Dream Scenario
Nicolas Cage in Kristoffer Borgli’s “Dream Scenario”

The 12th Annual Montclair Film Festival, taking place October 20-29, in Montclair, NJ kicks off on Friday, October 20 at The Wellmont Theater with Dream Scenario, written and directed by Kristoffer Borgli. In Dream Scenario, Nicolas Cage stars as Paul Matthews, a listless family man and tenured professor with an affinity for evolutionary biology and anxiety regarding his own anonymity. One day, he discovers he has begun to appear in other people’s dreams and he becomes an overnight celebrity, showered with the attention he has long been denied. But when Paul encounters a dreamer whose visions of him differ substantially from the norm, he finds himself grappling with the Faustian bargain of fame. DREAM SCENARIO is an inventive comedy, filled with unpredictable twists and turns, driven by outstanding performances (including a performance by Nicolas Cage that ranks among his career best) and visionary insight into the unsettling power of contemporary celebrity.

On Sunday, October 22, Roger Ross Williams’ Stamped From the Beginning screens as the festival’s 2023 Documentary Centerpiece and Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers screens as the festival’s 2023 Fiction Centerpiece.

Oscar-winning director Roger Ross Williams brings Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s New York Times bestseller to the screen with Stamped From the Beginning. Published in 2016, Dr. Kendi’s National Book Award winner chronicles the entire story of anti-Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. Williams’ documentary adaptation uses vivid animations that illuminate figures and moments both well-known and obscure, both historical and contemporary. Leading Black women academics and activists such as Dr. Angela Davis, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, Brittany Packnett Cunningham, Dr. Jennifer L. Morgan, and Dr. Kendi guide viewers through a searing account of how racist tropes and imagery were developed and enshrined in American culture.

From acclaimed director Alexander Payne, The Holdovers follows a curmudgeonly instructor (Paul Giamatti) at a New England prep school who is forced to remain on campus during Christmas break to babysit the handful of students with nowhere to go. Eventually he forms an unlikely bond with one of them — a damaged, brainy troublemaker (newcomer Dominic Sessa) — and with the school’s head cook, who has just lost a son in Vietnam (Da’Vine Joy Randolph). Featuring brilliant performances, The Holdovers is a comedy that is destined to become a holiday classic, a film that warmly recalls sensibilities of the cinema of the 1970’s while retaining a delightful feeling of contemporary resonance.

On Saturday, October 28, Pablo Berger’s Robot Dreams screens as the festival Family Centerpiece. Based on the popular graphic novel by the North American writer Sara Varon, Robot Dreams tells the story of the adventures and misfortunes of Dog and Robot. Dog lives in Manhattan and he’s tired of being alone, so one day he decides to build himself a robot, a companion. Their friendship blossoms, and they become inseparable. One summer night, Dog, with great sadness, is forced to abandon Robot at the beach. As time passes and life continues to develop in unexpected ways, their paths through the world diverge. But can fate bring Dog and Robot back together again? Set to the musical sounds of the early 1980’s and filled with charm, Robot Dreams is a movie for all ages that is guaranteed to pull at your heartstrings.

On Sunday, October 29 at 7:30 PM at The Montclair Kimberley Academy Upper School, William Oldroyd’s Eileen screens as the festival’s 2023 Closing Night Film. Based on the book of the same name by bestselling author, Ottessa Moshfegh and set during a bitter 1964 Massachusetts winter, Eileen is the story of a young secretary named Eileen (Thomasin McKenzie) who becomes enchanted by Rebecca (Anne Hathaway), the glamorous new counselor at the prison where she works. Their budding friendship takes a twisted turn when Rebecca reveals a dark secret — throwing Eileen onto a sinister path. Filmed right here in New Jersey, William Oldroyd’s Eileen is a neo-noir that upends audience expectations with each new twist and turn, leading to jaw-dropping revelations and an unforgettable finale. The Montclair Film Festival is proud to present William Oldroyd’s Eileen as our 2023 Closing Night Film.

This year, the Montclair Film Festival continues its tradition of honoring artists with director Matthew Heineman honored with the festival’s 2023 Documentary Filmmaker Award after a screening of his new film American Symphony. In his new film American Symphony, Academy Award-nominated director Matthew Heineman (Cartel Land, The First Wave, Retrograde) turns his camera away from the global conflicts that have defined his award-winning career and toward something altogether different. What begins as a portrait of the composer and musician Jon Batiste’s attempt to realize his vision for a symphonic composition is transformed by the harrowing realities of life when celebrated author Suleika Jaouad, who is married to Batiste, receives a diagnosis that her cancer has returned. Filled with life, tenderness, and beautiful music, American Symphony is a creative triumph of collaboration and an intimate portrait of artistic perseverance through the power of love.

