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2020 Maryland Film Festival Cancellation

and Recognition of Selected Features

Due to the ongoing executive order enacted by Governor Larry Hogan for the state of Maryland on March 16, 2020, the Maryland Film Festival (MdFF) is announcing the cancellation of the 22nd annual film festival this spring. The festival would have taken place in Baltimore from April 29 – May 3.

“While we have had to make the painful decision to cancel our film festival this year, we understand that we each have an important role to play in reducing the spread of COVID-19. This is especially true in physical spaces like an intimate movie theater. My team and I are looking at ways to connect our audience and wider community with our artists virtually and to provide access to films that offer a wide range of inspiration and encouragement to help all of us get through this period.”

– Sandra Gibson, Executive Director of the Maryland Film Festival and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Parkway. 

 

Answers to Your Questions

What is happening with MdFF 2020?

Unfortunately, the abruptly unfolding events of the past weeks have coincided with our timeline for wrapping up this year’s film selection. While some of you have heard from us regarding selection, we realize many of you have not. Notifications will be ongoing. We received an abundance of incredible work this year and we want to stay open to all possibilities until we have a definitive path forward. While we won’t be able to accommodate all of the wonderful work that has been sent our way, we hope to continue to support and present as much of your work as possible.

What do I do if I haven’t heard from MdFF regarding my entry?

Please bear with us as we work through the possibilities during this unprecedented and uncertain moment. We are trying to remain fluid to potential possibilities and changes, so we have decided to extend the notification date for our call-for-entries originally scheduled for April 20 to May 15th. We intend to communicate with you individually about the status of your film entry by that extended date.

What if my film is selected but rescheduled and or virtual events do not fit with my schedule or release plans?

Any films that we have already committed to, or commit to in the coming weeks will remain official selections of MdFF 2020, regardless of whether screenings of those films can be accommodated in future events (virtual or in-person).

When will announcements be made about the selections to the festival?

On April 9th we made the announcement we were cancelling the festival event scheduled for April 29th – May 3rd. We also announced the first slate of feature films selected for this year’s festival. We will continue to update the public with additional selections to this year’s festival as well as any amended lineups while we continue to explore and build alternate events.

What if I want a refund for submitting my film?

Our official policy as stated on our FilmFreeway terms and conditions is that we don’t issue refunds. As a small arts organization facing the uncertainties of long closures for our theater and other deep revenue losses during the pandemic, we would experience a significant financial hardship to lose any additional revenues. Submission fees cover a portion of the staff time and other costs associated with viewing each film submission. However, we recognize that this is an unprecedented moment and that many folks are facing financial hardships brought on by closures and illness, and in some cases, much worse. In extreme cases of hardship, we are willing to review a refund request from an entrant with FilmFreeway’s guidance. 

What if I want a refund for my All-Access Pass?

Our official policy as stated on our website and festival pass page is that we don’t issue refunds or exchanges. We are moving as expeditiously as possible to continue to explore alternate events and we ask for your understanding and patience while we fully explore all of these opportunities to celebrate the filmmakers, films and our partners in the festival.

We want to take this opportunity to recognize the films and filmmakers that have been selected for this year’s festival.

“This year’s lineup captures a vibrant sampling of artists who form the thrilling pulse of the cinematic art form and reminds us of the importance and power of film especially in a moment of crisis. We look forward to sharing the rest of the 2020 MdFF lineup in the coming weeks and are enthusiastically exploring the alternatives for supporting all of our films and filmmakers through this challenging time.”

– Scott Braid, Director of Programming, Maryland Film Festival

 

JOHN WATERS presents MAPS TO THE STARS 

Each year the Baltimore’s king of culture, John Waters selects and presents a favorite film, sometimes a lost classic, sometimes an unfairly overlooked more recent film, but always a film that benefits from the insights of the John Waters treatment. This year we’re thrilled to have David Cronenberg’s darkly satirical MAPS TO THE STARS as our John Waters presents Feature Film. 

 

THE DEVIL AND DANIEL JOHNSTON 15th Anniversary screening with director Jeff Feuerzeig and special musical guest Jad Fair! Celebrate the life and incredible music of the late Daniel Johnston with this 35mm screening and musical extravaganza. 

 

BEAST BEAST – DANNY MADDEN | USA | ENGLISH | 86 MIN

Three interweaving stories of youth navigating identity, first love, petty crime, and gun violence in a southern town.

 

BLACK BEAR – LAWRENCE MICHAEL LEVINE | USA | ENGLISH | 2020 | 104 MIN

The director of GABI ON THE ROOF IN JULY (MdFF 2010) and WILD CANARIES (MdFF 2014) returns to the festival with a masterful new feature starring Aubrey Plaza and Christopher Abbott. Plaza plays a female filmmaker at a creative impasse who seeks solace from her tumultuous past at rural retreat, only to find that the woods summon her inner demons in intense and surprising ways.

 

BLOODY NOSE, EMPTY POCKETS – BILL & TURNER ROSS | USA | ENGLISH | 98 MIN

The Ross Brothers (MdFF 2012’s TCHOUPITOULAS, MdFF 2015’s WESTERN) return to the festival with this glorious inside look at the final moments of a Las Vegas dive bar called ‘The Roaring 20s’.

 

BOYS STATE – JESSE MOSS & AMANDA McBAINE | USA | ENGLISH | 109 MIN

Boys State is a political coming-of-age story, examining the health of American democracy through an unusual experiment: a thousand 17-year-old boys from across Texas gather together to build a representative government from the ground up. High-minded ideals collide with low-down dirty tricks as four boys of diverse backgrounds and political views navigate the challenges of organizing political parties, shaping consensus, and campaigning for the highest office at Texas Boys State—governor. 

 

BULLETPROOF – TODD CHANDLER | USA | ENGLISH | 85 MIN

What does it mean to be safe in school in the United States? Safe from what, and from whom? Bulletproof poses and complicates these questions through a provocative exploration of fear and American violence.

 

COUP 53 – TAGHI AMARANI | USA-IRAN-FRANCE | ENGLISH-FRENCH-PERSIAN | 120 MIN

While making a documentary about the Anglo-American coup in Iran in 1953, Iranian director Taghi Amirani and editor Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now, The Godfather, The English Patient) discover never before seen archive material hidden for decades. The 16mm footage and documents not only allow the filmmakers to tell the story of the overthrow of the Iranian government in unprecedented detail, but also lead to explosive revelations about dark British secrets buried for 66 years. What begins as a history documentary about 4 days in August 1985 turns into a live investigation, taking the filmmakers into uncharted cinematic waters. COUP 53 is Taghi Amirani’s debut feature.

 

CRESTONE – MARNIE ELLEN HERTZLER | USA | ENGLISH | 72 MIN

In a world that undulates between fact and fiction, digital and physical, a group of SoundCloud rappers lives a solitary, post-societal existence in the desert town of Crestone, Colorado. Once a religious and spiritual mecca for many, Crestone’s endless sand dunes, waterfalls, and dark caves act as a backdrop for images of tattooed bodies, cosplay wardrobes, and clouds of weed smoke. “Crestone” explores the often hidden aspects of collaboration and friendship as well as the human desire to persist against all odds. What does music sound like if there is no one left to repost and share it?

 

DARK CITY BENEATH THE BEAT – TT THE ARTIST | USA | ENGLISH | 65 MIN

“Dark City Beneath The Beat” is an audiovisual experience that defines the soundscape of Baltimore city. Inspired by an all original Baltimore club music soundtrack, the film spotlights local club artists, DJs, dancers, producers, and Baltimore’s budding creative community as they are realizing their life dreams. Rhythmic and raw, these stories illustrate the unique characteristics of the city’s landscape and social climate through music, poetry, and dance. From the city’s social climate to its creative LGBTQ community, “Dark City Beneath The Beat” showcases Baltimore club music as a positive subculture in a city overshadowed by trauma, drugs, and violence.

 

DICK JOHNSON IS DEAD – KIRSTEN JOHNSON | USA | ENGLISH | 89 MIN

With this inventive portrait, a cameraperson seeks a way to keep her 86-year-old father alive forever. Utilizing moviemaking magic and her family’s dark humor, she celebrates Dr. Dick Johnson’s last years by staging fantasies of death and beyond. Together, dad and daughter confront the great inevitability awaiting us all.

 

EL FATHER PLAYS HIMSELF – MO SCARPELLI | UK-VENEZUELA | SPANISH | 105 MIN

A father and son return to the Amazon jungle to shoot a deeply personal film. Fiction and reality clash as father plays himself.

 

FIRE WILL COME – OLIVER LAXE | GALICIA | SPANISH, GALICIAN | 2019 | 85 MIN

Director Oliver Laxe returns to the festival with this breathtaking follow up to his MdFF 2017 film MIMOSAS. Amador Coro has been condemned for having provoked a fire. When he gets out of prison, nobody is waiting for him. He returns to his hometown, a small village hidden in the mountains of rural Galicia, to live with his mother, Benedicta, and their three cows. Life goes by, following the rhythm of nature. Until one night when a fire starts to devastate the region.

