By SACHI FUJIMORI STAFF WRITER
You know you've done something right when Michael Moore calls asking to be invited back to your film festival.
Thom Powers, co-director of the Montclair Film Festival, got such a call earlier this year as he was planning the lineup for the community's second annual film festival, which starts on Monday. "I'd done a lot of things with him in the past. I go out to his Traverse City Film Festival, and he said, 'I'd like to return the favor. What can I do for you?' "
For this year's event, which has almost doubled its lineup from 45 to 80 films, Moore will be interviewing a panel of documentary directors, whose work is featured in the festival. If Moore's sold- out talk from last year is any indicator of how things will go, the activist director will be dishing out zingers, jokes and political asides.
Since so many screenings had sold out in advance last year, Powers decided he needed to go bigger this time. "It's a good problem to have," said Powers, a Montclair resident who co-directs the festival with his wife, Raphaela Neihausen. "We want to serve more people."
As most film festivals tend to be a curio cabinet of ideas and stories, Montclair's program this year includes a mix of documentaries, dramas and comedies covering a sweeping range of topics from U.S. military drone attacks to a profile of Chicago pimp and author Iceberg Slim.
Work by New Jersey filmmakers and about the Garden State get special attention. The documentary "Shored Up," filmed in Long Beach Island and the Outer Banks of North Carolina over three years, calls to attention the problem of rising sea levels and includes the impact of superstorm Sandy. "It speaks directly to the experiences of people in New Jersey," said Powers.
Another documentary, "Best Kept Secret," is an inspiring portrait of a Montclair resident who teaches autistic teens in Newark. Former Gov. Jim McGreevey is the focus of "Fall to Grace," a documentary about how he came to work with ex-convicts and recovering addicts in the Integrity House Program at the Hudson County Correctional Center. The film's director, Alexandra Pelosi, will be speaking after the screening.
"Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp" looks into the legend of the reformed Chicago pimp turned urban author, who's been inspirational to many hip-hop artists as well as comedian Chris Rock. Newark native Ice-T, a producer of the film, will appear for a conversation on Sunday at noon. The rapper, turned actor and mystery-novel writer, will talk about his multiple creative outlets.
Events for kids include a screening of "Cinderella" (at which kids are encouraged to dress up as their favorite princess), the winners of a film contest for New Jersey kids grades 4-12 and a restoration of the 1924 silent film "The Thief of Baghdad."
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