Montclair Film Festival 2016 is proud to present this wide-ranging selection of unforgettable documentary features and shorts, and poignant dramas that depict aspects of the African-American experience.
Daryl Davis is not your ordinary race-relations activist. His controversial approach to combating racial animus involves befriending leaders of the Ku Klux Klan and collecting memorabilia from members who have renounced the KKK. Davis purposefully engages with white supremacists by asking, “How can you hate me when you know nothing about me?” Director Matthew Ornstein presents a provocative profile of a fascinating man, and doesn’t shy away from a critical perspective that asks, “in a time when embattled voices are trying to stress that black lives matter, why focus on those who hate?”
In person: director Matt Ornstein, producer Noah Ornstein
Craig Atkinson’s timely documentary DO NOT RESIST is an urgent investigation into the militarization of American police departments. From “Black Lives Matter” protests and police raids to courtroom hearings and equipment trainings, Atkinson travels for two years through eleven states while tracking and exposing a disturbing reality. Capitalizing on current fears and anxieties, military-grade equipment is being sold and donated to local police forces across the country. A thoughtful yet blood-boiling look into the dangerous practice, DO NOT RESIST is required viewing.
In person: director Craig Atkinson, producer Laura Hartrick
Anna Rose Holmer’s psychological portrait of a young girl taking her first powerful steps towards womanhood heralds the arrival of brilliant new voice in film. THE FITS follows Toni (Royalty Hightower), a tomboyish boxer, as she lands a spot on an after-school drill team in the West End community of Cincinnati. Enamored by the power and confidence she feels from being a part of the team, Toni’s elation is tempered by a series of spontaneous violent convulsions—fits—that keep befalling dancers after she joins the squad. Building on stories of real mass hysteria, Holmer, with cowriters Saela Davis and Lisa Kjerulff, has crafted a truly original and hypnotic work.
Presented by the Horizon Foundation for NJ
In person: co-writer/producer Lisa Kjerulff and Co-Writer Saela Davis on Saturday, May 7
A single working-class mom (Edwina Findley) turns to her faith in search of a desperate miracle in Jake Mahaffy’s award-winning FREE IN DEED. Based on real events and set in the distinctive world of storefront churches, where the disenfranchised unite in search of refuge, FREE IN DEED depicts the desperate attempt by a lonely minister (David Harewood) to heal the mother’s son (RaJay Chandler). With powerful performances and a nuanced observational approach, Mahaffy offers a humane look at community driven towards blind faith when all else fails.
Presented by the Horizon Foundation for NJ
In person: director Jake Mahaffy, producers Mike Bowes and Mike S. Ryan
Revisiting the community featured in PARIS IS BURNING twenty-five years earlier, KIKI presents an intimate look at the ballroom and voguing culture of transgender communities of color in New York City. Director Sara Jordanö turns her lens on marginalized black and latino LGBTQ youth whose ballroom community serves as a surrogate family, and profiles several different teams of dancers—or “Houses”—as they prepare for their annual ballroom competition, featuring theatrical costumes and intricate dance routines. Kiki house leaders as young as 16 years old guide their teammate “children” to team pride, personal excellence, and most poignantly, self-acceptance.
Two-time Academy Award winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple returns to the MFF with MISS SHARON JONES!, a portrait of one of the most fiery and talented performers working today. In 2014, on the eve of the band launching a new album, Ms. Jones faces her greatest challenge yet; a cancer diagnosis that brings her career to a stand still. MISS SHARON JONES! documents the singer’s battle to not only heal her body but continue to drive the Dap Kings toward the musical summit. Filled with incredible performances, laughs, tears and plenty of inspiration, we are proud to present MISS SHARON JONES! as our Closing Night Film.
