Our bi-weekly Film Festival Roundup column explores notable stories and news updates from the circuit.
Long before Barry Jenkins or Laura Poitras won their first Oscars or Robert Eggers made one of 2016’s highest-grossing indies, or Denis Villeneuve graduated to Hollywood’s A-list, they were still just independent filmmakers with a dream — a dream that needed to be packaged, sold, and produced. Enter IFP Film Week, home of one of the world’s most forward-thinking film markets, and the U.S.’s only market that presents new works across all platforms, all the better to serve their creator’s visions.
This year’s 2017 IFP Film Week, presented by the Independent Film Project, has unveiled its slate for this year’s film project section. The lineup includes 110 narrative and documentary projects in development from over 15 countries. Curated by IFP’s Deputy Director/Head of Programming Amy Dotson and Senior Director of Programming Milton Tabbot, the lineup covers a wide selection of independent works that hail from a range of budgets, genres, sensibilities, and platforms.
Over the years, IFP Film Week has helped push forward the careers of a number of lauded filmmakers, including Jenkins, Derek Cianfrance, Eggers, Ciro Guerrera, David Lowery, Poitras, Dee Rees, Villeneuve, Roger Ross Williams, and Benh Zeitlin. It’s a major launching pad, but it’s also a fine place to start scouting for the next big indie film breakout, often before these projects have even been fully made.
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This year, seven features poised to stand out at this year’s event, straight from the programmers who discovered them.
Tabbot shared with IndieWire his picks for non-fiction highlights, including two projects from Stephen Maing (best known for his lauded 2012 doc “High Tech, Low Life”) and a brand new feature from rising star Elizabeth Lo, who is finally turning her directorial and DP skills into an intriguing new feature of her very own. (Lo will also be showing off her first feature after a slew of notable doc shorts, including “Hotel 22” and “Bisonhead.”)
One of the projects he singled out was Stephen Maing’s “Crime + Punishment,” which counts Laura Poitras as an executive prodcuer. “Maing was working solo and sometimes undercover for five years with whistleblower cops within the NYC Police Department,” Tabbot said.
Maing is also working on another documentary, “The Great Experiment,” one co-directed with Eric Daniel Metzgar (“Reporter”), which also boasts a wide array of talent DPs, including Kirsten Johnson, Garret Bradley, Pacho Velez, Iva Radivojevic, Khaled Khateeb, Lo, and more. “On the issue of the current ‘American divide,’ another recurring theme, ‘The Great Experiment’ covers the transformative year since the last U.S. election in a ‘cinematic mosaic’… [with] character-driven stories around the U.S. and beyond,” Tabbot said.
Dotson has her eye on a handful of new narrative features that boast starry talent both in front of and behind the camera. Of the U.S. feature projects in this year’s narrative section, 70% are helmed by diverse creators, while 45% of those creators are women. That push towards diversity and inclusion in filmmaking is reflected in a few of the projects Dotson is most pleased to present at the annual event.
She’s particularly excited about a pair of followup features from breakout stars, including Meera Menon’s first film after “Equity,” entitled “The Witchdoctor’s Apprentice,” the true story of Nicole Maxwell, who journeyed to the Amazon to find a legendary fertility plant. Tahir Jetter will also be on hand to introduce his second feature, a followup to “How to Tell You’re a Douchebag,” a drama entitled “Close.” That film follows a woman who “spirals out of control when her feelings for a new coworker are not reciprocated.”
Dotson also singled out actress Franka Potente’s directorial debut, “Home,” which is “the story of a man willing to take on the full consequences of his gruesome past – no matter what the costs,” as a striking new project that should garner plenty of buzz. The programmer also pointed to Paul Harrill’s “Light From Light” (as of now, a working title), which is produced by “A Ghost Story” producer James M. Johnston and actress Elisabeth Moss, as a new film to follow. Set in Tennessee, the film follows “a single mom and amateur ghost hunter must enlist her teenage son to investigate a grieving widower’s farmhouse.”
Check out the full film slate over at IFP’s official site. This year’s IFP Film Week will be presented in DUMBO, Brooklyn September 17 – 21, 2017.
Check out the rest of our bi-weekly Film Festival Roundup on the next page, including a big honor for both Jane Fonda and Robert Redford and a slew of exciting new lineup additions around the circuit.