Film Festival schedule for 2017

BRATTLEBORO — The following summaries are provided to The Commons by the organizers of the Brattleboro Film Festival. All films screen at the Latchis Theatre at 50 Main St.

DANCING WITH MONSTERS (2016/Isabella Freilinger/10 min./Germany/subtitles/short drama). How do we react to a world of violence and brutality? Do we become victims or perpetrators ourselves? Zarah grows up in a world where dancing is forbidden and gunfire is a constant audible reminder of war. She dreams about becoming a super-power-ninja-ranger and protecting her family, while she goes on dancing forbidden dances in a decaying living room. (Saturday, Nov. 11, 7:30 p.m.; precedes In Syria.)

DOLORES (2017/Peter Bratt/95 min./USA/documentary). Dolores Huerta is among the most important, yet least known, activists in American history. As an equal partner in co-founding the first farm workers' unions with César Chávez, she tirelessly led the fight for racial and labor justice, becoming one of the most defiant feminists of the 20th century-a fight she continues to this day, at 87 years old. The film reveals the raw, personal stakes involved in committing one's life to social change. (Saturday, Nov. 4, 3 p.m.)

FACES, PLACES (2017/Agnès Varda/89 min. France/subtitles/documentary). When 89-year-old director Agnès Varda and young photographer/muralist J.R. met, they immediately wanted to work together to make a film in rural France. Traveling in J.R.'s photographic truck, they connected with strangers by listening to them, photographing them, and honoring them; however, the real story is the growth of their unlikely but poignant friendship. Winner of the top documentary award at Cannes. Sponsored by the Vermont Center for Photography. Preceded by the short Three Red Sweaters. (Friday, Nov. 3, 8:30 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 5, 7:30 p.m.)

THE FOSTER PORTFOLIO (2017/Danielle Katvan/19 min./USA/short drama). Based on the original short story by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., The Foster Portfolio is an offbeat, mid-century tale about a rookie investment counselor who discovers that his penniless client is hiding a million-dollar inheritance in order to conceal a strange, double life. A study of human nature in a materialistic society, and of the length to which people will go to indulge in their true passions. (Precedes The Peacemaker. Saturday, Nov. 11, 1 p.m.)

I DREAM IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE (2017/Ernesto Contreras/101 min./Mexico/subtitles/drama). A young linguist travels to the jungle of Mexico to research and save a mysterious indigenous language. He soon discovers the risk of the language disappearing, because the last two speakers refuse to speak a word to each other after a fight 50 years ago. Trying to bring the two old friends back together, he discovers that hidden in the past, in the heart of the jungle, lies a secret concealed by the language. (Sponsored by Express Fluency. Wednesday, Nov. 8, 6:30 p.m.)

IN SYRIA (2017/Philippe Van Leeuw/85 min. France/subtitles/drama). In Damascus, the war is not just on the street as a family's apartment becomes a sort of bunker where each day is a struggle to survive until the next. With only the women and the elderly remaining, a mother attempts to keep her family safe as war rages and a sniper lies in wait outside her home. This powerful film won the audience award at Berlinale International Film Festival. (Warning: Contains a depiction of sexual assault.) Preceded by the short Dancing with Monsters. (Saturday, Nov. 11, 7:30 p.m.)

THE LITTLE DICTATOR (2015/Nurith Cohn/28 min./Israel/subtitles/short comedy-drama). Yossi Kleinmann, a dull history professor and expert on the political leaders of totalitarian regimes, feels unappreciated both by his students and his wife. One weekend, he finds himself in a surreal situation that forces him to face up to himself and his family. (Precedes Lost in Paris. Friday, Nov. 3, 6:30 p.m.; Tuesday, Nov. 7, 6:30 p.m.)

LOST IN PARIS (2016/Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon/83 min./France/part-subtitles/comedy-drama). Full of imaginative sight gags and physical comedy, including a surprising and delightful tango, harkening back to great film comics like Tati and Chaplin, this charming story follows Fiona while she visits Paris for the first time to assist her myopic Aunt Martha. Catastrophes ensue, mainly involving Dom, a happy-go-lucky homeless man who has yet to have an emotion he was afraid of expressing. (Preceded by the short Little Dictator. Friday, Nov. 3, 6:30 p.m.; Tuesday, Nov. 7, 6:30 p.m.)

THE OLIVE TREE (2016/Icíar Bollaín/100 min./Spain/subtitles/comedy-drama). When Alma's grandfather Ramón becomes overwhelmed by sadness, she can't bear it. To save him, she decides to find the 1,000-year-old olive tree that the family sold against his will. Without money or resources, Alma, her uncle, and friends set off from Spain to Germany to recover the tree, starting an emotional journey with unexpected consequences for everyone. (Sponsored by All About Trees. Saturday, Nov. 4, 1 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 10, 8:30 p.m.)

THE PEACEMAKER (2016/James Demo/90 min./USA/documentary). The film takes us from international peacemaker Padraig's isolated life in Cambridge, Mass. over five years to some of the most dangerous crisis zones on Earth - from Northern Ireland to Kosovo, from Nigeria to Iraq - as he works a peacemaking model based on his recovery from addiction. We meet Padraig in the third act of his life in a race against time to find some kind of salvation for both the world and himself. (Preceded by the short The Foster Portfolio. Saturday, Nov. 11, 1 p.m.)

PLASTIC CHINA (2016/Jiuliang Wang/86 min./USA/subtitles/documentary). Through the story of two families, Plastic China captures the striking, melancholy beauty of a vast and lifeless artificial landscape - a Chinese countryside covered almost entirely in imported plastic. Even within such a profoundly isolating and toxic atmosphere, hope and humanity find their way into the defiantly optimistic 11-year-old Yi-Jie, who dreams of attending school and befriending kids her own age. (Preceded by the short Terra 2084. Sunday, Nov. 5, 3 p.m.)

