(MONTCLAIR, NJ) -- The 2023 Montclair Film Festival takes place October 20-29 with screenings at venues across Montclair and at NJPAC in Newark. Here is a look at some of the most anticipated narrative, documentary, and music films.
About Dry Grasses - Saturday, October 21, 8:15pm at The Clairidge; Tuesday, October 24, 7:00pm at The Clairidge. After mandatory placement in a provincial Middle School, a young teacher named Samet hopes to be one of the lucky teachers who gets appointed to work in the bustling city of Istanbul. After a long time waiting, Samet’s dreams become tenuous, calling into question his career and deepening his desire to escape from his gloomy life until an encounter with his colleague Nuray grows into something much deeper. In Turkish with English subtitles.
All of Us Strangers - Saturday, October 28, 7:30pm at MKA Upper School. One night in his near-empty tower block in contemporary London, Adam (Andrew Scott) has a chance encounter with a mysterious neighbor Harry (Paul Mescal), which punctures the rhythm of his everyday life. As a relationship develops between them, Adam is preoccupied with memories of the past and finds himself drawn back to the suburban town where he grew up, and the childhood home where his parents (Claire Foy and Jamie Bell), appear to be living, just as they were on the day they died, 30 years before. Directed by Andrew Haigh / UK / 105 min.
Confessions of a Good Samaritan - Saturday, October 21, 5:15pm at The Clairidge; Sunday, October 22, 5:15pm at The Clairidge. Director Penny Lane’s Confessions of a Good Samaritan explores her highly personal and often misunderstood decision to become a “Good Samaritan” by donating one of her kidneys to an unknown stranger. What begins as a seemingly utilitarian decision turns into a funny and moving personal quest to understand the nature of altruism, unbound by personal relationships between individuals. Confessions of a Good Samaritan is a provocative inquiry into the science, history and ethics of organ transplantation, asking an ancient question in a whole new way: who is your neighbor, and what do you owe them? Q&A with director Penny Lane to follow Saturday’s screening. Directed by Penny Lane / USA / 105 min.
Fallen Leaves - Thursday, October 26, 1:00pm at The Clairidge; Sunday, October 29, 3:15pm at The Clairidge. Fallen Leaves tells the story of two lonely people who meet each other by chance in the Helsinki night and try to find the first, only, and ultimate love of their lives. Their path towards this honorable goal is clouded by the man’s alcoholism, lost phone numbers, not knowing each other’s names or addresses, and life’s general tendency to place obstacles in the way of those seeking happiness. This gentle tragicomedy, previously thought to be lost, again proves Aki Kaurismäki to be a visual poet of the highest order, a champion of working-class life in an increasingly detached society. In Finnish with English subtitles. Directed by Aki Kaurismäki / Finland, Germany / 81 min.
Fingernails - Saturday, October 21, 7:30pm at MKA Upper School. Christos Nikou’s (APPLES) new melancholic romance Fingernails is set in a not too distant future where the undying love between couples can be scientifically proven through biological testing. In this world, this new, controversial scientific method has proven that Anna (Jessie Buckley) and Ryan (Jeremy Allen White) have found true love, but there’s just one problem: Anna still isn’t sure. So when she takes a position at a love testing institute, and meets Amir (Riz Ahmed), who will supervise her training, her feelings are tested. Can true love change? Fingernails is a beautiful story of the unknowable heart. Directed by Christos Nikou / USA / 113 min.
Lousy Carter - Saturday, October 21, 5:00pm at The Clairidge; Sunday, October 22, 5:00pm at The Clairidge. Lousy Carter (David Krumholtz) is a middle-aged literature professor struggling to inspire his students and eager to find inspiration of his own. So when he receives a life-changing medical diagnosis from his disaffected doctor, he decides to take life by the horns and live a little more dangerously. But just like everything else in his life, Lousy can’t seem to find meaning for himself in this new-found freedom. Bob Byington returns to the Montclair Film Festival with Lousy Carter, the story of a difficult man who, despite all of his best efforts, is doing it all wrong. Q&A with director Bob Byington and actor David Krumholtz to follow both screenings. Directed by Bob Byington / USA / 80 min.
