For the past five years, the folks running the Independent Film Festival Boston have been quietly programming some of the very best cinematic slates you’ll see anywhere before they open to the rest of the world – and that includes Toronto, New York, Austin and Park City. IFFB Fall Focus programming has brought in such Oscar timber as “Moonlight,” “Roma,” “Lady Bird,” “Cold War,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and more. This year’s program, a tightly packed rabbit-punch running Nov. 1-3 at The Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square, promises more of the same. If you need further evidence, IFFB just hosted screenings of arthouse hits “Parasite” and “The Lighthouse” at the Brattle. Given the screenings were free, the IFFB’s commitment to year-round programming for filmgoers couldn’t be any more genuine.

The opener of this year’s mini-fest is Noah Baumbach’s highly anticipated “Marriage Story,” which chronicles the disintegrating marriage of a theater director as he bounces from coast to coast, with the effects seeping into his creative work. The powerhouse cast includes Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta. Another impressive cast on the card is “The Truth” (Saturday) from Hirokazu Koreeda (“Shoplifters,” which played the 2018 Fall Focus) featuring the delectable pairing of French thespian goddesses Catherine Deneuve and Juliet Binoche as an aging actress and her screenwriting daughter. Ethan Hawke joins the mix as Binoche’s actor husband.

Bending reality is “Honey Boy” (Saturday) based on a roughly biographical screenplay by Shia LaBeouf. The tale of a young actor’s stormy childhood and early adult years stars Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges, with LaBeouf as an incarnation of his own father. On the documentary side comes “The Kingmaker” (Sunday) from director Lauren Greenfield (“The Queen of Versailles”). Since it’s about Imelda Marcos, shoes likely factor in.

Also on the program bill is “Clemency” (Sunday) starring Alfre Woodard as a prison warden struggling with the ethics of death row executions, and “Waves” (Saturday) from Trey Edward Shults (“It Comes at Night” and “Krisha”) about the trials of an African American family living in South Florida that puts matters of race and family bonds under the microscope. The other quiet jewel of Fall Focus, a closing film that generated major buzz on the festival circuit, is Céline Sciamma’s intimate period piece, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” staring Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel as a painter and a reluctant bride. The former’s commissioned to paint the latter, and during their sitting sessions perspectives and relations begin to shift as color is applied.

IFFB Fall Focus looks to be another winning lineup where you can see it first – and get a pretty solid Oscar buzz along the way. Tickets, times and information is on the Brattle website.


Tom Meek is a writer living in Cambridge. His reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in the WBUR ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper and SLAB literary journal. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.