 

GIANT BEING LONELY – GREAR PATTERSON | USA | ENGLISH | 2020 | 81 MIN

Bobby (Jack Irving) is the star pitcher on his high-school baseball team, a motherless dreamer whose alcoholic father loves him but remains distant and aloof. His teammate Adam (Ben Irving) is the coach’s son, prone to violent reproaches at home with little support from his emotionally distant mother. Caught in between them is Caroline (Lily Gavin), a high school beauty from a seemingly perfect home who loves both golden boys, and just wants to go to prom. Set in a semi-rural landscape of verdant forests and pent-up yearning, the debut feature from lauded mixed-media artist Grear Patterson is a deeply personal story of youth and young manhood, tracing the ups and downs of love, sex, loneliness, friendship, baseball, and death – as the pressure mounts to make it out alive.

 

I BLAME SOCIETY (North American Premiere) – GILLIAN HORVAT | USA | ENGLISH | 2020 | 84 MIN

Director Gillian Horvat, who plays a fictional version of herself, navigates the endless process required to get a first film off the ground in her fascinating feature film debut. From an innocent initial concept – the perfect murder of the unbearable partner of one of her friends – towards full-scale madness. Was she always crazy or did this project make her that way?

 

I Blame Society is a titillating meta-story about the camera as an excuse for abuse, artistic transgression and blurry boundaries. Losing more than her friends and loved ones, her obsession with authenticity leads her to lose sight of where creativity ends and madness begins. “No film justifies hurting others, does it?” asks her lover. Gillian doesn’t agree. But what is her motive? Art or a thirst for blood?

 

I GOT A MONSTER – KEVIN ABRAMS | USA | ENGLISH | 2020 | 103 MIN

In March of 2017, Baltimore was rocked by one of the nation’s largest Police corruption scandals when seven members of the elite Gun Trace Task Force unit were federally indicted on racketeering charges. Defense attorney Ivan Bates wasn’t shocked by the news because for years he had been listening to the victims of these crimes and had been trying to bring down the corrupt sergeant. I GOT A MONSTER is the true story of a cat-and-mouse game in an upside down world where the cops are also the robbers.

 

INSPECTOR IKE – GRAHAM MASON | USA | ENGLISH | 2020 | 83 MIN

After the conniving understudy of an avant-garde theater group knocks off the star actor, he finds himself in a high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse with INSPECTOR IKE (Ikechukwu Ufomadu), New York City’s Greatest Police Detective.

 

A lost “TV movie” from the 1970’s, INSPECTOR IKE is a warm-hearted satire, a celebration of detective serials, mixing visual gags, slapstick, gross food, and heartfelt emotion, featuring a rogue’s gallery of NYC’s best comedians carried out with a deadpan absurdist sensibility inspired by COLUMBO and THE NAKED GUN.

 

IT MUST BE HEAVEN – ELIA SULEIMAN | PALESTINE, FRANCE, USA | ENGLISH, FRENCH, ARABIC | 2019 | 97 MIN

ES escapes from Palestine seeking an alternative homeland, only to find that Palestine is trailing behind him. The promise of a new life turns into a comedy of errors: however far he travels, from Paris to New York, something always reminds him of home.From award-winning director Elia Suleiman, a comic saga exploring identity, nationality and belonging, in which Suleiman asks the fundamental question: where is the place we can truly call home?

 

Cast: Elia Suleiman, Gael Garcia Bernal

 

I USED TO GO HERE – KRIS REY | USA | ENGLISH | 2020 | 80 MIN

Following the launch of her new novel, 35-year-old writer Kate Conklin (Gillian Jacobs) is invited to speak at her alma mater by her mentor and former professor (Jemaine Clement). 

 

Cast: Gillian Jacobs, Jemaine Clement, Josh Wiggins, Hannah Marks, Zoe Chao, Jorma Taccone, Forrest Goodluck

 

THE KILLING OF TWO LOVERS – ROBERT MACHOIAN | USA| ENGLISH | 2020 | 85 MIN

Robert Machoian (co-director of MdFF 2015’s GOD BLESS THE CHILD) returns to the festival with this nerve rattling drama, his solo directorial debut. David is trying to keep it together. He and his wife, Nikki, are going through a time of transition and allowing each other space to figure out what it is they want from life and from their relationship. But there is one major issue: David doesn’t want space. He just wants things to get better, and he plays along with Nikki because he suspects it’s the only thing that may keep them and their four kids together. But he is hotheaded, jealous, and terrified of losing his family—an explosive combination in a claustrophobically small town where private lives seem impossible to preserve.

 

LA LLORONA – JAYRO BUSTAMANTE | GUATEMALA, FRANCE  | SPANISH | 2019 | 101 MIN 

The third feature from the director of IXCANUL (MdFF 2016), LA LLORONA, a tale of horror and magical realism, follows Enrique, a retired general who oversaw the Mayan genocide, haunted for his devastating crimes by the wailing spirit.

