In an area rich with film festivals, retrospectives and assorted special screenings, the Northampton International Film Festival continues to be a major player on the scene. Now in its 17th year, the NoHoIFF always takes place here—this year, like last, it is taking over the Academy of Music in downtown Northampton for a weekend—but showcases films from all around the world, chosen by a panel of film industry folk.
But it’s not just about the films being shown. One of the advantages of having a multi-day event is that it affords programmers the luxury of leisure, and they take advantage of it by scheduling discussion panels with contributing filmmakers, an opening night gala down the street at R. Michelson Galleries, and a closing night awards ceremony to crown the year’s favorite films. Here’s a look at some of the contenders this time around.
On Friday afternoon, things get underway with the first of seven Shorts programs: chunks of the festival devoted to short films in a variety of genres. Kicking off in the documentary department, Amanda Murray’s film World Fair gets the honor of launching the day. An impressionistic look at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, it uses a mix of archival Kodachrome and the memories of fairgoers to bring the magic of the time—when the fair turned a Queens ash dump into the promise of a post-Depression revival—to life again.
After more short films comes the festival’s first feature-length entry, Hank and Asha. An audience award winner at this year’s Slamdance Film Festival, it’s a love story for our modern age, when the romance of long-distance letters can now include video chat. But these two are something of a throwback: although they send each other video letters, they don’t go online simultaneously—preserving that bit of mystery, and the delight of setting one’s own pace, that makes a great correspondence so heady. Director James E. Duff notes that despite the modern slant, it’s an old tale: “It’s as though we’ve found a bundle of love letters in a trunk in the attic… and can press play.”
After that, the festival continues for another two and a half days, offering individual tickets on a per-film basis or daylong passes at steep discounts (visit nohoiff.org for details). With over 30 films in the offing, there’s sure to be something for everyone.
Also this week: Amherst Cinema and Cinemark are both hosting screenings of one of the more interesting art/film endeavors of late when Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure comes to their screens on Thursday night. A collaboration with the National Gallery in London, the broadcast focuses on the great Dutch master’s art in relation to music. While he is perhaps best known today as the painter of “Girl With a Pearl Earring,” music was one of the most popular themes of his era, and one that provides a window on the subjects of paintings and their place in the society of the time; Vermeer’s intimate domestic scenes spoke volumes that belied their outward restraint. The film of the exhibition is not merely a catalogue of the work, but a creative project in its own right, made specifically for the purpose of bringing more traditional arts to the big screen.
And finally, another film festival is underway at Amherst Cinema, where Wild At Heart is screening as part of a five-film celebration of David Lynch’s work. In this one, Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern are lovers on the run. As Sailor Ripley and Lula Fortune, they are on the lam from his parole officer and her mother, among a motley crew of other thugs, detectives and bounty hunters. More approachable than some of Lynch’s more abstract work, Wild At Heart could be a great film to use to introduce a friend to the director’s work—if they like this one, then you could try Lost Highway and Eraserhead, both of which appear later in the series.•
Jack Brown can be reached at email@example.com.