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Boston fest opens parties to public

From left: Kevin Bacon, Marcia Gay Harden, and Miles Heizer star in 'Rails & Ties,' an Alison Eastwood film that will screen at the Boston Film Festival. From left: Kevin Bacon, Marcia Gay Harden, and Miles Heizer star in "Rails & Ties," an Alison Eastwood film that will screen at the Boston Film Festival. (Tony Rivetti Jr.)

The Boston Film Festival is back Friday for an eight-day run, and as in recent years it's punctuated by movies that are scheduled for theatrical release later this year, including "Rails & Ties," about two families who become united by a train crash, starring Kevin Bacon and Marcia Gay Harden and directed by actress Alison Eastwood; and "Trade," director Marco Kreuzpaintner's rough story of a young Mexico City teen kidnapped into the sex trade, with Kevin Kline as a Texas law officer who helps to try to track her down.

Other movies include "Million Calorie March," about Medford resident Gary Marino's walk from Florida to Boston to talk about childhood obesity and how he dropped 150 pounds; and "Numb," with Matthew Perry as a depressive comedy writer aching to lose his bad habits.

Perry, Eastwood, and Kreuzpaintner are among the actors and filmmakers planning to attend, according to festival executive director Robin Dawson. Also coming to Boston, she says, are Danny Aiello and Lesley Ann Warren, with their funeral home caper "Stiffs," and Daryl Hannah and Jonathan Scarfe, with "The Poet," a World War II romance.

Last year's festival was hampered by nearly zero marketing and sluggish turnout. Afterward, festival creative director John Michael Williams said lack of funds hampered getting information about the films onto the festival website, distributing posters, or having stars flown in. Both Williams and Dawson said at the time that there would be better advertising and more events for the general public in 2007.

Twelve months later, a few things have changed. The public is now invited to the filmmaker receptions and parties, although at a steep price: Limited individual tickets are available for $150 for each reception, and $250 for opening and closing night parties, and a tribute dinner for producer Jerry Weintraub ("Ocean's Thirteen") being held at the InterContinental Hotel's Rose Kennedy Ballroom. Dawson says that Todd English and his downtown restaurant Bonfire will host a party next Sunday to celebrate Eastwood's film.

Marketing, though, is still on the slender side; eight nine days before opening night, the festival's website had yet to list a single movie on the program or the venues for the parties, and the schedule was still TBA.

Still, the website is the only place to look for up-to-date information: Check bostonfilmfestival.org. All films will be shown at the AMC Loews Boston Common.

Meanwhile, out on the Vineyard, the second Martha's Vineyard International Film Festival kicks off Thursday with "Owl and the Sparrow," a Saigon-set film about a young girl who works in a factory. Writer/director Stephane Gauger will be the evening's special guest.

The Vineyard festival brings together films that have debuted to good notices at the Sundance, Berlin, and Cannes fests, and is presenting director Sean Penn's "Into the Wild," based on Jon Krakauer's book, on Friday. The four-day program kicks off with sunset cocktails on the roof of the Mansion House, in Vineyard Haven. Also on tap are Lars von Trier's "The Boss of It All" and the Japanese comedy "Hula Girls," positioned as "The Full Monty" in grass skirts and Japan's 2006 entry in the Academy Awards best foreign-language category. Complete details on films, special events, and ticket options are at mvfilmfest.com, or call 774-392-2972.

That's just this week, though. Here's a look at some of the other festivals on the fall horizon in and around Boston:

Telluride By The Sea, Sept. 21-23, at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, N.H. This festival is short and sweet: six films only, all of which debuted at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado. This year's lineup includes: Marjane Satrapi's "Persepolis," her animated story of growing up in Iran under the Ayatollah Khomeini; Todd Haynes's portrait of Bob Dylan, "I'm Not There," featuring a wild turn by Cate Blanchett as early Dylan and Christian Bale as born-again Dylan; and Penn's "Into the Wild" (603-436-2400 and the musichall.org).