Screening Preceded by The 2016 MFF Filmmaker Award Ceremony
In person: director Barbara Kopple and members of the Dap Kings
The Wellmont Theater, Sat, May 7, 7:30 PM, Buy Tickets
By day, Samantha Montgomery cares for the elderly in one of New Orleans’ toughest neighborhoods. By night, she writes and sings her own songs as Princess Shaw on her confessional YouTube channel. Meanwhile, in Israel, a composer, musician, and video artist named Kutiman creates video mash-up of amateur YouTube performers. When Kutiman discovers Princess Shaw’s raw, vulnerable vocals online, the pair of artists unwittingly begins a journey that will bring them together from across the globe, transforming their lives forever. PRESENTING PRINCESS SHAW is the story of the birth of an unlikely star, an artist who will make you believe in the power of dreams, and is the 2016 Montclair Film Festival’s Centerpiece screening.
Co-presented by Chubb
In person: subject Princess Shaw
The Wellmont Theater, Fri, May 6, 8:00 PM, Buy Tickets
Rob Hatch-Miller’s SYL JOHNSON, ANY WAY THE WIND BLOWS is the story of an overlooked yet hugely influential African-American musician whose 60 year career spanned every genre of black music. Despite enjoying success in Chicago in the 1960s with songs like “Come On Sock It To Me,” Syl’s music remained largely unknown until the 1980s, when he was sampled by artists including Run-DMC, Public Enemy, NWA, the Beastie Boys, the Wu-Tang Clan, Jay Z, and Kanye West. ANY WAY THE WIND BLOWS is a portrait of a fiery artist and his fight to persevere.
In person: director Rob Hatch-Miller, producer Puloma Basu, editor/producer Joaquin Perez
Aspiring photographer is abused by his mother’s boyfriend.
In French with English Subtitles
The talent and irrepressible spirit of a 12 year old jazz piano prodigy who also happens to be blind.
In person: director Paul Szynol, subjects Matthew Whitaker and Matthew’s parents
Soccer is more than sport for the grannies of Limpopo, South Africa.
In Shangaan and English with English Subtitles
In Person: director Lara-Ann de Wet
In September 2015, the State of Alabama closed 31 DMVs, which largely impacted voters in Alabama’s Black Belt.
A cop is caught in a tragic cycle.
In director James Lapine’s CUSTODY, diverse, otherwise divergent lives intersect inside the courtroom of Judge Martha Schulman (Viola Davis). When Sara Diaz’s (Catalina Sandino Moreno) son is injured during a family argument, New York City’s Child Protective Services removes the children from Sara’s home, thrusting her into the web of a legal system that moves glacially to resolve her case. As Sara and her attorney seek the return of her kids, the participants in the trial seem to inhabit different worlds outside of the courtroom, their experiences giving shape to the dramatic conclusion of Sara’s case.
In person: producers Lauren Versel and Katie Mustard
The stellar David Oyelowo (SELMA) and Academy Award winner Dianne Wiest join forces in Maris Curran’s exquisite drama about a widower and his estranged mother-in-law who meet after a devastating loss. Heartbroken after the death of his wife, Sherwin (Oyelowo) drives up to Maine hoping to find some clarity and closure. But Lucinda (Weist), who he knows to be harsh and cold, is suffering in her own way. In her magnificent debut, Curran balances raw emotions with a tender and atmospheric touch, allowing Sherwin and Lucinda the space to find peace as they become unlikely partners in healing.
In person: director Maris Curran, producer Carly Hugo
Like the poem that is its namesake, this documentary by Rita Coburn Whack and Bob Hercules is at once empowering and inspirational. Granted unfettered access to never-before-seen footage, the directors uncover a side of Maya Angelou that was unknown to most, and follow her unlikely ascent from calypso singer and dancer, to an author, actor, director, and cultural figure of international renown. MAYA ANGELOU: AND STILL I RISE gives a revealing glimpse of a towering American talent and it includes appearances by Quincy Jones, Oprah Winfrey, Cicely Tyson, Lou Gossett, Jr. and President Bill Clinton.
In person: co-directors Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack