More than 100 films, 16 workshops, a keynote and two huge parties will illuminate the movie screens and lecture halls of downtown New Haven on Friday and Saturday, March 28 and 29. Six premiere blockbuster independent feature films and a block of premiere shorts will be featured Friday and Saturday evenings at The Co-Op Arts & Humanities High School, ACES Educational Center for the Arts High School and Gateway Community College.

Both nights will culminate with Premiere After Parties at 45 Church Street, a 1906 Bank Building reminiscent of Fort Knox, at the corner of Church and Crown Streets in the heart of downtown New Haven.

The inaugural annual film festival brings a diverse mix of films, some with sheer entertainment value, and also others with a broader reach, broaching some of today’s most sensitive topics. Problems with today’s educational systems, social justice and human rights, the environment and politics as usual are the tip of the iceberg. Sharing serious topics, narrative dramas or even comedy through the art of film and visual storytelling helps us look at the world through a different lens. The thought-provoking and progressive approach to even the most light-hearted subjects will inspire viewers for days, weeks or even years to come.

Friday afternoon, the festival leads off with politics in the poignant: “Fools On The Hill,” followed by “Brilliant Mistakes,” a drama directed and filmed in Litchfield County by Connecticut filmmaker Paul Brighton. A variety of shorts programs follow with the “Best of”: The L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival, The Viva Cinema Latino Film Festival, D.C. Shorts Film Festival and the Young Cuts.

Friday Night Film Premieres and Parties begin between 6:45 and 8:15. 

At 6:45, the very quirky and touching documentary film about Depeche Mode fans entitled “Our Hobby Is Depeche Mode,” makes its New Haven premiere, depicting a world where obsessed fans all over the globe create art, dress and live their lives by the words and interpretation of messages conveyed in the lyrics of every Depeche Mode song.

At 7, NHIFF features the New Haven premiere of the award-winning dramedy: “Theresa Is A Mother,”  about a single mother living in the Big Apple working by day and pursuing her punk/folk music career in seedy dives by night. Theresa and her young daughters are on their last dime, forced to move back in with her parents in upstate New York. Mom and Dad aren’t quite ready for this brood, as they have adopted a more swinging way of life since Theresa left home!

Also at 7, the festival premieres what many view as extremely controversial: the Northeast premiere of “Tales From The Organ Trade.” What would you do to save your own life? What would you do if you were impoverished with no way to improve the quality of life for your loved ones? Would you sell your kidney, a lung? Would you buy someone else’s after years of dialysis with only a short time left on this planet? Help discuss and try to answer these questions, which face many patients around the world. Join NHIFF when it screens “Tales From The Organ Trade” followed by what will prove to be a lively discussion after the film with Toronto-based HBO Director: Ric Esther-Bienstock. (Ric will also be sitting on an educational panel of investigative journalists at 11 Saturday morning) Bienstock traveled to seven counties over three years while writing and directing this very thought-provoking documentary.

At 8, Gateway Community College screenings will feature a block of Connecticut and New York shorts premieres. Directors, writers, producers and cast will be on hand for the meet and greet.

At 8:15, NHIFF is pleased to present our festival darling: “The Irish Pub.” The screening is sponsored by Dingle Distilleries. “The Irish Pub” is a delightful and heart-warming documentary about touring the pubs of Ireland’s cities, back roads and by-ways. Filled with tales of local characters and charm, music, history and everything pub, you walk away feeling great with an understanding of the glue that binds the communities, culture and life on the Emerald Isle. For those film viewers possessing an All Access Premiere Film & Party Pass, the night continues at 45 Church Street with the Premiere after-party compliments of Michael Bick’s “Some Things Fishy Catering,” Zevia Soda and Dingle Distilleries.

 

Saturday, 11 a.m., film industry school is in session and PSA Competitions begin when the doors open at Gateway Community College! FOXCT, WCCT and New Haven International Film Festival have joined together to support filmmakers competing in the NHIFF: Show Us Your Shorts PSA Competition. “Stop Domestic Violence” is the theme of the day. Filmmakers in several categories including: School Class Project, Student, College Student, Graduate Student, Novice and Professional will gather to compete for awards and the honor of airing their 30-Second “Stop Domestic Violence” PSA on FOXCT, WCCT, This TV and the Antenna TV Network. Regular rotation will begin in June and run through the summer.

Finalists and winners will play alongside the Connecticut Premiere of singer, songwriter and social and environmental activist Natalie Merchant’s new film: “Shelter.” Meanwhile, 16 workshops, panels, mentor sessions, keynote address and numerous films continue through 5:30. Instructors and panelists will gather to teach, inform, mentor and inspire students, novices and professionals who are seeking knowledge from industry insiders and working professionals. This is a great opportunity for all those in attendance to hone their skills and move their careers forward.

Filmmakers and other participants can attend mentoring sessions for one-on-one discussions with industry professionals, then attend a panel of veteran investigative journalist – documentary filmmakers. Later, attendees might cross the hall for some intensive social media training that really puts their digital media marketing tool kit in order then, attend a session on COOL LED theatrical lighting or a DSLR workshop, cross the hall again to sit-in on “The Art Of Cinematic Adaptation” with screenwriting coach Peter Fox. Finally, top off all 16 workshops and panels with keynote speaker Oscar-winning film producer, television and theater producer Michael Alden speaking just before the panel “Redefining Indie, What Does ‘Indie’ Look Like In This Big Budget Focused World”?

 

Before Saturday’s Premieres, take a chance and step into some shorts programs like “Texas Filmmakers Showcase” I & II and “Shorts From The 2014 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival,” maybe some suspense and intrigue with the drama mystery “Privacy” where a mobile app takes “big brother” just one step further in this Polanski-Hitchcock nail biter.

Follow famous Connecticut sculptor James Grashow as he works for three years to build a giant cardboard fountain inspired by the work of the famous baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini in “The Cardboard Bernini.” Or see how a community pulled together in civic engagement to boot a German American Bund camp out of their town in “Home Of The Brave: When Southbury (CT) Said No To The Nazis.”

The “Children At Risk” series explores issues with mental health, learning disabilities and shortcomings in today’s educational systems with the films “Creativity & Education” and “The Creativity Crisis” panel, discussing how standardized testing has become more important than developing creativity, “Hear Our Voices” which tells the inspiring stories of nine children and young adults who are fighting to overcome their mental health issues and then, “Who Cares About Kelsey” which follows one student from high school into adulthood as she deals with severe ADHD leading her to homelessness and drug abuse before new programs intervene on her behalf.

 

Saturday night, the festival goes into overdrive with three premieres!

At 5, Connecticut musician, composer, marimbist, vibraphonist, and film director Arthur Lipner and co-director Marcelo Pontes take you on a four-year journey to Mexico, South and Central America, Africa and Europe in an exploration of music and communication through percussion and mallet instruments in the world premiere of the documentary film “Talking Sticks.”

At 7, don’t miss the Northeast Premiere of “Winter In The Blood.” based on one of five novels written by Native American novelist and journalist James Welch. Brother co-directors Andrew and Alex Smith bring a poignant look at the life of a 34-year-old Blackfeet tribe Native American living on a 1960s reservation in Montana. Virgil (played by Chaske Spencer -Twilight Saga Series) lives a difficult life in the hard-scrabble plains of Montana. He grapples with his identity among local whites, the loss of his father, and avoids dealing with much of his past, especially the loss of his older brother in a ranching accident at age 14. As he searches for his wife who has left him and stolen an air loom that connects him with his past, he desperately tries to ease his pain. Virgil can’t separate reality from illusions when he tries to find solace in the bottle and his sexual encounters while on a journey to clear his head and deal with his past.

At 9:30, the festival screenings wrap up with the Connecticut Premiere of Connecticut filmmaker A.D. Calvo’s “House of Dust.” Calvo’s psycho-thriller takes you to the real horrors that occurred 60 years ago in the Redding House Asylum, where all evidence of wrongdoings were incinerated in its crematorium. But when a group of medical students break into the shuttered hospital, they literally stir up the ashes of the damned.

Then, it’s Saturday Night Party Time! After a jam packed weekend of films and educational events, the inaugural 2014 New Haven International Film Festival wraps up with its signature Premiere After Party at the Old Bank Building at 45 Church Street. A great evening is in store with the Brazilian Jazz ensemble Sambaleza and wonderful passed bites and elixirs compliments of  Some Things Fishy Catering, Zevia Soda and Dingle Distilleries.

The New Haven International Film Festival was launched with a grant from the State of Connecticut Department of Community and Economic Development. This has enabled the festival to make the cost of attending accessible to everyone. Discount All Access Day Passes begin at $15 per day for a films and workshops only and $25 for the All Access Day & Evening Premiere Film & Party Passes. Student and Organization discounted passes are available for groups of 20 or more passes. Passes and tickets to shows may be available at the door to some events 30 minutes before show time.

The complete schedule and links for online ticket purchases can be found at www.newhavenfilmfestival.com.