The New Jersey Film Festival is returning to the Rutgers University campus in New Brunswick with its usual schedule. And since that means an ambitious roster of New Jersey-made films, regional premieres, meet-the-director events, tickets ranging from $12 to free films, and free sandwiches, it is all good news for area film lovers and filmmakers.
The films get rolling on Saturday, January 28, with “Knights of New Jersey.” That’s Montclair director Michael Hadley’s feature short behind-the-scenes comedy about Renaissance Faire actors and their aspirations. It’s paired with Canadian director Benjamin Ross Hayden’s “The Northlander,” set in a future where nature has reclaimed the land and a hunter is called on a voyage across a treacherous landscape to defend his people. Director Hadley will be on hand to discuss his work at the screening taking place in Voorhees Hall at 7 p.m.
The Sunday, January 29, program includes Los Angeles director Michael Chan’s “Cavities,” a short dealing with a troubled 16-year-old reconnecting with his mother and the “Art of the Prank,” Kentuckian director Andrea Marini’s feature-length documentary of professional prankster Joey Skaggs and his use of disinformation. The screening is also set for Voorhees Hall at 7 p.m.
The remaining schedule is as follows:
Thursday, February 2: “Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer,” a 60-minute work on the origins of cinema and the personal and professional struggles of photo-pioneer Muybridge. Festival director and New Jersey filmmaker Albert Nigrin will be on hand to provide a commentary. Ruth Adams Building, 6 p.m.
Friday, February 3: Brooklyn director Matthew Puccini’s “Solo,” a short film about an Appalachian teenager who one morning quietly slips away from his small town. It will be paired with California-based director Zuzelin Martin Lunch’s “Craving Cuba,” a 65 minute multi-generational documentary about Cuban-Americans and their complicated relationship with Cuba. Director Puccini will be present to comment on his work. Voorhees Hall, 7 p.m.
Saturday, February 4: Three films: “Doggie,” Princeton Junction’s Charles de Agustin’s 10-minute film of a teenager forcing strangers to help him find a lost bag. Japanese director Yuri Muraoka’s “Schizophrenia,” a short experimental film dealing with his own obsession with numbers. And Portuguese directors Luis and Goncalo Galvao Teles’s “Gelo,” a futuristic feature-length film that involves an individual born from the DNA of a frozen Ice-Age corpse, a film student, and her ice-obsessed lover. Director De Agustin will talk about his work. Voorhees Hall, 7 p.m.
Saturday, February 11: “St. Louis Cemetery Number One,” Cranford resident and Princeton Public Schools assistant superintendent Lewis Goldstein’s short documentary of his travels from New Jersey to New Orleans to explore “one of the most storied cemeteries in America, where some of the most famous and controversial figures in American history have found their resting place.”
Also showing are New York-based director Royston Scott’s “The Sara Spencer Washington Story,” a documentary on “a young black woman who became a phenomenal success selling her line of hair products door to door in 1920s Atlantic City,” and “…With God Against Man…,” Brooklyn director Seymon Pinkahasov’s documentary of Sousa Mendes, a Portuguese counsel general in German occupied France who defies the Nazis in order to save 30,000 people. Directors Goldstein, Scott, and Pinkahasov will discuss their work. Voorhees Hall, 7 p.m.
Sunday, February 12: “Bad Tidings,” Red Bank director Daniel Natale’s 49-minute documentary examining how the Hurricane Sandy-devastated town of Sea Girt and its citizens face an unpromising future of rising sea levels. And “River Blue: Can Fashion Save the Planet?,” Vancouver filmmakers David Mcllvride and Roger Williams’ 90-minute “call to action” that explores the impact clothing manufacturing has on the environment. Filmmakers Natale and Williams will appear with their films. Voorhees Hall, 7 p.m.
Friday, February 17: A free showing of “In the Mood for Love,” Wong Kar-Wai’s feature-length drama set in Hong Kong in 1962 that focuses on a man and a woman who fall in love after realizing their partners are having an affair. Voorhees Hall, 7 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday, February 18 and 19: The 2017 United States Super 8 Film & Digital Video Festival, selected by a jury of filmmakers, Rutgers University students, and media professionals. The festival — now in its 29th year — will feature finalist works by independent filmmakers from the United States and around the world. Prize winners will be announced after the screening, in a competition for prizes, along with the Audience Favorite Prize. Voorhees Hall, 7 p.m.
Thursday, February 23: “American Experimental Films – Part 2.” A survey from the 1960s, the program includes films by Bruce Baillie, Andy Warhol, Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage, and others. Festival director Al Nigrin provides the commentary. Ruth Adams, 6 p.m.
Friday, March 3: A free showing of “Chunking Express” also by Hong Kong director Kar-Wai. Called by film curators as “one of the defining works of 90s cinema,” the film deals with two “heartsick” Hong Kong police officers and their interest in an ethereal waitress at a take-out restaurant. Voorhees Hall, 7 p.m.
And while the festival comes to a close in early March, an encore film is set for Friday, March 31: “Old Stone,” Johnny Ma’s feature-length film about a Chinese taxi driver finds himself in a Kafkaesque world — filled with callousness and bureaucratic indifference — and has to resort to desperate measures to survive and save his family. Voorhees Hall. 7 p.m.
New Jersey Film Festival, Voorhees Hall Room 105, 71 Hamilton Street, Rutgers University; and Ruth Adams Building Room 001, 131 George Street, Douglass Campus. January 28 through March 3. $9 to $12. Free films on February 17 and March 3. Free pre-show Jimmy John’s sandwiches available on weekends. 848-932-8482 or www.njfilmfest.com.