Boston Palestine Film Festival, Sept. 25-Oct. 7, planned for venues throughout Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville. This will be the debut year for the fest, which is being organized by Tawassul, a Cambridge-based arts organization. There have been fund-raising programs and film previews since the spring to get the project off the ground (bostonpalestinefilmfest.org).

Newburyport Documentary Film Festival, Sept. 28-30, at downtown venues. Now in its fourth year, this three-day celebration of documentary work has 17 movies on its schedule, including Keith McDaniel's "The Clinton 12," about the 12 black teenagers who attended a white school in Clinton, Tenn., in 1956, and the violence that was directed at them; Ryan Foss's "Bill's Big Pumpkins," about one man's quest to grow the biggest pumpkin in Minnesota; and David Tames's "Smile Boston Project," about artist Bren Bataclan, who spent years leaving paintings throughout Boston with notes on them that said, "This painting is yours to keep if you promise to smile at random people more often" (northernlights filmfestival.com). New England Film and Video Festival, Oct. 4-8, at the Coolidge Corner Theatre. The NEFVF has been in business since 1976, focusing on indie film and video and helping locals network, with awards in categories that include best narrative student short, best independent music video, and best independent experimental film (nefvf.com).

The New Hampshire Film Expo, Oct. 11-14, at a variety of venues in Portsmouth, N.H. The four-day program features workshops, a trade show, films, and juried awards, and drew 3,000 people last year, according to organizers (603-647-6439 and nhfx.com).

The Boston Latino International Film Festival, Oct. 12-21, at the Harvard Film Archive (opening weekend), the Museum of Fine Arts, Coolidge Corner Theatre, and Boston University. Details should be posted online by early October, according to organizers (bliff.org).

Boston Jewish Film Festival, Nov. 1-11, at more than a half dozen venues throughout the Boston area. This year's focus is on Israeli film, with the festival noting that in the past year Israeli films have won awards at the Berlin, Cannes, Sundance, and Tribeca festivals. Among the winners coming to Boston are Shemi Zarhin's "Aviva My Love," the opening night feature; Eyal Halfon's "What a Wonderful Place"; Dror Shaul's "Sweet Mud"; and Joseph Cedar's "Beaufort." A panel discussion will bring together a number of visiting directors. The BJFF will also offer a sneak preview of festival founder Michal Goldman's "At Home in Utopia," a profile of a Bronx cooperative housing complex, and Rachel Talbot's "Making Trouble," a portrait of six Jewish women comedians, including Joan Rivers and Gilda Radner. That film was produced by the Brookline-based Jewish Women's Archive (617-244-9899 and bjff.org).

Magners Irish Film Festival, Nov. 8-11, which opens at the Brattle Theatre, with subsequent screenings at the Harvard Film Archive. This year's Excellence Award honoree is Aidan Quinn, who will be present for a special ceremony and career retrospective, according to festival director Peter Flynn. Full festival details will be online in early October (irishfilmfestival.com).

SCREENINGS OF NOTE: Sunday night at 7, the second annual Films at the Gate series wraps up with an outdoor screening of the kung fu/pirate film "Project A," starring Jackie Chan. Presented by the Asian Community Development Corporation, the program takes place in Chinatown in a vacant lot on Hudson Street near Kneeland Street, just south of the Chinatown Gate (filmsatthe gate.org).

"Citizen Kane" plays tomorrow at 7 p.m. on the big screen at the Coolidge Corner Theatre; starting Friday, in the Coolidge's screening room, is "I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With," written and directed by and starring Jeff Garlin ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") about a man looking for love and an object for his affection, who turns out to be Sarah Silverman (617-734-2500 and coolidge.org). And "Carry It On," a 1970 documentary about Joan Baez's protest tour the previous year, when her husband was in prison for avoiding the draft, is at the Museum of Fine Arts Friday at 6 p.m. Christopher Knight, one of the filmmakers, will be at the show for a post-screening QA.

Leslie Brokaw can be reached at lbrokaw@globe.com.

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