as upbeat.
• “The Dinner,” starring Laura Linney and Rebecca Hall, based on the novel by Herman Koch, about parents reacting to a crime committed by their children.
• “Night of the Living Dead,” in a 4K, or 400 pixels per inch, restoration done by the Museum of Modern Art. Originally, Hall said, the movie was going to be called “Night of the Flesh-eaters,” and its title was changed so close to opening that it was never copyrighted. Most people have never seen a clean version of the movie, he said.
• “Casting JonBenet,” a fiction-nonfiction hybrid about casting characters in the drama of the murdered 6-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey. Netflix has already picked it up, Hall said.
• “Dolores,” a documentary about Dolores Huerta, cofounder of the United Farm Workers union. Huerta will attend the screening on Saturday, April 29.
• “Lady Macbeth,” an English film based on a 19th-century Russian novel about a woman sold into marriage to an older man, is “awesome,” Hall said. “It’s not pretty but it’s really good. It’s my favorite in the festival.”
Family events this year include sensory friendly screenings, with modified lights and sound, and where children are free to move around. Hall said that a film with a sensory friendly screening, “Into the Who Knows!,” about a child who smuggles an imaginary friend into camp, “makes me cry.”

The screenings of both “American Epic Sessions,” a companion to a PBS series about indigenous music, and “Sacred,” a documentary that explores faith around the world, will include live music.

MFF is partnering with Retro Report and the American Black Film Festival to present some programs. As in the past, there are competitions in several categories: Documentary Feature, Fiction Feature; Future/Now Competition, presented by the Horizon Foundation for NJ; New Jersey Films; and Audience Award, presented by Investors Bank.

Find out more at montclairfilmfest.org, and in the glossy catalog.

Just bear in mind, it might take a little effort to lift it.