QUEST (2017/Jonathan Olshefski/104 min./USA/documentary). Filmed with vérité intimacy for over a decade, Quest is a tender portrait of the Rainey family and their home music studio, which serves as a special sanctuary within their North Philadelphia neighborhood. When a stray bullet wounds their youngest daughter, the film shows the family's strength in the face of adversity and their dedication to being a force for good in their community and a profound testament to love, healing, and hope. (Preceded by the short Sawubona. Saturday, Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m.)

SAMI BLOOD (2016/Amanda Kernell/110 min./ Sweden/subtitles/drama). In this eloquent coming-of-age drama set in the 1930s, Elle Marja, 14, is a reindeer-herding Sami girl. Exposed to racial shaming at her boarding school, where indigenous students are converted into acceptable members of Swedish society, she starts dreaming of another life. After sneaking off to a dance and experiencing respect without question, she has to decide if leaving her family and disavowing her Sámi heritage will give her the life she is seeking. (Friday, Nov. 10, 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 11, 5 p.m.)

SAWUBONA (2015/Lungelo Kuzwayo/11 min./USA/short drama). When Mbali, a charming and adventurous 7-year-old South African, defies the norm by making a new friend, she sparks a magical journey of transformation through imagination. (Precedes Quest. Saturday, Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m.)

THE SQUARE (2017/Ruben Östlund/145 min./Sweden/subtitles/satirical drama). Christian, a respected curator of a contemporary art museum, is overseeing “The Square,” an installation that invites passersby to altruism. Meanwhile, the museum's PR agency has created a controversial campaign that sends the public into a full-blown overreaction, throwing Christian and the museum into an existential crisis. Containing one of the most squirm-inducing scenes in modern cinema, The Square is a merciless satirical drama reflecting our times. Winner of this year's Palme d'Or at Cannes. (Sunday, Nov. 5, 5 p.m.)

STRAD STYLE (2017/Stefan Avalos/105 min./USA/documentary). An unlikely dreamer living in the sticks of Ohio with an obsession for Stradivari meets a famous European concert violinist over the internet and convinces him that he can make a perfect copy of the most famous violin that ever existed - even though he has no formal training in violin making. Fighting time, poverty, and especially himself, he puts everything on the line trying to deliver on his brash promise in time for an important concert. (Thursday, Nov. 9, 6:30 p.m.)

THREE RED SWEATERS (2016/Martha Gregory/10 min./USA/short documentary). With a wealth of archival footage shot by her grandfather, filmmaker Martha Gregory begins a project to examine how our memories are changing now that we have the ability to document every moment of our lives. Do photographs and film help us remember the past or remove us from it? As visual media become ever more ubiquitous, do we need our memories? Are our smart phones a barrier between us and experience? (Precedes Faces, Places. Friday, Nov. 3, 8:30 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 5, 7:30 p.m.)

TERRA 2084 (2014/Nuno Sá Pessoa/15 min./Portugal/subtitles/short sci-fi drama). The World Union is established to take over after the big collapse, but its control gets tighter and tighter, hunting down any deviant elements. Meanwhile, the world plunges into filth as the currency crisis has no end in sight. Will something save this society before it's too late? Can we as a society let it be saved? (Precedes Plastic China. Sunday, Nov. 5, 3 p.m.)

TICKLING GIANTS (2017/Sara Taksler/111 min./Egypt/subtitles/documentary). The career of Egyptian heart surgeon-turned-political satirist Bassem Youssef is chronicled in this documentary directed by Daily Show producer Sara Taksler. Youssef gave up his lucrative medical profession in 2011 to become one of Egypt's most powerful television voices of dissent against an oppressive regime, showing us how one comedy show united the country and tested the limits of free press. (Monday, Nov. 6, 6:30 p.m.)

THE UNCONDEMNED (2016/Nick Louvel, Michele Mitchell/81 min./NetherlandsRwandaCongo/USA/documentary). This courtroom thriller and personal human drama tells the gripping and world-changing story of a group of young international lawyers and activists who fought to make rape a crime of war and the Rwandan women who came forward to testify and win justice where there had been none. Four extraordinary, courageous rape survivors and their supporters secured a measure of justice for themselves, as well as for humanity. (Co-sponsored by the Windham World Affairs Council and Latchis Arts, supported in part by the Vermont Humanities Council. Michelle Mitchell will be present. Saturday, Nov. 4, 5 p.m.)

THE UNTOLD TALES OF ARMISTEAD MAUPIN (2017/Jennifer M. Kroot/90 min./USA/documentary). Moving nimbly between playful, poignant, and laugh-out-loud funny, this film celebrates one of the world's most beloved storytellers. With help from his friends, Maupin offers a disarmingly frank look at the journey that took him from the jungles of Vietnam to the front line of the American culture war, following his evolution from a conservative son of the Old South into a gay-rights pioneer whose novels inspired millions to reclaim their lives. (Saturday, Nov. 11, 3 p.m.)

WHAT LIES UPSTREAM (2017/Cullen Hoback/90 min./USA/documentary). In this classic detective story, investigative filmmaker Cullen Hoback travels to West Virginia to uncover the truth behind a massive chemical spill that left 300,000 people without drinking water for months. But when Hoback discovers a collusion between chemical corporations and the highest levels of government, the investigation spirals in a terrifying direction, and we learn the frightening truth about what lies upstream of us all. (Sunday, Nov. 5, 1 p.m.)

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates