The 2017 Trenton Film Festival springs into action on Thursday, March 30, for four days of narrative, documentary, and experimental media works ranging from shorts to narratives, and discussions with the filmmakers. All showings are at the Mill Hill Playhouse.
The opening day is anchored by the feature film “Pop-Up,” Australian director Stuart McBratney’s story that connects an unemployed father enchanted by an image of a woman in a found camera, a heartbroken immigrant finding solace in giving away home-made pop art cars, and a theater director’s attempt to avenge himself from a harsh critic. Also on the bill are two shorts, the Spanish-made film, “Kitsune” (Japanese for “spirit of the fox”), and “Can You Decide,” an Italian film featuring a lonely robot musician. Screenings start at 7 p.m.
Friday, March 31, includes two separate showings. The first at 7 p.m. is Los Angeles-based American director Dax Phelan’s feature film “Jasmine.” The story involves a once-successful man whose life is torn apart when his wife is murdered and his obsession with a mysterious man spotted at her grave. Also on the program is “Summer Park,” a Chinese-made short of a dejected 17-year-old Beijing orphan named Summer, her involvement with a lighthearted teenager named Park, and their “adventures” on the outskirts of the city. “Summer Park” director Michael Benko will attend and talk about the film.
The 9 p.m. screening includes six suspense and horror shorts. On the program are “Hope St,” Swiss-born Los Angeles based filmmaker Elias Ressegatti’s story of a man about to commit armed robbery being haunted by visions of it going awry; “Thresher,” Canadian director Alex Clark’s story of an intruder victimizing a home’s lone occupant and then discovering that the man’s house is not what it seems; “Stitched,” Brooklyn director Heather Taylor’s tale of a sheltered woman mourning for her mother and determination to be heard; “Third Guest,” Fraser Watson’s British film who receives an welcomed guest; and “Wicked Conclusion,” Pennsylvanian director Phillip G. Carroll’s story involving a young woman imprisoned in her boyfriend’s basement, a little boy imprisoned beside her, and the film’s provocative tagline, “Who’s The Real Monster?” Directors Taylor and Carroll will attend.
Saturday, April 1, includes five separate programs. The first is the noon showing of three narrative and documentary shorts: “Before Christmas,” a Chinese film about a young man working in a Christmas decoration factory who decides to pursue his dream of becoming a singer; “Nobody Dies Here,” a French film about the sometimes fatal dream of finding gold in the West African nation of Benin; and “Extra 1104 — The Story of the Rockport Train Wreck,” New Jersey director John General’s story of the state’s most shocking train disasters and its lost stories of horror and heroism. “Before Christmas” director Chuyao will be a festival guest.
At 1:30 p.m., two documentaries are on the schedule: “Owsia” (Darkened Water), an Iranian film about a decaying ancient aqueduct supplying water to a city of nearly 500,000, and “Memories of Warsaw,” a Dutch film examining a Dutch painter trained in Communist-era Warsaw and his depiction of the era through art.
The 3:15 p.m. program’s six narrative and animated shorts range from the Irish film “Date Night,” about a woman dressing for a “big date” to “Hanging,” University of the Arts-trained Nick LeDonne’s abstract animated recount of a personal struggle with suicidal thoughts.
Starting at 5 p.m. are three more works: “Aranceri — Battle of the Oranges,” a Swedish-made film following three combatants in an annual Italian fruit fight festival celebrating a 12th-century revolt; “The Promise,” a Serbian film examining the reaction of the inhabitants of a once-prosperous wine-growing region when a French family arrives to revive the industry; and “Equipoise,” a short cinematic essay on dualities and harmony. “Aranceri” cinematographer Clement Morin will participate in a Q&A session.
At 7:15 p.m. the program includes “Live from the Grave with Dedgar,” about Maine director Walter Scold and Dedgar, aka the Poemobile, and their seven-year journey to visit the graves of 500 poets. It’s followed by the feature “Who’s Gonna Love Me Now?” the true story of a gay man’s bitter break from his conservative Israeli parents, his new life in England, his discovery that he has HIV, and his decision to reunite with his family.
The Sunday, April 2, program starts at 12:45 p.m. with two free events. The film “We the Voters: Films for the People,” followed at 1:30 p.m. with a professionally led panel discussion on social issues in filmmaking. Participating are Purcell Carson, a documentary filmmaker, editor, and the Princeton University urban studies instructor who directs the Trenton Project documentary series; Katherine Elisabeth Clark, writer-director and co-founder of the regionally based Pop Up Anthology program encouraging local works; Dan Preston, documentary filmmaker, multimedia creator, and owner of the Princeton-based media company Telequest; and Evelyn Tu, a videographer, editor, producer, owner of Flying Camel Media, and Trenton Film Society board member.
The 3:45 p.m. program of narrative shorts includes two films by Philadelphia filmmaker Amy Frear: “Selkie,” a seal able to take human form and its visit to Philadelphia, and “Another Time,” about an indecisive Philadelphia woman who may also be a lost time traveler. Also on the bill are the Iranian film “Cradle,” American director Lars Fuchs’ “Honk! Honk!,” New York director Nadia Fedchin’s “The Paper Rose,” and the Australian film “Bombing.” Director Frear will participate in a discussion of her work.
The 5:30 p.m. final program includes shorts focusing on spoken word, music, and narrative. The most regionally connected is U.S. director B. Stephen Stockwell’s “Lento,” a mood piece featuring music conducted by Capital Philharmonic of New Jersey music director Daniel Spalding. Accompanying it are the American-made films “Nod,” “Nothing Happened,” and Connecticut director D. J. Higgins’ “Pasquale’s Magic Veal,” featuring “Sopranos” actors Vincent Pastore, Dan Grimaldi, and Artie Pasquale. Filling out the program is the Canadian film “Primary Colours,” a spoken-word piece addressing domestic violence and how women can take steps that become “a new color on the canvas of her life.” Higgins will participate in a Q&A.
The festival concludes with a 6:30 p.m. closing night reception and award ceremony.
Trenton Film Festival, Thursday, March 30, through Friday, April 2, Mill Hill Playhouse, 205 East Front Street, Trenton. Admission to one session is $8, festival passes are $25. www.trentonfilmsociety.org.