Director Todd Haynes will be honored with the festival’s 2023 Director Award after a screening of his new film May December. Gracie (Julianne Moore) and her husband Joe (Charles Melton) prepare for the arrival of Elizabeth (Natalie Portman), an actress preparing to play Gracie in a movie about her life and relationship with Joe. But as Elizabeth begins to explore Gracie’s character, her process becomes intertwined with Gracie and Joe’s lives, eliminating the ethical boundaries we construct between artifice and reality. Todd Haynes’ May December fits brilliantly within the director’s ongoing exploration of the lives of women as they crash against social boundaries and expectations.

Writer/director Raven Jackson will be honored with the festival’s 2023 Breakthrough Writer Director Award after a screening of her new film All Dirt Roads Taste Of Salt. A lyrical, decades-spanning exploration across a woman’s life in rural Mississippi, the feature debut from award-winning poet, photographer and filmmaker Raven Jackson is a haunting and richly layered portrait, a beautiful ode to the generations of people and places that shape us. All Dirt Roads Taste Of Salt is a unique, visionary film, one that draws on the history of cinema and Jackson’s artistry to create an unforgettable sensory experience for audiences. The Montclair Film Festival is proud to award Raven Jackson, Director of All Dirt Roads Taste Of Salt, our 2023 Breakthrough Director Award.

Past winners of the festival’s Breakthrough Director Award include Lee Isaac Chung (Minari), Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Lost Daughter), and Elegance Bratton (The Inspection).

On Sunday, October 22 at 2:30 PM at The Clairidge, directors Heather Courtney, Princess A. Hairston, and Chelsea Hernandez will be honored with the festival 2023 David Carr Award for Truth in Filmmaking for their new film Breaking The News. Frustrated by the dearth of women and people of color in the media, Emily Ramshaw wanted to do something radical about the white men dominating newsrooms. So, in 2020, she and a motivated group of women and LGBTQ+ journalists banded together to buck the status quo and launch The 19th, a digital news start-up based in Austin, Texas. Named after the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote, but with an asterisk to acknowledge the Black women and women of color who were omitted, The 19th’s work is guided by the asterisk—asking who is overlooked in the story and how they can be included. With reporters spread across the country, they cover national news on politics and policy from the lens of marginalized communities historically ignored by legacy newsrooms. Breaking The News documents the honest discussions at The 19th* around race and gender equity, revealing that change doesn’t come easy, and showcases how one newsroom confronts these challenges both as a workplace and in their journalism. But this film is about more than a newsroom. It’s about America in flux, and the voices that are often left out of the American story.

Each year, the Montclair Film Festival honors the legacy of New York Times reporter and longtime Montclair resident David Carr by presenting an award to an outstanding film that honors Mr. Carr’s passion for the truth and his commitment to great journalism. This year, the 2023 David Carr Award for Truth in Filmmaking is awarded to Breaking The News directed by Heather Courtney, Princess A. Hairston, and Chelsea Hernandez and produced by Diane Quon. The festival gives this award to acknowledge the film’s focus not only on news gathering and the process of creating meaningful journalism in world filled with disinformation, but for its own commitment to a rigorous institutional examination of equity and inclusion at The 19th*.

On Sunday, October 29 at 3:45 PM at The Montclair Kimberley Academy Upper School, Christian Friedel will be honored with the festival’s 2023 Breakthrough Performer Award after a screening of the new film The Zone of Interest, in which he stars. The Zone of Interest, loosely adapted from Martin Amis’ novel of the same name, is the story of Rudolph Höss (The Montclair Film Festival’s 2023 Breakthrough Performer Christian Friedel), the commandant of Auschwitz, and his wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller) as they look to build a happy life for their family next door to the camp. As the terrible reality of the Holocaust unfolds just beyond the frame, director Jonathan Glazer uses sound design and the meticulously depicted details of daily life to create a sense of ever-present dread. An unwavering examination of complicity and denial, Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest is a story of the past that continues to resonate in today’s world.

Past winners of the festival’s Breakthrough Performer Award include Jessie Buckely (Wild Rose), and Kingsley Ben-Adir (One Night In Miami…).

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