Next month's Maryland Film Festival will feature the local debut of "Ping Pong Summer," writer-director Michael Tully's coming-of-age tale set in Ocean City in the 1980s and starring Susan Sarandon, Lea Thompson, John Hannah and Amy Sedaris.
Tully's film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, was included in Wednesday's announcement of the first 10 movies scheduled for the festival, set to run May 7-11 at the Maryland Institute College of Art and other venues, mostly in the area of the Station North Arts and Entertainment District. This was the first announcement of films scheduled for the 16th annual festival.
Among the other films are works by festival favorites Joe Swanberg ("Happy Christmas"), Josephine Decker ("Thou Wast Mild and Lovely") and Lawrence Michael Levine ("Wild Canaries"). In all, some 50 features and 10 short-film programs will play at the festival.
Additional films will be announced over the next two weeks, festival organizers said.
Earlier this year, the Maryland Film Festival announced it wouldn't be returning to its longtime home at the Charles Theatre. The festival organizers were unable to reach an agreement with the operators of the Charles, James "Buzz" Cusack and his daughter, Kathleen Cusack Lyon. The Cusacks, who last year re-opened the art deco Senator Theatre following a $3.5 million renovation and expansion, have said that the money they got for leasing the Charles for the entire run of the festival was not enough to offset the cost of disrupting its regular programming for those four days.
The 10 films announced Wednesday, along with descriptions provided by the Maryland Film Festival, are:
'Club Sandwich' (Fernando Eimbcke) Poignant drama, gentle comedy, and a hint of transgression mix brilliantly as we observe the coming of age of a 15-year-old teen vacationing with his single mother in a sleepy Mexican beachfront resort. From the director of Lake Tahoe and Duck Season.
'Fight Church' (Daniel Junge and Bryan Storkel) Christianity and the world of Mixed Martial Arts collide in this thought-provoking and expectation-challenging documentary from Academy Award Winner Daniel Junge and Bryan Storkel.
'Freedom Summer' (Stanley Nelson) In the summer of 1964, a thousand civil-rights volunteers worked to combat segregation in Mississippi. Master documentarian Stanley Nelson (Freedom Riders; Jonestown: The Life & Death of Peoples Temple; The Murder of Emmett Till) tells their story.
'Happy Christmas' (Joe Swanberg) Following his breakthrough hit Drinking Buddies, Joe Swanberg re-teams with star Anna Kendrick and cinematographer Ben Richardson (Beasts of the Southern Wild) for an insightful look at family and friendship centered around a Chicago Christmas. With Melanie Lynskey, Mark Webber, and Lena Dunham.
'Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter' (David Zellner) The Zellner brothers (Goliath, KID-THING) bring their unique mix of resonant drama and offbeat comedy to an expanded canvas, following a young Japanese woman who believes her worn VHS copy of Fargo contains instructions to recover that film's buried treasure.
'Ping Pong Summer' (Michael Tully) The director of Septien returns with a sweet and hilarious love letter to summers spent in Ocean City, MD during the golden era of hip-hop, boasting a cast that includes Susan Sarandon, Lea Thompson, Amy Sedaris, and Robert Longstreet.
'The Strange Little Cat' (Ramon Zürcher) This strikingly original film builds on Robert Bresson's ideas of space and sound to create a moving-image sculpture inside a Berlin apartment during a family gathering. Notes of gentleness and tension merge to form a strange visual symphony.
'Thou Wast Mild and Lovely' (Josephine Decker) Following her Butter on the Latch, which premiered at MFF 2013, Josephine Decker further explores themes of budding romance and psychological terror against a backdrop of bucolic beauty. Fresh from its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale).
'Who Took Johnny' (David Beilinson, Michael Galinsky, and Suki Hawley) When Johnny Gosch disappeared in 1982, his picture appeared on milk cartons, catapulting the issue of missing children into the public's imagination. The team behind Horns and Halos and Battle for Brooklyn follows the search for answers over decades of stunning twists and turns, resulting in an unforgettable documentary experience that will have audiences questioning everything and everyone.
'Wild Canaries' (Lawrence Michael Levine) From the director of 2010's Gabi on the Roof in July comes this captivating blend of comedy, romance, and mystery set in contemporary Brooklyn. The all-star indie cast includes Levine alongside Sophia Takal, Alia Shawkat, Annie Parisse, Jason Ritter, and Kevin Corrigan.
For more information, go to md-filmfest.com.