Boston Goes Indie

By Erin Rook | Boston Magazine |

The next Napoleon Dynamite? It might just be playing in Somerville this weekend. Along with an irreverent take on the Ten Commandments, Joey McIntyre, and Parker Posey. Yup, it's time for the Independent Film Festival.


Screw the red carpet. This is Boston. No paparazzi poseurs, no fake-blonde celebrity commentators. Just a selection of the year’s best independent films – and some great parties too. Now in its fifth year, the Boston Independent Film Festival is carving its own niche with an emphasis on talented directors and poignant films for a seriously laid back, but undeniably polished, event.

“We don’t want to have a contrived pretentious atmosphere,” says Program Director Adam Roffman. Instead, festival organizers have tried to create, “an environment that welcomes risk-takers in terms of film-making.”

Unlike some festivals, which Roffman says attempt to recreate the glitz and glam of Hollywood by lining star-studding red carpets with rent-a-razzi (photographers hired to pose as celebrity vultures), Boston strips down the sheen to reveal a thriving community of directors, actors, and audience members.

The formula seems to be working. Despite its youth, the festival is growing steadily. If last year’s draw is any indication (organizers counted more than 18,000 film-goers), the crowds are likely to be double the 10,000 who attended the first year.

In a city that already hosts a number of film festivals – including the Boston Underground Film Festival, the largely defunct Boston Film Festival, and the demographic-specific festivals hosted by the Museum of Fine Arts – the independent film fest has managed to fill a gap in the New England film scene.

“There’s a lot of good festivals in town, but most are targeted at a specific demographic,” Roffman says. “What we set out to do was to create a big first class film festival…Like most other major cities have. Boston didn’t really have a festival that made the country take notice, let alone the rest of Boston.”

And notice they have. The festival attracts film submissions from across the country and the globe and has been selected for the world premier of three films: “On Broadway,” “Brooklyn Rules,” and “Shadow of the House.”

Roffman says he hopes to help revive the Boston film industry by bringing up-and-coming film-makers to the city and “creating cross-pollination.”

Local film fans are already showing their hometown pride. Advance tickets for “On Broadway,” set in Boston and featuring largely local cast (including Joey McIntyre and Robert Wahlberg), have been sold out for at least two weeks.

It is just one of the more than 70 feature, documentary, and short films that will show over six days at local independent theatre's including the Somerville Theatre (the hub of the fest), the Coolidge Theatre, the Brattle Theatre, and Jimmy Tingle’s Off-Broadway Theatre.

Although the majority of the films featured won’t end up at the multiplex, Roffman predicts that a few have the broad appeal necessary to achieve mainstream success.

“Eagle vs. Shark,” a romantic comedy about a pair of awkward misfits that has been compared, in online discussion boards and by Roffman, to “Napoleon Dynamite;” “The Ten,” an irreverent interpretation of the Ten Commandments from David Wain, director of “Wet Hot American Summer;” and “Fay Grim,” the festival’s opener, written by Hal Hartley and featuring Parker Posey, top Roffman’s list of safe bets.

According to Roffman, whose job it is to sort through the entries and set the festival’s program, other hidden gems include “Row Hard, No Excuses” (a documentary with lots of local ties), “Day Night Day Night” (winner of the Independent Spirit Award), and “Darius Goes West” (the heartwarming tale of a wheelchair-bound teenager’s cross-country quest to get MTV to “pimp” his ride).

Catering to film buffs and casual movie-goers alike, the six-day festival offer multiple ways to get involved, from individual ticket sales to the “Titanium Package” – a deal that includes an all-access pass to the films (and parties) as well as an Apple TV pre-loaded with films from past years. There’s also the festival’s equivalent to the Charlie Card – a prepaid multi-film pass called the Blue Card that lets holders in to 10 films at a discounted rate.