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2019 Maryland Film Festival announces first movies; 'Mom and Dad' and 'Premature' among entries

A “pitch-black horror-comedy” hosted by John Waters, a rite of passage set in a neighborhood deli and movies from Ethiopia, Thailand and the U.K. are among the first batch of feature offerings announced for May’s 21st Maryland Film Festival.

Waters’ pick, always a Friday-night highlight of Baltimore’s annual cinematic bacchanal, is director Roger Taylor’s 2017 “Mom and Dad,” with Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair as the title characters, in a town where, for reasons unknown, parents are turning on their kids with murderous intent.

The movie’s tagline: “They brought you into this world. They can take you out."

The festival is scheduled to run May 8-12 in the Station North Arts District, centered at the Niarchos Foundation Parkway, 5 W. North Ave. Other venues are the Maryland Institute College of Art Lazarus Center, 131 W. North Ave.; the MICA Gateway Building, 1601 W. Mount Royal Ave.; and MICA Brown Center, 1301 W. Mount Royal Ave.

The other announced titles, with descriptions provided by the MdFF, are:

Fig Tree (Ethiopia, Israel, Germany, France, dir. Aäläm-Wärqe Davidian, 2018)

“A startlingly confident feature directorial debut that tells the story of lives torn asunder by civil war. Set in Addis Ababa in 1989, ‘Fig Tree’ follows a teenage girl's harrowing coming of age.”

Frances Ferguson (USA, dir. Bob Byington, 2019)

“Frances is discontented. Like a lot of us, she does a bit of ‘acting out’ and pays the price — an arrest, a trial, incarceration. And then a new identity, one that’s not terribly comfortable. Nick Offerman narrates this deviant comedy, based on actual events.”

Ham on Rye (USA, dir. Tyler Taormina, 2019)

“A bizarre rite of passage at the local deli determines the fate of a generation of teenagers, leading some to escape their suburban town and dooming others to remain.”

Knives and Skin (USA, dir. Jennifer Reeder, 2019)

“In rural Illinois, a young girl’s disappearance traumatizes the small-town residents. Soon, secrets are revealed, destroying some relationships and strengthening others and further deepening the mystery.”

Manta Ray (Thailand, France, China, dir. Phuttiphong Aroonpheng, 2018)

“Near a coastal village of Thailand, by the sea where thousands of Rohingya refugees have drowned, a local fisherman finds an injured man lying unconscious in the forest. He rescues the stranger, who does not speak a word, offers him his friendship and names him Thongchai. But when the fisherman suddenly disappears at sea, Thongchai slowly begins to take over his friend’s life – his house, his job and his ex-wife.”

The Mountain (USA, dir. Rick Alverson, 2018)

“Set against the 1950’s ‘golden age’ of American male supremacy, an introverted young photographer (Tye Sheridan) joins a renowned lobotomist (Jeff Goldblum) on a tour to promote the doctor’s recently-debunked procedure.”

Premature (USA, dir. Rashaad Ernesto Green, 2019)

“The summer before she leaves for college, Ayanna meets a handsome and mysterious outsider, Isaiah; and her entire world is turned upside down as she navigates the demanding terrain of young love against a changing Harlem landscape.”

Ray & Liz (UK, dir. Richard Billingham, 2018)

“On the outskirts of Birmingham and the margins of society, the Billingham family perform extreme rituals and break social taboos as they muddle through life. At times shocking and laced with an unsettling humor, three episodes unfold as a powerful evocation of the experience of growing up in a Black Country council flat.”

Tito (Canada, dir. Grace Glowicki, 2019)

“Tito is trapped. With lank black hair, curlicue sideburns and an emergency whistle dangling from his neck, Tito is so stricken with fear that he’s developed a hunch in his back. Starved for food and security, Tito’s terrorized existence threatens to overwhelm him — until the sudden arrival of a cheerful intruder, offering breakfast and protection.”

In all, the festival will feature more than 35 features and 100 shorts, organizers said. All-access passes to the five-day festival are $450; no date for ticket sales to individual films has been set. Information: mdfilmfest.com.

ckaltenbach@baltsun.com

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