 

LAND MINE – TIRTZA EVEN | ISRAEL-USA | HEBREW-ENGLISH | 2019 | 85 MIN

The story of one apartment building in Jerusalem exposes the repressive and damaging manifestations of Israel’s psychological and national concept of Defense. 

 

MAYOR – DAVID OSIT | PALESTINE-USA | ARABIC-ENGLISH | 2020 | 98 MIN

MAYOR is a political saga following Musa Hadid, the Christian mayor of Ramallah, during his second term in office. His immediate goals: repave the sidewalks, attract more tourism, and prepare the Christmas tree for the city square. His ultimate mission: to end the occupation of Palestine.

 

MURMUR – HEATHER YOUNG | CANADA | ENGLISH | 2019 | 85 MIN

Feature debut from 2018 MdFF Opening Night alum Heather Young (MILK). 

Donna has recently been convicted of “Driving While Impaired” and is ordered to perform community service at the local animal shelter. When an elderly dog is scheduled to be euthanized, Donna decides to take the dog home and quickly realizes his companionship can ease her loneliness. In a futile attempt to fill the emptiness she feels, Donna begins to take home more and more animals and she is soon in over her head.

 

NINE DAYS – EDSON ODA | USA | ENGLISH | 2020 | 124 MIN

What if being born is not the beginning but the goal? In a house distant from the reality we know, a reclusive man named Will interviews prospective candidates—personifications of human souls—for the privilege he once had: to be born. Five contenders emerge. During the course of nine days, Will tests each of them, but he can choose only one. The victor will be rewarded with a coveted opportunity to become a newborn in the real world, while the others will cease to exist—nine days is everything they’ll ever experience.

 

RAF (US Premiere) – HARRY CEPKA | CANADA | ENGLISH | 2019 | 91 MIN

Raf (Grace Glowicki) dreams of underground raves. Raf paints walls pink. Raf sees no future for herself. Raf meets Tal. Tal is charismatic. Tal is wealthy. Tal changes everything.

 

SOME KIND OF HEAVEN – LANCE OPPENHEIM | USA | ENGLISH | 2020 | 81 MIN

A Floridian garden of earthly delights and its discontents, SOME KIND OF HEAVEN follows retirees newly arrived at the fountain of youth. At The Villages, often called the “Disneyland for Retirees,” a married couple, a widow, and a bachelor search for Eden and a second bite at the apple, only to discover each of the deadly sins out on full display. From synchronized swimming to pickleball, the good life is waiting, as well as a discounted funeral package now at a new, lower price. A film that reminds us that we all leave this Earth the way we came.

 

SUMMER WHITE – RODRIGO RUIZ PATTERSON | MEXICO | SPANISH | 85 MIN

13-year-old Rodrigo’s entire world revolves around his intimate relationship with his mother, but it all begins to fall apart when she brings home a new boyfriend.

 

TAHARA – OLIVIA PEACE | USA | ENGLISH | 2020 | 76 MIN

A queer, Jewish, coming-of-age story about an anxious teen girl who is manipulated into a romantic encounter with her toxic best friend during the funeral service of their former Hebrew school classmate.

 

TEDDY, OUT OF TUNE (World Premiere) – DANIEL FREEMAN | USA | ENGLISH | 2020 | 66 MIN

With a piano strapped to the back of his truck, a nomadic street musician drives 2,000 miles north to Canada on an emotional mission to spread his mother’s ashes. Co-written by Daniel Freeman and Drew Connick.

 

A THOUSAND CUTS – RAMONA DIAZ | USA-PHILIPPINES | TAGALOG-ENGLISH | 2020 | 110 MIN

Nowhere is the worldwide erosion of democracy, fueled by social media disinformation campaigns, more starkly evident than in the authoritarian regime of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Journalist Maria Ressa places the tools of the free press—and her freedom—on the line in defense of truth and democracy.

 

TIME – GARRETT BRADLEY | USA | ENGLISH | 2020

Fox Rich is an entrepreneur, author, and mother of six who has spent the last 21 years fighting for the release of her husband, Rob, who is serving a 60-year sentence for an offense they both committed. She is assured and committed to sharing their story. When their sons speak to growing up without their father, they do so with a softer vulnerability than Fox can concede to. But home-video diaries she records for Rob offer unfettered glimpses into years of longing, pain, and hopeful anticipation of reuniting.

 

TWO GODS – ZESHAWN ALI | USA | ENGLISH | 2020 | 86 MIN

“Two Gods” tells the story of a Muslim casket maker and ritual body washer in Newark, NJ who takes two young men under his wing to teach them how to live better lives.

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