Boston boasts ‘Stars,’ Redgrave and Branagh

“The Stars Fell on Henrietta,” “Drunks” and “Open Season” kicked off this year’s Boston Film Festival on Sept. 8, the 11th stanza of the event. Among the opening night attendees were Peter Cohn, director of “Drunks,” along with cast members Dianne Wiest, Howard Rollins and Christopher Lawford, and Robert Wuhl, director and star of “Open Season.” Fest runs through Sept. 21.

Kenneth Branagh and Vanessa Redgrave will be picking up awards during the fest, with both receiving the Film Excellence Award and screening their latest works, Branagh’s “In the Bleak Midwinter” in its U.S. premiere, and Redgrave in John Irvin’s “A Month by the Lake.” Director Mark Rappoport will accept the Boston Independent Filmmaker Award, and bring along his latest, “From the Journals of Jean Seberg.” A retro of his films will be available in a fest sidebar.

Several U.S. and world premieres are on tap including “The Grass Harp,” which is bowing simultaneously at Toronto and mock documentary “Dadetown.” Star Andie MacDowell and writer Richard LaGravenese will also be in attendance for “Unstrung Heros,” which bowed earlier this year at Cannes.

Several new sponsors have come on board, including cable’s Independent Film Channel and West Coast Video.

Co-directors Susan Fraine and Mark Diamond have successfully transformed the Boston fest from one run by a single exhibitor (Loews/Sony) to total independence. Diamond, who selects the films, notes “any festival is only as good as the films that are out there at a given time” but that coming in the midst of the fall festival season, Boston is often able to do U.S. preems of films that bow at Toronto, catching them before they hit U.S. festivals on the fall circuit.

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