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7 Films To See At The Woods Hole Film Festival This Year

A still from "Say Her Name: The Life and Times Of Sandra Bland." (Courtesy Woods Hole Film Festival)MoreCloseclosemore
A still from "Say Her Name: The Life and Times Of Sandra Bland." (Courtesy Woods Hole Film Festival)

The 27th Woods Hole Film Festival kicks off this Saturday, July 28 and runs through Aug. 4 boasting nearly 50 feature length films and over 100 shorts from filmmakers both local (Falmouth to Fitchburg) and afar (Afghanistan and Australia).

You can’t get any more summery than cinema on the Cape. The well-established fest leverages five venues within the quaint seaside village of Woods Hole and neighboring Falmouth. Breakout programming includes “Bringing Science to the Screen” and on Sunday there will be the 11th annual “Kids Day” with a selection of films aimed at children ages 5-12. There will also be a series of panel discussions and workshops on film and filmmaking.

Here's a look at some of the festival's standouts:

'Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland' | Friday, Aug. 3

Many of the films on this year’s slate revolve around issues regarding race, class and environmental welfare. Of the many offerings Kate Davis and husband David Heilbronner’s “Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland” jumps to the fore. The film investigates the mysterious 2015 death of Bland, an African-American activist critical of police brutality, after a routine traffic stop in Texas and delves into the controversy surrounding the confrontational dashcam footage recorded by the arresting officer’s cruiser and the subsequent discovery of Bland’s body in a jail cell, officially ruled a suicide but largely disputed.

Davis, who was born in Belmont and is one of the festival’s founders, was nominated for an Oscar last year for her short doc “Traffic Stop,” which also examined the stopping of an African-American in Texas. The directors, Bland's mother, two sisters and the lead attorney on the case will also attend the screening for a Q&A. The film is scheduled to air later this year on HBO.


'Rich Kids' | Tuesday, July 31

Laura Somers’ narrative feature was shot in and around Houston with a cast of mostly Latino actors as it tackles race and class when a clique of marginalized teens break into a mansion and spend the day drinking up what it’s like to live in the lap of luxury. The film, which has earned strong accolades on the festival circuit casts wafts of Larry Clark’s “Kids” (1995) and Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring” (2013).


'Chimera' | Thursday, Aug. 2

Closer to home — shot out in Fitchburg — is Maurice Haeems’ feature debut, “Chimera." The sci-fi thriller centers on a disturbed scientist who freezes his children alive with the hope of finding a cure for the lethal genetic disease that afflicts them. The titular term, meaning “something hoped or wished for but in fact is illusory or impossible to achieve,” tells much as to just how the psychodrama starring Henry Ian Cusick, from ABC's “Lost” and Kathleen Quinlan, from the film "The Doors," might go.


'Playing Frisbee in North Korea' | Wednesday, Aug. 1

Taking great risk in her debut documentary “Playing Frisbee in North Korea,” Savanna Washington looks at the lives of North Koreans under the totalitarian regime of dictator Kim Jong-un — an intriguing juxtaposition given the more human mien Kim garnered during his recent summit with President Trump. Washington shot the footage covertly when on a tour of the insular country — one similar to the tour that would prove fatal for U.S. detainee Otto Warmbier two years later. The subject of the title refers to a simple playful act between tourist and residents, that in North Korea could wind up with someone in jail or worse. The screening of “Playing Frisbee in North Korea” at Woods Hole marks its premiere. Washington will be in attendance.


'Mr. Soul' | Tuesday, July 31

If “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” piqued your interest in the pioneering of public television and social issues during the 1960s and '70s, then “Mr. Soul!” is right up your alley. Shot by Boston-bred filmmaker Melissa Haizlip, the film renders a heartfelt profile of Haizlip’s ground-breaking uncle, Ellis Haizlip, who hosted the first African-American themed variety show (“Soul!”) long before TV was blessed with the likes of Arsenio Hall or Trevor Noah. Haizlip’s star-studded guests included Al Green, Toni Morrison and Harry Belafonte, with politics and the state of America and race ever on the docket.


'The Limit Of' | Friday, Aug. 3

On the side of taking matters into one’s own hands Alan Mulligan’s “The Limit Of” mines fateful happenstance to the nth degree when banker James Allen (played by Laurence O'Fuarain, who got his start in “Game of Thrones”) looking after his widowed mother learns that his employer is in the process of trying to repossess his mother’s home. The ire and sense of betrayal propels James to take action.


'Rodents of Unusual Size' | Thursday, Aug. 2

The title, “Rodents of Unusual Size” might sound like a B-horror film along the lines of “Piranha” or “C.H.U.D.” but it’s in fact a documentary about the invasive nutria — large aquatic rats — in Louisiana responsible for massive land erosion because all they do is eat grass. Originally bred for their fur in the early 1900s, nutria got into the bayous following a massive hurricane but didn’t become a problem until the appeal of fur went out with PETA in the 1980s. As they’re vegetarians, nutria don’t spread disease like their Boston underground dwelling relatives, but still 25 million 25-pound muskrats without a viable predator to cull the booming population pose a public concern. Directors Quinn Costello, Chris Metzier and Jeff Springer dissect it all from a historical, socio-economic and environmental perspective while maintaining an apt tongue-in-cheek perspective about their oversized subjects.


Other titles that look promising include “In Reality,” “Black Memorabilia,” “Chet’s Last Call,” “Afghan Bikes,” “An Evening with Pink Floyd,” “Inventing Tomorrow,” “The Human Element” and “306 Hollywood.”


Correction: An earlier version of this post indicated that "Traffic Stop" won an Oscar while it should have said the short film was nominated. We regret the error.

Tom Meek Twitter Contributor, The ARTery
In addition to The ARTery, Tom Meek's reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in The Boston Phoenix, Boston Globe, The Rumpus, Charleston City Paper and SLAB literary journal.

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