Independent Film Festival Boston is back on the big screens


After two years without an in-person presence the Independent Film Festival Boston returns Wednesday through May 4 in four venues with an eclectic collection of shorts, features, documentaries and live events.

“Because of the pandemic, everything takes longer and there’s a lot of uncertainty when the next surge might happen,” said IFFBoston’s executive director Brian Tamm. “That affects people’s decision to come out. We have to have a lot more flexibility than in past years.”

“It also affects the ability of filmmakers to be here in person,” added program director Nancy Campbell. “So we have virtual appearances with in-person screenings. Not in every situation. It changes.”

IFFBoston screens at the Somerville Theatre, Harvard Square’s Brattle Theatre, the Coolidge Corner Theatre and WBUR’s CitySpace in Boston.

“We feel lucky our main venues have survived and are still here,” Campbell noted. “Our mission is to support local independent cinemas. But this was definitely a huge struggle.”

“We’re fortunate our independent cinemas stayed,” Tamm agreed. “If they close we don’t have a home.”

Controversy often haunts festival choices.

“For better or worse we have no Russian films submitted and we weren’t seeking films from Russia,” Tamm revealed.

“It wasn’t a conflict we had to confront,” Campbell agreed. “But that’s a really super-complicated issue and we’d have to consider it.”

“I find it somewhat troubling that artists working in Russia would be punished for their government’s actions,” Tamm said. “We believe art and stories bring us together. We showed films from Iran when we weren’t on the best of terms with that country.”

IFFBoston opens with John Patton Ford’s “Emily the Criminal,” starring and produced by Aubrey Plaza.

“We expect a comedy but it’s about the limits people are pushed to in this economy. It’s deeper than just a crime film,” Tamm said. “We wanted to find the strongest film to open and this has great performances and something to say.”

The Independent Film Festival Boston closes with a screening of “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.” (Photo courtesy

Closing night May 4 is “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On,” a feature adaptation of the animated short. “I was curious how they’d expand this to a full-length feature and they do it very effectively,” Campbell said. “It’s about the importance of family and community.”

The Festival also screens “One Second” from Zhang Yimou who, Campbell said, “has been silenced in his native China. The censors there did not want this film to get into the world. We saw it in (Toronto’s Film Festival) in September — and it hasn’t been seen since. But Zhang Yimou is one of the master filmmakers.”

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