As April draws to a close each year, I look forward to the exit of snow, the entrance of beach days and most importantly, the Independent Film Festival Boston. Like many a film fan, I would look longingly at the major film festival lineups, yearning for the cold establishment of Sundance, the searing hot mayhem of SXSW, the friendly Canadian discovery of TIFF, and the art-house bravado of Cannes. I quietly hoped for the chance to be a part of the conversation. So it is with all the awkward excitement of a pimply teenager that I claim IFFBoston as my first. This year marked my fifth year of attendance at the festival and it was certainly unique.
My experiences at IFFBoston have taught me that arriving early is no mere suggestion, it is a requirement. For as a ticket holder you are the second to last to enter the theater. You must wait in a line as your hopes for a great seat are thwarted by shouts for the pass holders to step forward and enter first. You are forced to stay optimistic that that golden seat will remain waiting for you. It is an odd combination of worry and excitement. Each theater offers varying seating capacities, but in all my visits I have found that the arrival sweet spot is a healthy hour before the film’s scheduled start time. Leave it to the Whedonites to demolish this notion.
The first film I attended this year was Joss Whedon’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing”. The film had a cast that would make any Whedon fan giddy. As I arrived, I was slapped with the realization that this wasn’t to be your typical IFFBoston screening. I stepped up to get my tickets and overheard a festival organizer shouting in the distance, “Much Ado line is back here”. I looked over my shoulder to witness the longest line in all my years of attendance, coming in at just about three blocks in length, and we still had an hour to go. The line continued to grow, to the point that it extended farther than my eye could see, encroaching on a nearby neighborhood.
IFFBoston lines are typically littered with a discussion of films seen previously at the festival, arguments, and worried deliberation on the location of a next meal. Now as my eyes lighted upon “Avengers” and “Firefly” shirts, all I could hear was repetition of the word Whedon and deep discussions over how the last couple seasons of “Angel” were disappointing, oh, and worried deliberation on the location of a next meal. An idea of the atmosphere can be perfectly summed up in the impressively accurate Kaylee costume donned by one of the attendees…IFFBoston was now part of the Whedonverse.
It is important to note that while “Much Ado About Nothing” is not a Whedon original; the film certainly had his fingerprints all over it. The cast list alone will make a fan of any of Whedon’s previous projects giddy. But I sat with trepidation, thinking that the invasion of the Whedonites would sully my experience at IFFBoston. I then realized my mistake. This is exactly why I come to IFFBoston. Seeing a film at this festival is a completely different experience than that of visiting your local AMC. You are surrounded by people that appreciate film. These people are here to fully devour what’s on the screen. No phones will ring; hell, no phones will even be removed from pockets. THIS is the best audience with which to see “Much Ado About Nothing”.
The rest of the festival continued without incident. At the end of the week long affair, I had seen three great films. I shrieked like a little girl when Fran Kranz and Jillian Morgese came out to introduce “Much Ado” and similarly cheered as Nathan Fillion, easily the best part of the film, first popped on that screen. I, along with the rest of the audience, could do little more than hold my breath during an especially gripping scene from “The East”; then I nervously walked by the Fox Searchlight representative who was brought in to conduct a “pirate watch”. When closing night came, we all laughed throughout the entirety of Lake Bell’s film “In a World…” and the Q&A that followed, and I geeked out as I walked by Bobcat Goldthwait after a trip to the bathroom.
“Much Ado” ended up walking away with the Audience Award. While this should surprise no one who bore witness to the mammoth line and felt the vibrations of excitement during the screening, I was slightly disappointed. It seemed like an odd moment in the fest, when a fandom briefly took over, and gave an award based purely on its creator. But I suppose this celebration by the fans is what makes the fest so enjoyable. You may never speak to anyone in the audience but deep down you know that you all share this love of film. Whenever someone asks me about IFFBoston I tell them that it is the best way to see a movie and 2013 was no different. I will always remember it as the year that Whedon took over, but that ain’t half bad.