NYAD - Saturday, October 28, 12:00pm at MKA Upper School. Academy Award® winning filmmakers Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (Free Solo) make the leap from documentary to fiction filmmaking with their new film NYAD, which tells the remarkable true story of athlete Diana Nyad (Annette Benning) who, at the age of 60 and with the help of her best friend and coach Bonnie Still (Jodie Foster), commits to achieving her life-long dream: a 110-mile open ocean swim from Cuba to Florida. As Diana relentlessly pursues her seemingly impossible goal, her friendships are challenged as well, forcing her to confront not only the ocean, but her own demons. Q&A with co-director Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi to follow the screening. Directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin / USA / 121 min
Perfect Days - Sunday, October 22, 3:45pm at MKA Upper School. Wim Wenders’ profoundly moving Perfect Days is the story of Hirayama (Cannes Best Actor winner Koji Yakusho), a public sanitation worker who spends his days keeping Tokyo’s public bathrooms clean. From his humble position, Hirayama is able to find meaning and joy in observing daily life in Tokyo, from the ups and downs of Tokyo’s youth to the simple pleasures found in the rhythms of the city. Filled with moments of profound human insight and an elegiac soundtrack (The Velvet Underground and Patti Smith feature prominently), Perfect Days is Japan’s entry to this year’s Academy Awards®. In Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Wim Wenders / Japan / 124 min.
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm - Saturday, October 21, 12:00pm at The Clairidge; Sunday, October 22, 12:00pm at The Clairidge. The legendary Shirley Temple stars as Rebecca Winstead, a young girl with big dreams of making it in show business. But when her Uncle Harry forbids her from show business by sending her to live on the farm with her Aunt Miranda, Rebecca joins forces with the wily Anthony Kent (Randolph Scott) to try and make her dreams come true. Featuring the unforgettable Shirley Temple in one of her greatest roles, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm retains all of its charm and remains a family classic for all ages! The Montclair Film Festival is proud to partner with The Film Foundation to present this new restoration of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Directed by Allan Dwan / USA / 81 min.
Sometimes I Think About Dying - Sunday, October 22, 7:30pm at MKA Upper School. Lost on the dreary Oregon coast, Fran (Daisy Ridley) finds solace in her cubicle, listening to the constant hum of officemates and occasionally daydreaming to pass the time. She is ghosting through life, unable to pop her bubble of isolation, when a friendly new coworker, Robert, persistently tries to connect with her. Though it goes against every fiber of her being, she may have to give this guy a chance. Sometimes I Think About Dying is a delicately told story of love for the socially awkward and emotionally challenged, an unexpected fable on the virtues of living. Directed by Rachel Lambert / USA / 91 min.
The Taste of Things - Sunday, October 29, 11:45am at MKA Upper School. Eugenie (a luminous Juliette Binoche), an esteemed cook, has been working for over the last 20 years for Dodin (Benoît Magimel), a fine gourmet. Growing fonder of one another, their bond turns into a romance and gives rise to delicious dishes that impress even the world’s most illustrious chefs. When Dodin is faced with Eugenie’s reluctance to commit to him, he decides to start cooking for her. Trần Anh Hùng’s The Taste of Things (formerly titled POT AU FEU) launches itself immediately into the pantheon of great films about cooking and food, and is an unforgettable sensory delight. The Taste of Things has been selected as France’s official submission to the 2023 Foreign Language category at the Academy Awards®. In French with English subtitles. Directed by Trân Anh Hùng / France / 145 min.
The Teachers' Lounge - Saturday, October 21, 5:45pm at The Clairidge. The Teachers' Lounge is director İlker Çatak’s riveting work about school as a microcosm of society. Carla Nowak is a dedicated, idealistic young teacher in her first job at a German middle school. Her relaxed rapport with her seventh-grade students is put under stress when a series of thefts occur at the school, and a staff investigation leads to accusations and mistrust among outraged parents, opinionated colleagues, and angry students. Caught in the middle of these complex dynamics, Carla tries to mediate — but the more she tries, the more desperate her position becomes. In German with English subtitles. Directed by Ilker Çatak / Germany / 98 min.
Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project - Saturday, October 21, 12:00pm at MKA Upper School. Q&A with director Joe Brewster to follow the screening. Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project, winner of the Grand Jury Prize for U.S. Documentary at Sundance, pushes the boundaries of biographical documentary film to reveal the enduring influence of one of America’s greatest living artists and social commentators. Combining parallel cinematic story editing with visually innovative treatments of her poetry, along with intimate vérité, rich archival footage, and Giovanni’s own captivating contemporary performances, Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project recounts the story of the artist and her works of resistance through the tumultuous historical periods in which she lived — from the Civil Rights Movement to the Black Arts Movement to present-day Black Lives Matter. Directed by Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson / USA / 102 min.
Tell Them You Love Me - Saturday, October 21, 8:30pm at The Clairidge; Sunday, October 22, 2:15pm at The Clairidge. Q&A with director Nick August-Perna to follow both screenings. Tell Them You Love Me explores the extraordinary story of Anna Stubblefield, an esteemed university professor who becomes embroiled in a controversial affair with Derrick Johnson, a non-verbal man with cerebral palsy. Anna says she unlocked Derrick’s mind from his body by teaching him to communicate using a keyboard. The relationship that followed would lead to a criminal trial that would challenge our perceptions of disability and the nature of consent. Through exclusive footage and interviews with those on both sides of the case, this feature documentary weaves a riveting and endlessly nuanced story about communication, race, and sex. Directed by Nick August-Perna / USA / 103 min.
Confessions of a Good Samaritan - Saturday, October 21, 5:15pm at The Clairidge; Sunday, October 22, 5:15pm at The Clairidge. Q&A with director Penny Lane to follow the Saturday screening only. Director Penny Lane’s Confessions of a Good Samarita explores her highly personal and often misunderstood decision to become a “Good Samaritan” by donating one of her kidneys to an unknown stranger. What begins as a seemingly utilitarian decision turns into a funny and moving personal quest to understand the nature of altruism, unbound by personal relationships between individuals. Confessions of a Good Samarita is a provocative inquiry into the science, history and ethics of organ transplantation, asking an ancient question in a whole new way: who is your neighbor, and what do you owe them? Directed by Penny Lane / USA / 105 min.
Jesszilla - Saturday, October 21, 3:15pm at The Clairidge; Sunday, October 22, 7:30pm at The Clairidge. Q&A with director Emily Sheskin to follow both screenings. New Jersey’s own Jesselyn “JessZilla” Silva is a 3x national boxing champion with her sights set on being the best in the sport. Her father, Pedro, navigates what it means to support his daughter’s dreams in an extremely dangerous sport. As Jesselyn is on the cusp of making the Olympic team, an unthinkable diagnosis redefines what it means to fight. Based upon the short that wowed Montclair Film Festival audiences, Emily Sheskin’s Jesszilla is a powerful, moving coming-of-age story about proving to yourself that you have what it takes to be a champion. Directed by Emily Sheskin / USA / 90 min.
Stamped From The Beginning - Sunday, October 22, 3:45pm at The Wellmont. A Q&A with director Roger Ross Williams follows the screening. Oscar-winning director Roger Ross Williams brings Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s New York Times bestseller to the screen with Stamped From The Beginning. Published in 2016, Dr. Kendi’s National Book Award winner chronicles the entire story of anti-Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. Williams’ documentary adaptation uses vivid animations that illuminate figures and moments both well-known and obscure, both historical and contemporary. Leading Black women academics and activists such as Dr. Angela Davis, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, Brittany Packnett Cunningham, Dr. Jennifer L. Morgan, and Dr. Kendi guide viewers through a searing account of how racist tropes and imagery were developed and enshrined in American culture. Directed by Roger Ross Williams / USA / 85 min.
Wilding - Thursday, October 26, 7:30pm at The Clairidge; Friday, October 27, 1:00pm at The Clairidge. Rewilding in New Jersey discussion and Q+A with Nature Conservancy scientists immediately follows Thursday’s screening. A young couple risk everything, betting their future on the transformative power of nature, gambling that a rag-tag group of animals can heal the land on their failing farm in the South of England. Based on Isabella Tree’s sumptuous and thought-provoking book about the rehabilitation of the Knepp Estate, Wilding vividly brings to life the story of one of the most significant rewilding projects in Europe. Directed by David Allen / UK / 75 min.
