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"It Came From Thon!" Boston Sci Fi Film Fest

The 35th Annual Boston Science Fiction Film Festival is being held February 5-15, 2010 at the Somerville Theatre, located at 55 Davis Square, Somerville, Massachusetts (adjacent to Boston). This year, the Festival expands to 10 days with over 70 films submitted from all over the world. The venerable genre fest will highlight a new feature or shorts program every night, culminating in the traditional non-stop 24 hour marathon starting noon on February 14.

The 'Thon, as it affectionately came to be called, is something special. It began as a 24-hour film marathon when, in 1976, the now-defunct Orson Welles Cinemas held a 24-hour science-fiction retrospective. SF1 started at noon on the Sunday of Presidents Day weekend and ended at noon the following day.

Every year since then, 'Thon has bloomed in winter to bring a community of SF lovers together, sharing one room for 24 straight hours of classics, premieres, cartoon, schlockers and everything in-between.

This year's highlights:

The opening-night film is Sleep Dealer, an award-winner out of Mexico directed by Alex Rivera.  In this visually stunning film, water is used for blackmail, security has reached new dimensions, and "sleep dealers" work in factories.

One of the New England premieres is Mutant Swinger from Mars, directed by Michael Kallio.  Here, Martians come to Earth and force a mad scientist to create a "chick magnet."  This lovingly rendered sci-fi spoof parodies films like Young Frankenstein, The Ape Man and The Nutty Professor, with equal measures of Ed Wood and William Castle thrown in.

Making its world premiere is Caller ID, directed by Eric Zimmerman, a psychological sci-fi thriller based on real voicemail messages received from a disturbed woman. A group of graduate students study advanced techniques in psychopathology while their professor leads them through a series of bizarre experiments and perverse sexual research involving mind control. Each student must explore the caller's hidden psyche — as well as their own id. It stars James Duval (Donnie Darko, Independence Day), Nathan Bexton (Go, Nowhere) and Peter Greene (Pulp Fiction, The Mask).  A Q&A follows with the director and Bexton.

Another world premiere is Luopolis, directed by Matthew Avant. A conspiracy radio show caller claims that people from the future live on the moon and control our every action. Filmmakers Matt and Sonny chase the story deep into Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin, where an ominous underground compound raises more questions than answers. A Q&A with the director follows.

The Shorts Program has three tracks:

Little Space Oddities
Extra-Terrestrial Extravaganza
Planetary Paranoia

This year's selections for The 'Thon are:

Lathe of Heaven
District 9
The Thing
Godzilla Vs. Mothra
Night of the Creeps
The Day the Sky Exploded
Night of the Comet
Colossus: The Forbin Project
The Giant Gila Monster

Of all the ways to be cooped up during a cold winter, this Festival has to be one of the best.

For more information, visit  

Boston Science Fiction Film Festival ('THON)
February 5-15, 2010

Somerville Theatre
55 Davis Square
Somerville, MA

NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival

The 14th NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival is being held February 4-11, 2010 at the Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street in New York City. Since its founding in February 1990 as a biennial event, the NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival has become the only annual Film Festival dedicated to showcasing Sephardic history, tradition and culture through film.

On Opening Night, in celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Festival, its founders, Dr. Janice Ovadiah, Mr. Morrie Yohai and Israeli filmmaker Haim Shiran will be honored and the ASF Pomegranate Award will be presented.

The ceremony will be followed by the NY premiere of Coco and a post-screening reception. In this comic drama written, directed and starring Gad Elmaleh, Coco is a flamboyant self-made man who becomes a royal pain when planning the biggest show to date - the bar mitzvah of his son Samuel.

The films include:

The U.S. Premiere of Honor, starring Zeev Revah, Raymond Abecasis, Albert Iluz and many more of the leading stars of Israeli cinema. Honor portrays two Moroccan organized crime families that suffer the tragedies of their respective lives. Director Haim Bouzaglo will be on hand for post-screening discussion.

The 20th Anniversary screening of Pillar of Salt, based on the autobiographical novel by sociologist Albert Memmi. This drama captures the cultural richness and social complexity of a 13-year-old Jewish boy's life in Tunisia as he deals with the conflicting pressures from surrounding French and Arab societies.  Post-screening discussion with the director, Haim Shiran, recipient of the ASF Pomegranate Award. 

Salvador: the Ship of Shattered Hopes, directed by Nissim Mossek, has its NY Premiere. On the night of December 3, 1940, at the Black Seaport of Varna, Bulgaria, the Salvador - a rickety, old, sail-powered coal freighter - is finally towed out to sea and 352 Bulgarian Jews begin their voyage to Palestine. Ten hellish days later, the vessel is shattered to pieces on the shore, not far from Istanbul. Most of its passengers are lost at sea. While some of the survivors return to Bulgaria, most struggle on towards their original destination against all odds. Post-screening discussion with Dr. Ronnie Perelis, Alcalay Assistant Professor of Sephardic Studies, Bernard Revel Graduate School of Yeshiva University.

