Chairman of the Maryland State Board of Motion Picture Censors Egbert L. Quinn, ca. 1967, from "Sickies Making Films."
Chairman of the Maryland State Board of Motion Picture Censors Egbert L. Quinn, ca. 1967, from "Sickies Making Films." (Maryland Historical Society / Handout)

A look at how the police and the community they serve have felt about each other in the three years since Freddie Gray died, the history of Maryland's movie censor board and a look back at Father Divine, a mysterious religious leader from Baltimore whose ministry once numbered in the millions, are among the first 15 documentaries announced for next month's 20th Maryland Film Festival.

Although far from a prerequisite for being shown at the festival, many of the initial batch of titles have distinct Baltimore or Maryland connections. They include Marilyn Ness' "Charm City," which "delivers an unexpectedly candid, observational portrait of the police, citizens, and government officials navigating the fault lines of the complicated issues facing the city," according to a description provided by the festival; Joe Tropea's "Sickies Making Films," a history of the nation's longest surviving censor board, which lasted until 1981; and Lenny Feinberg's "Father's Kingdom," the story of Father Divine and his International Peace Mission.


The Maryland Film Festival is set for May 2-6 at the Niarchos Foundation Parkway, 5 W. North Ave., and other nearby venues. Information on scheduling and ticket sales can be found at mdfilmfest.com.

Other documentaries announced for the festival, using synopses and details provided by the MFF, are:

Black Mother (director Khalik Allah): Through a series of "fleeting yet indelible interactions with Jamaica's residents," this film touches on the country and its people's relationship with such subjects as pain, outsiders, child rearing, colorism, sex work, nature and God. The film watches as director Allah reconnects with his grandfather William Case, "whose wisdom and blessings are woven into the film's intricate soundscape."

Caniba (directors Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor): From the directing duo behind 2012's "Leviathan," this film spotlights a subject you don't see every day: cannibalism. As a 32-year-old student at the Sorbonne in Paris, Issei Sagawa was arrested on June 13, 1981, after being seen emptying two bloody suitcases containing the remains of his Dutch classmate, Renée Hartevelt. Two days earlier, Sagawa had killed Hartevelt and began eating her.

"Genderbende" (/ HANDOUT)

Genderbende (director Sophie Dros): The story of five young people who feel neither male nor female, but rather position themselves somewhere in between. All have their own struggles; together, they create a compelling story about acceptance.

The Island (director Adam Weingrod): For two years, director Weingrod accompanied patients and caregivers at the St. Louis French Hospital, a hospice for terminally ill patients, situated on the border between East and West Jerusalem, across from the walls of the Old City.

¡Las Sandinistas! (director Jenny Murray): "¡Las Sandinistas!" looks at the barriers-shattering women who led combat and social reform during Nicaragua's 1979 Sandinista Revolution and the ensuing U.S.-backed Contra War. Today, these same women are leading the struggle for justice against the government's suppression of democracy and women's rights.

From "Matangi/Maya/M.I.A."
From "Matangi/Maya/M.I.A." (Handout art)

Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. (director Stephen Loveridge): "Matangi/Maya/M.I.A." is drawn from a cache of personal tapes shot by Maya Arulpragasam and her closest friends over the last 22 years, as she morphed from immigrant teenager in London to the international pop star M.I.A.

Milford Graves: Full Mantis (director Jake Meginsky): Graves has performed internationally since 1964, both as a soloist and in ensembles with such legends as Albert Ayler, Giuseppi Logan and Sonny Sharrock. He is a founding pioneer of avant-garde jazz, and remains one of the most influential living figures in the evolution of the form.

On Her Shoulders (director Alexandria Bombach): Nadia Murad, a 23-year-old Yazidi, survived genocide and sexual slavery committed by ISIS. Repeating her story to the world, this ordinary girl finds herself thrust onto the international stage as the voice of her people. Away from the podium, she must navigate bureaucracy, fame and people's good intentions.

The Pain of Others (director Penny Lane): Morgellons is a mysterious and controversial illness whose sufferers say they have parasites under the skin, long colored fibers emerging from lesions and a host of other bizarre symptoms. The film is composed entirely of videos shared by a group of "Morgies" who have turned to YouTube for community and to prove they're not crazy.

Shakedown (director Leilah Weinraub): Created from over 400 hours of footage shot over 15 years, this documentary examines the culture that surrounded Shakedown, a weekly club night in the Los Angeles urban lesbian strip club scene in the early 2000s.

"This is Home"
"This is Home" (/ HANDOUT)

This is Home (director Alexandra Shiva): An intimate portrait of four Syrian refugee families arriving in Baltimore and struggling to find their footing. Once in the city, they have only eight months of assistance from the International Rescue Committee before they must become self-sufficient.

Time Trial (director Finlay Pretsell): Cyclist David Millar takes viewers along for "an immersive experience as close to actually competing as you will ever see on film." With a score from Baltimore-based musician and composer Dan Deacon.