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Independent Film Festival of Boston

Somerville Theatre, Brattle Theatre, Coolidge Corner

April 23–29, 2008

I can’t be the only one sick of the terrible movies in theatres lately; the filth that comes out in this springtime post-awards season lull is pathetic. Thankfully, some relief is coming to Boston later this month is the form of the sixth annual Independent Film Festival of Boston. It may not be as well known a festival as Sundance, or SXSW, but this relative anonymity might be a good thing. The festival is small enough for anyone to enjoy but large enough to attract some fantastic entries.

You don’t have to be a hipster or film buff to enjoy these films; in fact, it doesn’t matter if you haven’t seen a movie since the last Star Wars came out. This year’s festival is simply the best place in Boston to watch unique and great films that you won’t get to see otherwise. Also, I can guarantee you that almost anything you see at the festival will be better, or at least more interesting, than what you can see any given weekend at the Boston Common Loews.

What else do I love about the Independent Film Festival of Boston? The variety, for one thing. You can see documentaries, narratives, and lots of excellent short films. Better yet, many screenings are followed by Q&As with the filmmakers. There are also free panel discussions on topics such as distribution and the filmmaking industry. You also might meet someone famous. Last year, I nearly fainted when I sat next to Will Arnett and one of the guys from New Kids on the Block.

This year, there will be thirty-two narrative features, twenty-six documentaries, and thirty-six shorts to see. You won’t be able to see them all, so how will you decide? Just pick whatever sounds cool to you. If you are feeling adventurous, try attending something you wouldn’t normally see … you might be pleasantly surprised.

If you want to know what sounds cool to me, however, here are the screenings I think should not be missed. First and foremost, see some shorts! The short films are usually screened in thematically-organized groups. Short films are extremely undervalued; they allow techniques, ideas, themes and stories to be developed in a way that wouldn’t work in a full-length film. For its narratives, you won’t go wrong with the opening film, Transsiberian, an overseas murder mystery starring Woody Harrelson.

I also recommend The Tracey Fragments (starring Juno’s Ellen Page), Ballast (a big winner at Sundance this year), and Bloodcar (a dark comedy about really alternative fuels). For the documentaries, the closing night film is Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World. “Project Runway” fans should check out Eleven Minutes, which chronicles the adventures of season one’s winner after the show ended. Also of interest is We Are Wizards about the Harry Potter phenomenon.

Now for the practical info: Buying a pass to the festival at $180 a piece probably isn’t affordable for students, but buying individual tickets is no problem. Better yet, sign up online to volunteer and get to see films for free. The festival’s main base is the Somerville Theatre, located at the Davis stop of the Red Line, but screenings also take place at the Brattle and Coolidge Corner cinemas.

For a full listing of all the festivals events, check out the festival’s Web site at www.iffboston.org.