The two-part drama Revivre (Rebirth), about a journey of Jewish families from Poland, France, Morocco and Algeria making Aliya to pre-state Israel in 1946/1947. Part 1 deals with the major obstacles they endure trying to fulfill their dream and rebuild their lives in a Jewish state. Part 2 continues the journey as some of the families arrive in pre-state Israel, while others are held at a work-camp in Cyprus. In their new place, tensions grow between Arabs and Jews, Ashkenazim and Sephardim, and between secular and religious.
Post-screening discussion after both Parts with director Haim Bouzaglo.

Among the documentaries:

Mashala, a NY Premiere directed by Cyrus Sundar Singh, follows Canadian singer Ellen Gould Ventura on a journey of spiritual and musical discovery through Sephardic song as she joins with a group of gifted musicians from Chile, Morocco, Italy and Venezuela.  

In Azi Ayima (Come Mother), director Sami Shalom Chetrit takes a journey with his mother in search of classmates from her elementary school, the Alliance, which she attended 60 years ago in a little village in Morocco.  Through their stories of past and present, Morocco is reconstructed and comes to life, told for the first time by Moroccan women of the first generation to immigrate to Israel. Post-screening discussion with the director.

For further information, visit

NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival
February 4-11, 2010

Center for Jewish History
15 West 16th Street
New York City

Storm Warnings - Polish Cinema

The Film Society of Lincoln Center presents Storm Warnings: Resistance and Reflection in Polish Cinema from February 3-11, 2010 at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater in New York City. The series deals with a specific period of time in Poland, 1977-1989, when the unflinching visions of these filmmakers actually stood to affect social change. Filled with drama and impeccable technique, this is one important series that lovers of cinema will not want to miss.   

Polish filmmakers working from the late 1970s to the fall of Communism managed to produce extraordinarily rich and powerful films despite the enormous challenges and censorship they faced from the totalitarian regime. Some were influenced by the socially conscious films of the Neorealist movement and others by their commitment to Poland's burgeoning Solidarity movement. Well-known, like Agnieszka Holland, Krzysztof Kieslowski and Andrzej Wajda or less so, like Marcel Lozinski and Kazimierz Kutz, they all produced unflinching and profoundly moving visions of the regime's economic, political and spiritual failures.

Major works include:

Andrzej Wajda's Without Anesthesia a.k.a. Rough Treatment / Bez znieczulenia (1978) was praised as the first daringly critical portrait of modern-day Poland. The Oscar®-winning director’s drama focuses on a journalist whose post and privileges are taken away after he raises the issue of press freedom during an appearance on a television talk show.

Krzysztof Zanussi's Camouflage / Barwy ochronne (1977) is a philosophical thriller set on a university campus that becomes a metaphor for the Polish state. When impressionable 26-year-old academic Jaroslaw falls under the sway of veteran professor Jakub, he finds his youthful notions of morality and justice challenged by the older man’s world-weary cynicism. The director will appear at the Saturday screening.

Stanislaw Bareja’s Teddy Bear / Miś is a surreal comedy about the absurd plight of sports club manager Rysiek, a.k.a., “Teddy Bear,” whose efforts to accompany his team to a foreign tournament are thwarted when he discovers his ex-wife has torn pages out of his passport. A cult hit in Poland, where it spawned two sequels, Teddy Bear ranks among the most fearless satires of the decaying Communist state.

Also included are works that were banned outright and often remained unseen until years later:

Ryszard Bugajski's Interrogation / Przesłuchanie (1982/1989) is a harrowing, fact-based prison drama starring Krystyna Janda (Man of Marble, Mephisto) as Tonia, a cabaret singer in 1950s Warsaw who wakes up in jail after a night of drunken revelry to find herself accused of crimes against the state, and thus submitted to torture, humiliation and betrayal (director Agniezska Holland plays a cellmate). The film was banned upon its completion in 1982, viewed secretly on bootleg video copies, and finally premiered at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival, where Janda won the Best Actress prize for her performance.

Agnieszka Holland's remarkable A Woman Alone / Kobieta samotna (1981/1987) tells of a single mother living on the outskirts of Wroclaw struggling to support herself and her young son by working as a letter carrier, while also caring for an elderly aunt. She tries to convince local Party officials to improve her housing conditions, but she is unsuccessful. This film was also banned despite its award-winning premiere at Poland’s own Gdynia Film Festival.

Marcel Lozinski's How Do We Live / Jak żyć (1977/1981) is a 'mockumentary' about a socialist training camp for young marrieds.

Presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Polish Cultural Institute in New York, in association with the Polish National Film Archive and Polish Television, as part of Performing Revolution in Central and Eastern Europe, a festival coordinated by the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, November 2009 – March 2010.

