If you love movies, you'll feel like a kid set loose in a candy store when the 14th annual Maryland Film Festival screens 40 feature films and 50 short films May 3-6 on all five screens at the Charles Theatre and also on the single screen at the Maryland Institute College of Art's Brown Center.
You can't see everything, even if you start in the morning and keep going until past midnight. It's a good idea to look at the complete schedule and then draw up at least a tentative personal schedule, but also be receptive to the film festival buzz that includes strangers in a movie theater line telling you what you should and should not see. And if you bump into some of the directors and actors in attendance, don't be surprised if they recommend that you see their movies.
Also be alert to the kinds of festival-only events that you'll never find at your local megaplex. At every Maryland Film Festival, for instance, Baltimore director John Waters hosts a film that he admires. Waters' choice this year is the late director, writer and actor Barbara Loden's "Wanda" (1970), screening Friday, May 4 at 7:30 p.m. It's a drama about a working-class housewife running away with a criminal.
Another festival-only offering is a screening Sunday, May 6 at 11 a.m. of a 1920 German Expressionist drama that was long thought to be a lost film, director Karlheinz Martin's "From Morning Till Midnight." Making its annual appearance at the festival, the three-member percussion ensemble known as the Alloy Orchestra provides live music for this silent film.
And yet another annual festival tradition is Baltimore Sun writer Chris Kaltenbach hosting a vintage 3-D movie. His choice this year is director Lewis R. Foster's 1953 Hollywood musical "Those Redheads from Seattle," starring Rhonda Fleming, Gene Barry, Agnes Moorehead, Teresa Brewer and the Bell Sisters. This Alaska Gold Rush-themed movie screens Saturday, May 5 at 11 a.m.
Also be alert to movies that were locally shot or have some local connection. There's nothing quite like cheering hometown directors, crew members and actors, not to mention looking for your street on the screen.
The directorial debut of Sheldon Candis, the Baltimore-shot "Luv" screens May 5 at 8 p.m. This drama about a man released from prison mentoring his nephew stars Common, Michael Rainey Jr., Charles S. Dutton, Michael Kenneth Williams, Dennis Haysbert and Danny Glover. Shot in just 19 days, it showed at the Sundance Film Festival this past January.
There are some Baltimore-shot scenes in "The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best," screening May 6 at 2 p.m. This directorial debut by Ryan O'Nan is a road trip movie about aspiring musicians that stars Melissa Leo,Andrew McCarthy and Jason Ritter.
Eduardo Sanchez, co-director of "The Blair Witch Project" (1999), presents his new movie,"Lovely Molly,"screening May 4 at 11:30 p.m. and again May 5 at 11 p.m. This horror movie concerns a young woman returning to her childhood home in western Maryland.
Leo Bretholz and Bluma Shapiro, Holocaust survivors living in Baltimore, are the subject of the documentary "See You Soon Again." Screening May 6 at 11:30 a.m., it was directed by Lukas Stepanik and Bernadette Wegenstein.
Speaking of documentaries, the Maryland Film Festival is consistently strong in that category. This year's other documentaries include one about Detroit titled"Detropia."Screening May 5 at 1:30 p.m., it was directed by Maryland Film Festival veterans Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady ("The Boys of Baraka").
"The Atomic States of America,"screening May 4 at 9:30 p.m., is a documentary about the atomic energy program directed by Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce. "Under the African Skies" is director Joe Berlinger's documentary about the making of Paul Simon's 1986 album"Graceland." It screens May 5 at 4:30 p.m.
"Ethel," screening May 5 at 11 a.m., is director Rory Kennedy's documentary about her mother, Ethel Kennedy. Interview subjects include Rory's sister, former Maryland Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
Just as documentaries are a festival strength, the fest also has built a reputation for screening short films. A compilation of shorts comprises the entire opening night program May 3 at 8 p.m., and several other shorts-only programs are scheduled throughout the weekend.
Among feature films, a definite highlight will be director Todd Solondz ("Welcome to the Dollhouse," "Happiness") introducing his new film, "Dark Horse," about an immature man still living at home and collecting toys. Screening May 6 at 7 p.m., it stars Jordan Gelber, Selma Blair, Justin Bartha, Mia Farrow and Christopher Walken.
Director Craig Zobel's "Compliance," screening May 4 at 4:30 p.m. and again May 6 at 2:30 p.m., generated audience debate at the Sundance Film Festival for its edgy story about a fast food restaurant employee being investigated for theft.
Melissa Leo stars in "Francine," screening May 5 at 7:30 p.m. Its directors, Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky, tell a dramatically grim story about a woman recently released from prison.
Director Michael Mohan's "Save the Date"screens May 4 at 8 p.m. and again May 6 at 2 p.m. This blend of drama and comedy about friends and lovers stars Mark Webber, Lizzy Caplan and Martin Starr. Also blending those emotions is director Daniel Schechter's"Supporting Characters," about filmmakers in New York, which screens May 4 at 5:30 p.m. and again May 6 at 5 p.m.
Contemporary gangsters who emulate Bonnie and Clyde are the main characters in "God Bless America."Its director, Bobcat Goldthwait, returns to the festival for the screening of this comedy May 5 at 10:30 p.m.
International films include Brazilian director Julia Murat's "Found Memories," screening May 4 at 11:30 a.m. and again May 6 at 11:30 a.m. This feature is about a young female photographer who comes upon a village inhabited only by the elderly.
Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan's"Once Upon a Time in Anatolia,"about a group of men driving in search of a corpse, screens May 5 at 11 a.m. Iranian directors Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb co-directed "This Is Not a Film," screening May 4 at 7:30 p.m. and again May 5 at noon. Living under house arrest and forbidden to make any more films by the Iranian government, Panahi made this documentary in his own apartment, and it was smuggled out of the country on a flash drive hidden inside a cake.
Hungarian director Bela Tarr's existential drama"The Turin Horse"screens May 6 at 2 p.m. It has been generating a lot of interest on the international film festival circuit, in part because the critically revered director has said it is his final film. Well, it may be his last film, but it certainly won't be yours.
The Maryland Film Festival runs May 3- 6 at the Charles Theatre, 1711 N. Charles St., and the Maryland Institute College of Art, 1300 W. Mount Royal Ave., in Baltimore. Tickets for most films are $10. The opening night program of short films May 3 at 8 p.m. is $50; the German silent film "From Morning Till Midnight" accompanied by the Alloy Orchestra May 6 at 11 a.m. is $15; and the closing night screening of "Dark Horse" May 6 at 7 p.m. is $25. Call 410-752-8083 or go to http://www.mdfilmfest.com.