Like the Massachusetts seaside town that serves as its host, the Provincetown Intl. Film Festival has been a beacon for independent-minded artists who seek to showcase and discuss their work with a diverse and appreciative audience. The 18th iteration of the festival, which takes place June 15-19, is no exception, as evidenced by its lineup of feature films and special programs.
This year’s schedule includes the Viggo Mortensen starrer “Captain Fantastic,” fresh off winning Un Certain Regard’s director prize at Cannes, as its opening night presentation. It closes with the New England premiere of the documentary “Strike a Pose,” about the dancers who backed Madonna on her “Blonde Ambition” tour. The festival will also honor Ang Lee and Cynthia Nixon and offers a restored presentation of long-time festival supporter John Waters’ rarely seen sophomore feature, the 1970 cult film “Multiple Maniacs,” in addition to many other films, panels and presentations.
According to the festival’s organizers, PIFF’s popularity is informed by the Cape Cod town itself, which over the course of three centuries has counted a Portuguese-run fishing industry, an array of artists, writers and actors, and a significant LGBTQ community among its residents.
“There’s something very unique about Provincetown,” says filmmaker Christine Walker, who is also the festival’s executive director. “There’s a camaraderie among the filmmakers and the audiences because we all feel like we’re in this inspirational place together. It doesn’t feel like you’re running around trying to secure a deal — it feels like you’re meeting colleagues and people who love film.”
Waters, whom festival artistic director Connie White describes as PIFF’s guru, says the town and the festival draw eclectic crowds because “it’s still a beatnik place — a place for Bohemians, a gay fishing village that’s also hetero friendly. [And festival] audiences are passionate and crazy and accepting of almost anything. Who wouldn’t want to go to Provincetown?”
HONOREES AND KEYNOTES
In addition to Lee, who will receive this year’s Filmmaker on the Edge award from Waters on June 18, and Nixon, who will be honored with the festival’s Excellence in Acting Award that same day, the lineup will feature a keynote speech by producer Effie Brown [“Dear White People”] at the Evan Lawson Filmmakers Brunch on June 19. Actress-director Illeana Douglas will speak about her memoir “I Blame Dennis Hopper” at a PIFFtalks panel discussion June 16, while authors David Ebershoff and Lisa Genova will speak at a June 18 panel about the transition of their books — “The Danish Girl” and “Still Alice,” respectively — into feature films.
In addition to interviewing Lee as part of the Filmmaker on the Edge Award — a duty he’s handled since the first PIFF in 1999 — Waters will also be present to offer up a newly restored print of “Multiple Maniacs,” which he describes as “training wheels for ‘Pink Flamingos.’” Directed in 1970 and featuring the late Divine as the owner of a homicidal carnival act called “The Cavalcade of Perversion,” the film originally played Province-town when Waters summered there, as he has for the last 50 years. “It played there before it had a distributor,” says Waters. “I worked at the [Provincetown] Bookshop, and the owner let me turn the display windows into advertisements for the film.”
Waters decided to revisit the film after appearing with the Baltimore Symphony for a production of “Hairspray,” the family-friendly musical based on his 1988 film.
“I was the onstage narrator, and I thought that the audience loved it for all the right reasons,” he says. “But what if they saw ‘Multiple Maniacs?’ They would be horrified!”
After working out some music rights and sound issues, Waters says that the film will enjoy a brief theatrical run following its debut at PIFF on June 17.
“We’re always looking for films that are edgy and [of] quality,” says White. “We want something crowd-pleasing to kick off the festival, that will engage the town, and ‘Captain Fantastic’ [June 15 and 19] sets the right tone. Closing night is something that people can build up towards, and ‘Strike a Pose’ [June 16 and 19] had the right flavor to end the festival — it’s touching and very interesting.”
Other films screening include Jonah Markowitz and Tracey Ware’s documentary “Political Animals,” the drama “Indignation,” which director James Schamus adapted from the Philip Roth novel, and Susanna White’s film version of John Le Carre’s “Our Kind of Traitor” with Ewan McGregor and Naomi Harris. Todd Solondz’s new comedy “Wiener-Dog” will also screen.