From This Small Space - Thursday, October 26, 7:45pm at The Clairidge; Saturday, October 28, 2:45pm at The Clairidge. Q&A with director Taimi Arvidson, producer Brette Ragland and executive producers Susan MacLaury and Albie Hecht to follow both screenings. In August 2017, armed attacks, massive scale violence, and serious human rights violations forced thousands of Rohingya to flee their homes in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Many walked for days through jungles and undertook dangerous sea journeys across the Bay of Bengal to reach safety in Bangladesh where more than 960,000 people have found safety in the world’s largest refugee camp. Taimi Arvidson’s From This Small Space confronts this humanitarian crisis through the eyes of its children. A beautiful story of resilience, From This Small Space is a wonder, a moving testament to the experience of Rohingya children. Presented with English subtitles. Playing with Sunflower Field. Directed by Taimi Arvidson / USA / 77 min.
Against All Enemies - Saturday, October 28, 12:30pm at The Clairidge; Sunday, October 29, 7:00pm at The Clairidge. Q&A with director Charlie Sadoff to follow both screenings. With the rise of right-wing movements as a backdrop, Charlie Sadoff’s Against All Enemies goes deep inside the violent extremist movement in America, examining how the Proud Boys, 3 Percenters of the Oath Keepers — groups organized and led by highly-trained, highly-motivated military veterans — pose a tremendous threat to the United States today by attracting men disillusioned in the aftermath of their military service. While most veterans are successful in their transition to civilian life, an increasingly radicalized element has been drawn into insurrectionist groups. Against All Enemies is a searing portrait of the ideas behind this growing movement.
The Gullspång Miracle - Saturday, October 21, 11:45am at The Clairidge; Tuesday, October 24, 1:00pm at The Clairidge. Maria Fredriksson’s The Gullspång Miracle is an unbelievable true story of family connections and the power of faith to connect us to the world. When two pious sisters witness what they consider to be a divine sign, they decide to purchase an apartment together in the small Swedish town of Gullspång. But when they meet the seller, an unexpected series of revelations brings the sisters together in ways they could never have imagined. Visually inventive and brimming with life, The Gullspång Miracle is a moving look at our interconnected lives and the bonds that carry us through time. In Norwegian and Swedish with English subtitles. Directed by Maria Fredriksson / Sweden, Norway, Denmark / 108 min.
Anselm (3D) - Tuesday, October 24, 7:30pm at The Clairidge; Wednesday, October 25, 7:30pm at The Clairidge. In Anselm, Wim Wenders creates a portrait of Anselm Kiefer, one of the most innovative and important painters and sculptors of our time. Shot and presented in stunning 3D, the film presents a cinematic experience of the artist’s work which explores human existence and the cyclical nature of history, inspired by literature, poetry, philosophy, science, mythology and religion. For over two years, Wenders traced Kiefer’s path from his native Germany to his current home in France, connecting the stages of his life to the essential places of his career that spans more than five decades. In English and in German with English subtitles. This film is presented in 3D. Glasses will be distributed at each screening. Directed by Wim Wenders / Germany / 93 min.
American Symphony - Saturday, October 21, 3:30pm at The Wellmont Theater. A Q&A with Documentary Filmmaker Award winner Matthew Heineman, Grammy-winner Jon Batiste, and Suleika Jaouad follows the screening. In his new film American Symphony, director Matthew Heinemann (City of Ghosts, Retrograde) turns his camera away from the global conflicts that have defined his award-winning career and toward something altogether different. What begins as a portrait of the composer and musician Jon Batiste’s attempt to realize his vision for a symphonic composition is transformed by the harrowing realities of life when celebrated musician and author Suleika Jaouad, who is married to Batiste, receives a diagnosis that her cancer has returned. Filled with life, tenderness, and beautiful music, American Symphony is a creative triumph of collaboration and an intimate portrait of artistic perseverance through the power of love. Directed by Matthew Heineman / USA / 104 min.
Bad Like Brooklyn Dancehall - Saturday, October 28, 5:15pm at The Clairidge; Sunday, October 29, 2:45pm at The Clairidge. Q&A with director Ben DiGiacomo and producer Amy DiGiacomo to follow both screenings. The rise of Jamaican dancehall and reggaeton music in the Caribbean club scene in Brooklyn, NY introduced the world to what is now some of the most popular pop music on the planet. But while the music has become an unstoppable force on radios and dance floors, few know its true history. Featuring interviews with groundbreaking artists like Shaggy, Bad Like Brooklyn Dancehall highlights how dancers, DJs and members of the Caribbean community built a cultural bridge between Jamaica and New York through basement parties and celebrations that brought together people who were worlds apart. Directed by Ben DiGiacomo and Dutty Vannier / Jamaica, USA / 93 min.
Movie Music: An Event by Montclair's Own - Tuesday, October 24, 8:00pm at Pineapple Express. In Say Anything, Lloyd Dobler stands outside his crush’s window blasting “In Your Eyes,” linking forever the Peter Gabriel song to Cusack’s boombox serenade. When great music heightens and enhances movie scenes — from Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” in The Graduate, to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” in Wayne's World, to Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” in Do The Right Thing, to the Pixies “Where is My Mind” in Fight Club — the pairing stays with us for life. Join us to hear Montclair’s own musicians and singers perform live covers of their favorite needle drops and music from iconic movie scenes — and maybe even some new music from this year’s MFF 2023 selections!
Música! - Saturday, October 28, 6:15pm at The Clairidge; Sunday, October 29, 12:30pm at The Clairidge. Q&A with directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, editor Susan Fanshel, executive producer Susan Sillins, and subjects Judy Epstein and David Gage (Horns to Havana) to follow both screenings. Music is famously central to the Cuban spirit and way of life. Over the course of five years, Música! follows four young Cuban musicians who, through music, hope to find success and fulfillment, with some choosing to remain in Cuba, and some seeking to venture out into the world beyond. What connects these students is their love for music, and their ambition to make it as professional musicians upon graduating. Música! is an exploration of the power of music and the value of cross-cultural exchange — and the impact they can have on individuals’ lives. In English and Spanish with English subtitles.
Pianoforte - Saturday, October 21, 12:00pm at The Wellmont. Founded in 1927 and held in Warsaw every five years, the Chopin Piano Competition has established itself as one of the most important events in the world of classical music– rigorous and challenging, the competition continues to uncover the next generation of concert pianists destined to perform in the world’s greatest concert halls. More than just another competition film, Pianoforte takes us into a world of creative artistry, gorgeous musical interpretation, and the unforgettable personalities of the world’s next great pianists. In Polish, English, Chinese, Italian, Russian, Slovenian with English subtitles. Directed by Jakub Piatek / Poland / 91 min.
Scream of My Blood - A Gogol Bordello Story - Friday, October 27, 7:30pm at The Clairidge; Saturday, October 28, 12:15pm at The Clairidge. Special performance and Q&A with Eugene Hütz follows Friday’s screening. Q&A with directors Nate Pommer and Eric Weinrib follows both screenings. Executive producer Beverly Chase and subject Eugene Hütz will join the Q&A following the Friday screening only. Following the Russian invasion of his native Ukraine, legendary New York City musician Eugene Hütz heads toward the conflict with his punk band, Gogol Bordello, in order to bring the power of music to the Ukrainian people. Along the way, directors Nate Pommer and Eric Weinrib tell the globe-spanning history of Gogol Bordello — influenced by Ukrainian and Roma culture, Hütz and his band have blazed a trail of mayhem across stages around the world. Scream of My Blood - A Gogol Bordello Story is a must for true believers in the power of music to change the world. Directed by Nate Pommer and Eric Weinrib / USA / 99 min.
They Shot The Piano Player - Sunday, October 22, 8:00pm at The Clairidge. In They Shot The Piano Player, an animated hybrid of fiction and non-fiction storytelling, Jeff Goldblum plays a New York music journalist who embarks on a quest to uncover the truth behind the mysterious disappearance of a young Brazilian piano virtuoso named Tenorio Jr. A celebratory origin story of the world-renowned Latino musical movement Bossa Nova, They Shot The Piano Player captures a fleeting time bursting with creative freedom at a turning point in Latin American history in the 60s and 70s, in the critical moment before the continent was engulfed by totalitarian regimes. In English and in Spanish with English subtitles. Directed by Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal / Spain, France / 103 min.
Click here to view the entire lineup of films and events for the festival.
Montclair Film connects global filmmakers with audiences in a diverse, culturally vibrant community by presenting films and year-round programs that engage, entertain and educate through the power of visual storytelling.