Our past visits to the Maryland Film Festival have left us surprised, shocked, entertained, engaged — but never bored. The cinematic celebration returns this weekend, and features films both foreign and domestic, short and long, classic and cutting-edge, odd and odder. Our picks for some must-see screenings are below; check out the full schedule here.
Saturday, May 7 (8:30 PM)
Kelly Reichardt, a rising star in American independent film, explored the subtle tensions of daily life in the Pacific Northwest in her films Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy to a low-key, memorable effect. Now, she turns her attention to that classically American genre, the Western, and we can’t wait to see the results. This film follows a wagon train of hopeful settlers (most notably Michelle Williams) searching for safe passage through the Cascade Mountains in 1845. Low supplies, an untrustworthy guide, the sudden appearance of an Indian — Reichardt’s quiet subversion of Western conventions makes for a fresh and startling story.
Saturday, May 7 (11:00 AM)
Looking to recapture that feeling of dread and exhilaration that last year’s film fest hit Dogtooth left you with? Our pick for bleakest story on the screens this year is Ukranian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa’s ironically titled My Joy. At once a day-in-the-life depiction of Georgi, a truck driver, and a dark commentary on the madness of post-Soviet society, My Joy is provocative, brutal, and thrilling.
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Friday, May 6 (1:30 PM) & Sunday, May 8 (2:00 PM)
Or maybe you’re over bleakness. Earlier this year, A. O. Scott noted that Uncle Boonmee’s “contemplative mood and genial, curious spirit….encountered in an appropriately exploratory frame of mind [could] produce something close to bliss.” Exploratory is the key word here; this lush Thai film, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2010, features surreal touches, including ghosts, spirits emerging from the jungle, and other shadowy beasts.
Alloy Orchestra Presents Masters of Slapstick
Sunday, May 8 (11:00 AM)
A film festival tradition, the Alloy Orchestra writes and performs original scores to accompany silent films. This year is your chance to watch their embellishments of a series of short films featuring everyone’s favorite wordless masters of physical comedy: Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.
Photo by Rich Riggins, courtesy Maryland Film Festival
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