The New Jersey Film Festival at Rutgers University in New Brunswick is taking some poetic license when it calls its January through early March series a spring festival, but it’s good to be reminded that warmer weather is coming. And the films on the current schedule also promise to warm the heart, fire up the imagination, or even get viewers hot under the collar.
And with New Jersey and area premieres of American and international films, low price, multi-features, discussions with filmmakers, and even free sandwiches — courtesy of Jimmy John’s of New Brunswick — the long running state festival may be a good ticket to diversion and discovery.
Friday, January 26. The screenings start with several shorts and a short-feature film. The bill includes “165708,” a six-minute black-and-white study of the elasticity of time and featuring its Canadian director, Josephine Massarella, and an original score by composer Graham Stewart; “Two Minutes,” Portland, Oregon, director Mark Smith’s animated film of travelers searching for a place where love generates everything; “The Inescapable Arrival of Lazlo Petushki,” Scottish director Sven Werner’s story of a young man’s boat arrival to a mysterious city; “Lockdown,” Max Sokoloff of Los Angeles’ chronicle about a bullied high school misfit and a school lockdown; and Massachusetts director Tiger Ji’s “Pluto,” a 40-minute tale of a lonely young man looking for happiness — on Pluto.
Saturday, January 27. Look for Brooklyn director Anaiis Cisco’s “Breathless,” a short film of a Brooklyn father-figure and a tragic trip for coffee and cigarettes. It’s followed by “Word Is Bond,” New York-based director Sacha Jenkins’ feature-length documentary celebrating the power of hip-hop music. Director Cisco will attend to discuss the film.
Sunday, January 28. Two films look at the dark side of two major American universities. Montclair director Roger Paradiso’s “The Lost Village” examines the corporate takeover of Greenwich Village, aided by New York University and city and state politicians. Director Paradiso will be on hand to answer questions. And “Clean In: How Hotel Workers Fought Harvard for a Union — And Won” is Kingston, New York, director Rebecca Rojer’s look at how an organized group of women struggled with the first female president of Harvard to create a union.
Friday, February 2. There is a fantasy-laced combination of two shorts and a feature. “The Final Show” is California director Dana Nachman’s “surreal film” of a woman who has to quickly chose which of her loves to accompany her to eternity. The Canadian film “Metta Via” is the story of a young woman waking up in a mysterious room and struggling to explain her and its purpose. And “Andover” is Hollywood-based Scott Perlman’s science fiction feature about a professor repeatedly cloning his dead wife to bring her back to life as he remembers her.
Saturday, February 3. The program includes the short “Little Red Giant, the Monster That I Was,” Chicago director Laura Harrison’s short animation of a young female who goes berserk at a barbecue and ends up in jail where she actually finds something she is searching for. Accompanying it is “Getting Naked: A Burlesque Story,” Brooklyn director James Lester’s documentary following four female performers who find both liberation and harsh realities stripping in New York City’s neo-burlesque scene. Director Lester will appear with the film.
Friday, February 9. Three films: Fort Lee, New Jersey, director Roger An’s “Alpha Fish” is a short about a talking goldfish developing romantic interest in a marine biologist. California director Dana Nachman’s “Washed Away” deals with a disabled sand artist who alleviates his pain by using a drone to fly over the beach and capture his sand creations as the tides claim them. And Canadian director John Hopkins’ “Bluefin” is a feature-length documentary that explores the perils of the endangered and highly sought bluefin tuna off the coast of Prince Edward Island.
Saturday, February 10. Lawrenceville filmmaker Douglas Clayton presents “Dovere For Camden,” a story of how a group of citizens hope to return dovere — Italian for respect — to the “Murder Capital of America” by transforming both a building and its residents. Also on the bill are “Fractured,” a California film about a family suffering the consequences of untreated mental illness; the British film “Two Strangers Who Meet Five Times”; and Israel director Eli Korn’s “Clasico” about two soccer-playing brothers delayed at the airport and encountering personal revelations that lead to fateful decisions. Directors Clayton and Korn will be present.
Sunday, February 11. Jersey City director Tianyang Cong presents his short “A River” about a mother and her seemingly lost daughter meeting after the death of the daughter’s father. It’s followed by the feature-length “Starlit,” Fishkill, New York, director AO’s road drama of a young, bored woman with a penchant for stargazing who runs away with a car mechanic to hike the Appalachians to see the night stars. Director AO and members of the cast and crew will be on hand to talk about the film.
Friday, February 16. The single free film, “Together,” is China director Chen Kaige’s story of a 13-year-old violin prodigy who leaves his small town in hopes of becoming a successful musician and the choices he has to make to find the right path.
Friday, February 23. The 2018 United States Super 8 Film & Digital Video Festival is an evening of juried international films. It is the 30th anniversary of this New Jersey celebration of independent filmmaking.
Friday, March 2. The festival ends with the free showing of Chinese director Chen Kaige’s “Temptress Moon,” a family drama where choices lead to ill health, sibling tensions, criminal activity, and mystery.
New Jersey Film Festival, Voorhees Hall No. 105, 71 Hamilton Street/College Avenue Campus, Rutgers University, New Brunswick. 7 p.m. $9 to $12, unless free. 848-932-8482 or www.njfilmfest.com.