28th Annual Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival: ‘Alliances’ Spring 2021 Underway
Friday, February 19, 2021
Friday, February 19, 2021
The 28th annual Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival (MMFF) explores the power and promise of “Alliances,” presenting an international program of documentary, narrative and experimental films from the United States, Puerto Rico, Iran, France, Egypt, Brazil and South Korea, that offer compelling visions of connection with people, ecologies and ideas. With an eye to the shadow side of alliances—flawed or failed alliances, or misguided or malign confederacies—the films this season address themes of community, solidarity, and partnerships for social justice, environmental advocacy, and other endeavors to achieve a common good or confront a prevailing ill. Join us this spring in a celebration of films that spark empathy, bridge difference, and inspire dedication to dreams held in common.
This season’s MMFF will be entirely online. Weekly screenings will be via on-demand streaming in the days preceding the livestream discussion and Q&A each week. Festival organizers pleased to host filmmakers, producers and scholars throughout our season who will provide critical introductions to films and moderate live discussions. All events are completely free and open to the public.
Access to films, critical introductions and livestream discussions and Q&As with filmmakers will all be available through the festival platform mmff.sparqfest.livewith full festival schedule and information on our website umass.edu/film/mmff.
The Festival opened with “Telling Our Story, Singing Our Song: Preserving and Protecting Our Sacred Spaces in Dangerous Times” in partnership with New England Public Media, in honor of Black History Month and coinciding with the Feb. 16 premiere of the PBS series “The Black Church: This is our Story, This is our Song.” On Wednesday, Feb. 17, Amilcar Shabazz, professor in the W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at UMass Amherst, joined the filmmakers of “The Black Church,” Stacey Holman and Shayla Harris, for a conversation on the role of the Black Church as both a target for racist attacks and a powerful locus of love and lore, contributing to hope and progress in the world, especially where people of African descent live and struggle. The conversation explored traditions of storytelling and song at the foundations of community, resilience, and building futures in the African American community from the time of slavery to the realities today.
On Wednesday, Feb. 24 the festival welcomes Cecilia Aldarondo to discuss her documentary “Landfall,” co-presented by the UMass Amherst history department’s 2020-21 Feinberg Series: Planet on a Precipice. The film places us in Puerto Rico’s devastation in the wake of Hurricane Maria, a visible disaster with an unmistakable trajectory and ecological cause. Equally devastating is the economic tempest assailing the island since long before the hurricane, whose trajectory and cause are no less real. Gathering fragments of life in post-Hurricane Puerto Rico, “Landfall” presents a striking portrait of the resilience of Puerto Rican communities uniting against predatory opportunists and fighting to build anew. The screening includes a video introduction by filmmaker and Five College visiting artist, Patricia Montoya, who will also moderate the festival’s livestream discussion and Q&A with the director.
In connection with International Women's Day, whose 2021 theme is #ChooseToChallenge, the festival invites Sharron Shattuck and Ian Cheney with their film “Picture a Scientist” on Wednesday, March 3. By turns poignant, enraging, and inspiring, this documentary brings to light the struggles of women scientists confronting an entrenched, pervasive culture of sexism, obstruction and exclusion and forging a new landscape for women in science. The stories of biologist Nancy Hopkins, chemist Raychelle Burks, and geologist Jane Willenbring illuminate the struggles these scientists face and point toward a future of equality and inclusion to the benefit of scientists as well as science itself and all who depend on it. Jeanne Hardy, UMass Amherst professor of chemistry will introduce the film and participate in a discussion and Q&A with the filmmakers.
Iranian director Manijeh Hekmat joins the festival on Wednesday, March 10 to discuss her new film “Bandar Band.” Filmed during the catastrophic floods of 2019 in Iran, this road movie follows a trio of aspiring musicians journeying across a countryside-turned-seascape to compete in a talent contest in Tehran. Through Hekmat’s camera, we become a virtual member of Bandar Band, riding in the van alongside pregnant Mahla, her husband, and one of their closest friends. On the way, the band encounters flooded roads, washed-out bridges, and others who, like them, have lost all they had in the flood. Thwarted at every turn, the band still presses on toward Tehran, fueled by visions of musical success and dreams of international stardom. Introduced by Maryam Zehtabi Sabeti Moqaddam, University of Virginia, who will join Manijeh Hekmat for a livestream discussion and audience Q&A.
The festival bends toward experimental film and new media with the extraordinary films of French filmmaker Chloé Galibert-Laîné, video works that reimagine the creative power and evocative possibilities of nonfiction cinema. The filmmaker joins the festival on March 17 to discuss her “desktop documentaries,” “Forensickness” and “Watching the Pain of Others.” Galibert-Laîné plays herself as a researcher in “Forensickness” attempting to analyze Chris Kennedy’s experimental film “Watching the Detectives.” Immersing herself in the vast media archive from the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, she tries to understand the mass impulse among users of internet forums to apply their own sleuthing skills to identify the bombers. What begins as online flânerie becomes a self-reflective inquiry into critical thought, digital and material artifacts, and “the ruthless politics of truth production.” As a companion piece, the festival features Galibert-Laîné’s award-winning “Watching the Pain of Others,” an intimate chronicle of the filmmaker’s “young researcher” as she ventures deep into the discomfiting corners of YouTube videos and online conspiracies in an effort to understand her fascination with Penny Lane’s film “The Pain of Others.” Barbara Zecchi, director of film studies at UMass Amherst, will introduce the films and join the filmmaker for the livestream discussion and Q&A.
On Wednesday, March 24, the festival welcomes Egyptian director Mayye Zayed to discuss her powerful documentary “Lift Like a Girl.” On a busy Alexandria intersection, in a vacant dirt lot that serves as an improvised gym and training center, we meet fifteen-year-old Asmaa. For over five years, she has trained as a weightlifter with her irrepressible coach, Captain Ramadan, who trains female athletes for free, including Olympic Gold Medalists and World Record holders. “Zebiba” he calls her, meaning little “raisin,” yet he sees in Asmaa the makings of a world-class champion. With immersive camerawork and unflinching storytelling, Mayye’s film portrays this girl’s setbacks and triumphs with tenderness and grit. Introduced by Kathryn Lachman, associate professor of French and comparative literature at UMass Amherst, who will moderate a conversation and Q&A with the filmmaker.
On International Trans Day of Visibility, Wednesday, March 31, the festival welcomes documentary director Adam Golub and political leader Indianara Siqueira to discuss “Your Mother’s Comfort.” Through mass demonstrations, political campaigns, and occupations of vacant buildings in Rio de Janeiro, Indianara Siqueira leads, with courage and steely grace, the struggle for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community and sex workers, against the transphobic political establishment. Golub’s documentary takes us inside Casa Nem, a sanctuary for the homeless and ostracized on the basis of gender identity and sexuality, and into the streets, where Indianara’s movement finds alliances with other political leaders and activists as well as ordinary citizens. Nefeli Forni Zervoudaki, UMass Amherst comparative literature, introduces the film and joins Adam Golub and Indianara Siqueira, together with Genny Beemyn, director of The Stonewall Center at UMass Amherst, for a discussion and audience Q&A.
The festival culminates in a screening of the exquisite film “Lucky Chan-sil”, directed by South Korean filmmaker Kim Cho-hee, longtime producer for Hong Sang-soo. The film tells the story of a successful film producer for a celebrated art film director who finds her career abruptly derailed when the director dies. Blending dream and reality, Kim infuses her film with humor, imagination and intelligence, connecting a constellation of richly written characters all of whom intersect in some way with Chan-sil’s love of cinema and her calling as a filmmaker. Introduction by Irhe Sohn, Smith College, with conversation and Q&A on Wednesday, April 7.
Weekly screenings will be accessible via on-demand streaming in the days preceding the livestream discussion and Q&A with filmmakers and guests. Livestream events will take place each Wednesday beginning Feb. 17 and continuing to April 7. All films are accompanied by critical, contextualizing introductions by scholars and filmmakers.
All events— screenings, introductions, audience Q&As and conversations with filmmakers and guests—are free and open to the public. Unless otherwise noted, livestream events begin at 7:30 p.m. Due to varying time zones for guests, some livestream events will be scheduled earlier in the day and will be recorded for those unable to attend the earlier time.
The 28th edition of the Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival is made possible by the generous support of many students, staff, faculty; departments, programs, colleges; and the University of Massachusetts and the Five Colleges. Major Sponsors are the UMass Amherst College of Humanities and Fine Arts, the UMass Arts Council, the UMass Amherst College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and the Five College Film and Media Council. Additional support comes from New England Public Media, the UMass Amherst department of history Feinberg Series, and The Stonewall Center at UMass Amherst.
The 28th annual Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival is directed by Daniel Pope with Nefeli Forni Zervoudaki, assistant curator, and presented by the interdepartmental program in film studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
For full listings, updates, and tickets, see the festival website at umass.edu/film/mmff