For further information, visit

Storm Warnings: Resistance and Reflection in Polish Cinema
Feb 3-11, 2010

Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center
West 65th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave.
New York Cit

San Francisco Ocean Film Festival

The 7th Annual San Francisco Ocean Film Festival is being held February 3-7, 2010 in J’lachic Theatre 39 at PIER 39 at The Embarcadero and Beach Street, San Francisco, CA. Co-sponsored by Aquarium of the Bay and The Bay Institute, the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival will be bigger and better than ever as the event expands to encompass five days of ocean-inspired films. 

“Adding two days to the festival has the dual advantage of providing attendees with more flexibility on the days and times that films are shown, as well as tripling the number of free weekday screenings for Bay Area public school students,” stated Festival Founder and Board Chair Krist Jake. “We are particularly excited about moving the venue to PIER 39 where there are more restaurants and amenities to meet our festival-goers’ needs.”

With a reputation as the largest and most diverse festival of its kind, the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival features documentaries, animations, narratives and other traditional and experimental genre on topics ranging from ocean adventures to the environment to marine wildlife to island culture and more.

The festival is organized as a series of programs that feature attention-riveting films and in-depth discussions with filmmakers and content experts, creating a unique public forum on the environmental, social and cultural importance of the world’s marine resources.

Starting off the Festival is the short film about Dr. Sylvia Earle, the First Lady of oceanographers, in Sylvia Earle: A Profile, directed by Amy Miller and Joan Johnson. Dr. Earle has  been recognized by the Library of Congress as a Living Legend.

The highlight of feature films is, of course, The Cove, now an Oscar® nominee for Best Feature Documentary after already winning 46 film awards worldwide (so far). The awards are well-deserved for this account of dolphin activist Ric O’Barry’s dedicated attempts to expose the secret capture and slaughter of dolphins in a Japanese fishing village. Director Louie Psihoyos makes his film directing debut after years as a world-class photographer.

Many selections in the festival deal with sea creatures at risk in the eco-challenged oceans, including whales, sharks and numerous birds, as well as coral reefs and polar icescapes. Among those films:

In To Save the Whale, directed by Gavin Newman, the Emmy Award-winning cinematographer follows Greenpeace crews as they attempt to foil Japanese whalers who defy an international ban on commercial whaling to slaughter whales in the interests of “science”.

Requiem, directed by Bryce Groark, discusses the steep decline in shark stock worldwide. One cause is due to shark finning, the on-board removal of a shark’s fins and the discarding at the sea of the remainder of the shark, which is sometimes alive during the process. As apex predators, sharks regulate the abundance of other fish, and therefore have a direct effect on ocean life.

Other films cover such “fish-ues” as depletion of species, pollution, and the demise of fishermens’ livelihoods and way of life. Some films are:

In The End of the Line, director Rupert Murray outlines the depletion of wild fish, once thought to be an inexhaustible resource. Some scientists estimate that 90% of all large fish have disappeared, such as the once-popular cod, which vanished from the western Atlantic by 1992.

The Bering Sea: An Ecosystem in Crisis, directed by Brent Balalas, studies the effect on the Aleuts of the devastation by factory trawlers, whose obscene wastefulness and massive habitat destruction are wiping out the last remnants of the pollock fishery.

But several films are also positive in their presentations of human endeavor, such as:

Free Swim, directed by Jennifer Galvin, is an award winning documentary about the paradox of coastal people not knowing how to swim. On an island in the Bahamas, a group of kids are taught to swim in open waters, thus helping them overcome their fears, gain confidence and reconnect with their challenging environment.

The Official Selection of the Festival, From the Badlands to Alcatraz, directed by Nancy Iverson, follows five Oglala Lakota youth from South Dakota to San Francisco to swim from Alcatraz to the City. The film weaves the past and present of both Alcatraz and the Pine Ridge Reservation into a vivid depiction of the awe-inspiring journey the five youth navigate as they plunge into the waters of Alcatraz Island.

And many films remind us of the amazing life and dazzling beauty of the seas, including:

Surfing Dolphins, directed by Greg Huglin, whose film goes beyond simply beautiful or sublime, as this jubilant and lyrical montage combines exquisite dolphin footage with excellent water imagery and sound.

In Ocean Chronicles, director Leandro Blanco’s kaleidoscope of images whirls through time and space in this exploration of humankind’s relationship with the ocean.

South Georgia Island: A Southern Ocean Paradise, by Corina Gamma, JJ L’Heureux and C. Hunter Johnson. This film needs no narration as the rich score and superb images remind us that this paradise needs our protection.

Also included is a panel discussion on Oceans and Sustainability with local seafood purveyors, restaurateurs and conservationists, hosted by David McGuire, director of

For further details, visit  

San Francisco Ocean Film Festival
February 3-7, 2010

Theatre 39 at PIER 39
The Embarcadero and Beach Street
San Francisco, CA.


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