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Laura Blum

Laura is a festival correspondent covering films and the festival circuit for She also publishes on Thalo



Provincetown International Film Festival Brings Warm Tides

The year America's oldest art colony turned 100, it reckoned it couldn't start another century without a cinema fete. Thus was born the Provincetown International Film Festival. That was 1999, and now PIFF heads into its 12th edition June 16 to 20, 2010.

The Festival will once again salute "new achievements in independent film…and the work of acclaimed and emerging directors, producers and actors," as per its website. Not a peep about writers, which is the bailiwick of the Nantucket Film Festival.

Nor will you find boasts about Provincetown's industry heft. "We're not about the business," states PIFF Executive Director Gabrielle Hanna. "The Festival celebrates the art of film, the filmmakers and the people who appreciate their work."

Tagged by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of a "Dozen Distinctive Destinations," the Cape Cod redoubt is expecting 10,000 movie pilgrims at its annual showcase, one of the country's most prestigious.
It's also one of the most intimate, says Hanna. Provincetown's three-mile radius may have something to do with this. "Actors and directors are walking around on the streets, so people have a chance to mingle and talk about film for five days," says Hanna. "It's about the experience," she adds.

Winning indie cachet for the 2010 Festival is writer/director Kevin Smith, who's anointed this year's Filmmaker on the Edge. Ever the poster boy for emerging talent, Smith has nonetheless finessed a canon that includes a Clerks franchise, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Zack and Miri Make a Porno and, most recently, Cop Out. Leave it to cult filmmaker John Waters -- who will serve as tummler in an award presentation and conversation with Smith -- to help reveal the secret potion for preserving creative youth. 

Tilda Swinton, the parchment-skinned iconoclast whose supporting role in Michael Clayton earned her an Academy Award, will take home the Excellence in Acting Award. Fans of her eclectic arthouse and mainstream career can hope against hope to pierce the Swinton mystique as film maven B. Ruby Rich stands Britain's most ethereal thesp to a chat. Swinton's new film, Luca Guadagnino's I Am Love/lo sono l'amore, joins a respectable roster of foreign titles at the Festival.

Howl's Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman

Fellow Oscar laureates Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman will snare the Faith Hubley Memorial Award during a confab with filmmaker John Cameron Mitchell. Common Threads: Stories From the Quilt and The Celluloid Closet distinguish the directing duo's shared slate, as does Howl, which will open the Festival. A time-scrambled chronicle of poet Allen Ginsberg's notorious obscenity trial, the film marks Epstein and Friedman's first foray into fiction filmmaking.

Mao's Last Dancer graces the Friday Spotlight. Based on the best-selling memoir by Chinese ballet dancer Li Cunxin, the real-life pauper-to-prince fairytale from Bruce Beresford (Paradise Road, Driving Miss Daisy), is apt to steal all but the most cemented hearts.

The Saturday Spotlight will fix on Kings of Pastry, Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker's new documentary about a French chef competition. "I made a mistake with my cookie cutter" may not carry the same gravitas as utterances in the duo's Oscar-nominated The War Room, but for the subjects vying to be among the Meilleurs Ouvriers (Best Craftsmen) de France, the stakes could hardly be higher.

Festival curtains drop with Cyrus. Jay and Mark Duplass (The Puffy Chair, Baghead) mine the lighter side of neuralgia in this zeitgeisty comedy about a divorced depressive (John Reilly) who falls for the single mom (Marisa Tomei) of an adult son. That would be Cyrus (Jonah Hill), whose maternal ties exceed the suitor's comfort zone.

The more than 50 films to screen at the fest, pared down from twice as many submissions, span a number of east coast premieres, among them: the aforementioned I Am Love and Howl; The Dry Land, an Iraqi war vet story from Ryan Piers Williams; Joshua Granell's horror spoof about snuff filmmaking, All About Evil; and Nowhere Boy, a dramatic retelling of John Lennon's childhood, directed by Sam Taylor Wood.

Nowhere Boy is the Closing Night film for Nantucket, which, like PIFF, is also screening The Tillman Story and Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, documentaries respectively directed by Amir Bar-Lev and the filmmaking team of Ricki Stern and Anne Sturnberg.

A ferry's hop south, NFF (June 17 to 20, 2010) will observe its annual rites during three of Provincetown's dates.  Yet, far from feuding, the two Massachusetts fests report a symbiotic relationship, and even coordinate films and special guests. 

For signature programs at Provincetown, there's Youth & Diversity and the annual A Night at the Drive-In. This year, the world premiere of James Houston's documentary, Let's Talk About Sex, is garnering buzz for the former, while the latter aims to top itself with a 50th anniversary toast to Alfred Hitchcock's slasher great Psycho, chased with exploitation classic Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

Honoring Provincetown's roots as a Portuguese fishing village, PIFF will once again unfurl a sidebar of films from Portugal. Two imports will reach this side of the Atlantic amid special advanced hum: João Canijo's non-fiction Fantastia Lusitana looks backward on the fascist regime of Oliveira Salazar during WWII, when 100,000 people fled Nazi Europe for Lisbon; and April Showers/Águas Mil, a political drama by Ivo M. Ferreira, unearths family secrets harking back to Portugal's 1974 Carnation Revolution that overcame decades of military dictatorship.

Also in keeping with its local community, the Festival has once again culled a slate of gay and lesbian-themed films. Malcolm Ingram follows up on his Small Town Gay Bar with Bear Nation, a romp around the subculture of large, hirsute gay men – the grizzlies alluded to in the title -- that is executive produced by and features Kevin Smith.

And, continuing a time-tumbled tradition, the Festival will feature new works about Provincetown's Wampanoag nation.

Panels, parties and retrospectives complete the revelries -- and that's not counting the live action spectacle of whale watching.

To get the full lowdown on Ptown, head over to

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