Celebrating the 15th anniversary of its founding, the Rochester High Falls Film Festival returns this week and continues its mission of spotlighting the achievements of women in all aspects of filmmaking, both in front of and behind the camera. Beginning on Thursday, November 10, the festival will screen 15 narrative and documentary features as well as five programs of shorts (including one dedicated to shorts shot on film, and another highlighting work by female students from RIT's School of Film and Animation).
All screenings will be held at The Little Theatre (240 East Avenue). Tickets to the opening night and spotlight films cost $12, while general admission tickets are $10, and $8 for students and seniors. There's also an all-access festival pass available for $125 and a film-only pass for $90.
For a complete schedule, visit the festival's website at highfallsfilmfestival.com, where you can also find a full list of all the screenings, parties, workshops, and roundtable and panel discussions.
CITY took a look at just a few of the highlights from this year's lineup.
Are there certain subjects that are never appropriate to joke about, or should nothing be off limits when it comes to comedy? The entertaining, provocative documentary "The Last Laugh" examines this thorny topic by asking audiences: "Can the Holocaust be funny?"
An impressive roster of Jewish comedians -- Mel Brooks, Carl and Rob Reiner, Sarah Silverman, and Gilbert Gottfried among them -- cultural experts, and several Holocaust survivors themselves weigh in on the debate. The film digs into the legacy of mining taboo subjects for humor -- and what purpose such practices might serve -- as we consider where we draw the line between funny and offensive. A Q&A session with director Ferne Pearlstein will follow the feature. (Thursday, November 10, 6 p.m., Little 1)
Tony-winning actress Alice Ripley ("Next to Normal") stars in "Sugar!," a lively drama about Leslie, a middle-aged piano teacher who decides to re-form the all-women rock band she once performed in with her closest friends. The decision puts her at odds with her Congressional nominee husband -- who says her new hobby will be disastrous to his campaign -- and her teenage daughter, who says that it's ruining her life. The script never makes it clear exactly why singing non-threatening rock in dive bars is such a catastrophe, but I guess otherwise there wouldn't be much of a plot. Ripley and director Shari Berman will take part in a Q&A after the film. (Friday, November 11, 7:30 p.m., Little 1)
The stirring "Left on Pearl" documents how a march to honor International Women's Day in Boston during the early 1970's shifted course in more ways than one when a group of women ignored the planned route and turned left down Pearl Street. The detour was part of a predetermined plan on the part of a faction of marchers to occupy 888 Memorial Drive, a Harvard-owned former knitting factory they intended to take over as a women's center.
What ensued was a 10-day standoff with local authorities as the women refused to back down. The film offers a fascinating demonstration of intersectionality in action, as the women's cause meets up with the gay rights movement, as well as the push for the university to build low-income housing to make up for the homes it had demolished in the name of expansion. Ultimately, it offers a timely examination into the power of protest to achieve some much-needed social change. Directed by Susie Rivo. (Saturday, November 12, 5:15 p.m., Little 1)
Filmmaker Erica Fae writes, directs, and stars in "To Keep the Light." The film is about a lighthouse keeper's wife struggling to keep appearances up as she tends to her ill husband and perform her duties in 19th century Maine. But when a stranger washes up on shore claiming to be the survivor of a shipwreck, she finds herself faced with some difficult choices. In telling her starkly beautiful tale, Fae suggests that the obstacles faced by women back in 1870 aren't too far removed from the challenges they still endure today. (Sunday, November 13, 1 p.m., Little 1)
In a lovely Quaker wedding tradition, guests are asked to sign the marriage certificate, offering their blessing on the newlywed's nuptials. But the sweet and silly romantic comedy "Quaker Oaths" considers what happens to that same couple if they choose to seek a divorce. To end their marriage bond, exes Joe and Emily find themselves forced to head out on the road, visiting each and every one of their wedding guests to request that they cross off their signature and thus give their blessing to the couple's amicable split. Wacky hijinks -- and some unexpected connections -- ensue. (Sunday, November 13, 4:15 p.m., Little 5)
Check back on Friday for additional film coverage, including a review of "Certain Women," directed by Kelly Reichardt.