8 New England film festivals to check out this fall

Still from Alejandro Loayza Grisi's "Utama." (Courtesy CineFest Latino)
Still from Alejandro Loayza Grisi's "Utama." (Courtesy CineFest Latino)

This fall marks several significant transitions in Boston’s film exhibition scene. After two years of uncertainty for the MFA film program, public screenings quietly resumed over the summer with several community partnerships announced for the fall, including Boston Women’s Film Festival, Boston Palestine Film Festival, and Boston Turkish Festival Documentary and Short Film Competition. Harvard Film Archive bursts back into fall full-tilt with more offerings than can be listed here. (Do jump down that rabbit hole, though.)

A few blocks away, the esteemed nonfiction series The DocYard announced an indefinite hiatus. But its home theater, the Brattle, keeps pouring out the hits with an especially enticing series of films by improv extraordinaire Mike Leigh (Sept. 16-20) and a trio of centennial anniversary screenings in celebration of Silent Movie Day (Sept. 28-30)

Or if you prefer nightmares, the Salem Horror Fest, which began in 2017 and expanded last year to run the entire month of October, will take a deep breath and return in April 2023. The New Hampshire Film Festival, on pandemic hold since 2019, returns in person to celebrate 20 years strong. And a new festival celebrating Latin American film, Cinefest Latino Boston, launches under the leadership of former Boston Latino International Film Festival director  Sabrina Avilés. As to why she wanted to begin anew, Avilés says, “I wanted to take film to the next level.” Based on what’s in store this fall, Boston moviegoing looks as ‘next level’ as it has since 2019.

Please note: All event listings and COVID policies are subject to change. Please consult individual festival and venue websites to reconfirm requirements for in-person attendance.

Camden International Film Festival

When:  Sept. 15-18; Sept. 15-25 streaming
Where: Venues in Camden, Rockport and Rockland, Maine; some titles online
Highlights: The region’s preeminent non-fiction festival draws industry from the Boston area and throughout the U.S. for a slate of premiere screenings and panel discussions. Programmers have gathered some of the 37 features and 34 shorts under categories such as “embodied geographies” or “environmental hypnosis.” The self-explanatory “Cowboy Poets” and “This Much We Know,” loosely about suicide and what else gets buried by the American dream, will have world premieres. The late documentary producer Diane Weyermann (“An Inconvenient Truth,” “Food, Inc.”) receives a tribute with screenings of films she executive produced, such as “Lowndes County and the Road to Black Power” by Geeta Gandbhir and Sam Pollard. The Points North Institute (which oversees CIFF) is also working with partners to establish a fellowship in her name.
Fun Fact: In February, the U.S. National Toboggan Championships, “the only organized traditional wood toboggan race in the country — most likely the world,” takes place in Camden.

Mike Day's documentary
Mike Day's documentary "Cowboy Poets" will screen at this year's Camden International Film Festival. (Courtesy Mike Day, Intrepid Cinema)

Newburyport Documentary Film Festival

When: In-person Sept. 16-18; streaming Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. through Sept. 25
Where: Firehouse Center for the Arts and The Screening Room, Newburyport; all titles online
Highlights: Just far enough outside Boston’s orbit to make the case for staying the weekend, Newburyport’s always eclectic lineup spans the globe and has a plethora of New England-related picks. The fest opens with a straight-talking account of an ill man who plans his death, “Jack Has a Plan.” A section called “straight from our own backyard” includes shorts about the Boston area’s wild turkey takeover (“Turkey Town”), a pony cart ride to Montreal (“Pony Boys”), and climate change’s impact on plowable snow (“Snow Money”). New England-related features include the Harvard accountability saga “Free Renty” and Tim O’Donnell’s sensitive family portrait “The House We Lived In,” which closes the fest. Youth filmmakers get their due with a screening of shorts from Lynn’s Raw Art Works and a ceremony for the second annual YES (youth emerging showcase) award. All titles stream online beginning Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. through Sept. 25.
Need to Know: Festival leader Joanne Morris has been known to rescue wild animals and nurse them back to health.

Still from Eric Stange's “Pony Boys.” (Courtesy
Still from Eric Stange's “Pony Boys.” (Courtesy "Pony Boys" movie)

The Boston Women’s Film Festival’s Fall Showcase

When: Sept. 23-25
Where: MFA Boston
Highlights: Typically held in autumn, this year the Boston Women’s Film Festival (BWFF) decided to move to March to coincide with Women’s History Month. But with women’s rights under greater threat since the overturn of Roe (and the excellent, topically suited French film “Happening” out this year) programmer Katherine Irving says BWFF wanted to retain a fall presence. “Happening,” which dramatizes the risks one young woman faces to end a pregnancy in 1960s France, closes a showcase of films about similar perils women encounter when seeking agency. In Croatia (“Murina”), a young eel diver dares to fathom life beyond her father’s reach; in Costa Rica (“Clara Sola”) a cloistered middle-aged woman rouses to her own sexual and spiritual power; in Spain (“Piggy”) a bullied teen ignites a gorefest, with a twist. Independently potent, together this quartet sears with anger, desire, and determination.
Need to Know: “Murina” cinematographer Hélène Louvart also shot two of my favorite films in their respective years, “The Lost Daughter” (2021) and “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (2020).

Carlota Pereda's
Carlota Pereda's "Piggy" screens at the Boston Women’s Film Festival’s Fall Showcase at the MFA. (Courtesy BWFF)

CineFest Latino Boston

When: Sept. 30 and Oct. 2
Where: ArtsEmerson and Coolidge Corner Theatre
Highlights: After last spring’s quiet start as a partner to the Shared Stories series with RoxFilm and Boston Asian American Film Festival, CineFest Latino Boston continues its soft launch with a powerful two-pack of in-person screenings. Set in the bone-dry Bolivian highlands, the fictional and prophetic “Utama” features an aging, ailing Quechua couple that director Alejandro Loayza Grisi reportedly met while shooting a documentary series. It picked up the grand jury prize in the world dramatic competition at Sundance. Meanwhile, Carlos Saura’s showy musical about making a musical in Mexico City, “El Rey de Todo el Mundo (The King of All the World),” interweaves reality and fiction, drama and more drama, like only a filmmaker of some six decades can. Sabrina Avilés founded CineFest to “use the power of film to break stereotypes, bring cultures and communities together and reveal the complex issues affecting the Latinx community in the United States, as well as communities in Latin America and Spain.” She says the team will gather energy and resources to launch with a full line-up in fall 2023. In the meanwhile, watch for additional co-presentations and special screenings throughout the year.
Need to Know: According to an interview with Filmmaker, cinematographer Bárbara Álvarez used 90% natural light to give "Utama" a realistic, documentary feel.

Still from Alejandro Loayza Grisi's
Still from Alejandro Loayza Grisi's "Utama." (Courtesy CineFest Latino)

New Hampshire Film Festival

When: Oct. 6-Oct. 9
Where: Venues in Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Highlights: One of the region’s best all-around film festivals celebrates its 20th anniversary after a two-year pandemic hiatus. NHFF can be counted on for wide audience appeal (narratives, docs, features, shorts, parties, panels), focus on local artists and industry, and warm hospitality. In its pandemic pause, it became an Academy Award-qualifying festival for live-action and animated shorts. Without an official film office, the Granite State stays on the movie map in no small part to the leadership of NHFF co-founder Dan Hannon and executive director Nicole Gregg. Check back for a full announcement of the 2022 program.
Need to Know: “On Golden Pond” may be one of the most well-known movies shot in New Hampshire. Unless you’ve heard of “Jumanji.”

Boston Palestine Film Festival

When: Oct. 14-23
Where: MFA Boston, ArtsEmerson, Coolidge Corner Theatre and some titles online
Highlights: After two almost entirely virtual festivals, this year marks a return to the MFA Boston with five in-person screenings. Additional live events and virtual screenings also take place. In addition to themes of exodus (opening night’s “Farha”) and return (closing night’s “The Stranger”), programming director Michael Maria points out two firsts in 2022: co-presentations with RoxFilm (“Little Palestine: Diary of a Siege,” a documentary shot in Yarmouk, a Syrian refugee camp), and the Arlington International Film Festival (“Devil’s Drivers,” a border-crossing thriller of a documentary). “Salma’s Home,” a narrative set in Jordan about three generations of Arab women, written and directed by Emerson professor Hanadi Elyan, will screen in partnership with the Bright Lights Film Series.
Need to Know: While not showing at the fest, the new Netflix series “Mo” is one of the first to focus on the Palestinian-American experience.

Still from Darin J. Sallam's feature directorial debut,
Still from Darin J. Sallam's feature directorial debut "Farha." (Courtesy IntraMovies)

GlobeDocs Film Festival

When: Oct. 12-16
Where: Coolidge Corner Theatre, Brattle Theatre and some titles online
Highlights: Nonfiction film gets the Globe treatment for the eighth year running. Many of the features and shorts hit this region’s screens for the first time. For example, the Chelsea pandemic response short, “Raising the Floor,” makes its world premiere. While still in process of confirmation at press time, festival curator Lisa Viola says that new work by Ondi Timoner (“Dig!,” “We Live in Public”), Shaunak Sen (“Cities of Sleep”), Ryan White (“The Case Against 8”), Ramin Bahrani (“The White Tiger”), and Matthew Heineman (“Cartel Land,” “The First Wave”) will be featured. Look for a formal announcement, with additional titles by Boston documentarians, on Sept. 21.
Need to Know: Discussions moderated by Boston Globe journalists follow all live events.

Boston Asian American Film Festival

When: Oct. 20-23 in person; Oct. 24-30 some titles online
Where: Brattle Theatre, ArtsEmerson and some titles online
Highlights: Other fests may have new and exciting plot twists this year. BAAFF ups the ante with consistently thoughtful, inventive programming. As just one example, the fest travels to Lowell for a screening of the documentary “Bad Axe.” In it, the director documents his parents’ struggle to keep their Cambodian restaurant afloat during the pandemic in the thickly Republican part of Michigan known as “the thumb.” Another program presents the recording of Lenora Lee’s live dance and film commentary on the gentrification of Chinatown, “Convergent Waves: Boston,” with additional live dance and a filmmaker discussion. It’s paired with a documentary short (“Dear Corky”) about street photographer Corky Lee, chronicler of Asian American history. Plus, director Tom Huang will attend the opening night screening of his movie “Dealing With Dad,” a family dramedy about how adult siblings deal with their depressed dad.
Need to Know: On Twitter, @BostonAAFilm posts well-curated news and commentary about Asian American representation in film and TV.

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Erin Trahan Film Writer
Erin Trahan writes about film for WBUR.



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