The Independent Film Festival of Boston had a great program this year, and it was a privilege and a lot of fun getting to compose for this year’s screening opener (above). Filmmaker Larry Anderson and sound designer Mark Wong also did a great job on this one, as usual!

Of the many standout films I saw, here are four favorites – two documentaries and two narrative films – in no particular order. I believe all of them will be getting some kind of release or broadcast distribution, so keep your eyes out for them.

Eighth Grade

Director/Writer Bo Burnham

Eighth Grade captures timeless and contemporary truths about junior high life that, judging by my own reaction to the film, are relevant at any age. The film’s age-accurate star Elsie Fischer, working from a script even when seemingly improvising video-advice columns, has been acting since she was five-years old, though she has none of that stage-parent-raised intensity usually present in a life-long child performer. One of the best performances I’ve seen by an actor her age. Check out Bo and Elsie’s fun Q&A here.

Crime and Punishment

Director Stephen Maing

Maybe the most clearcut expos√© on systemic racism I’ve seen, as instituted through the NYPD’s quota policy. Want to understand how scenarios like Eric Garner’s can occur? This is how. Maing had incredible access to the New York 12, police officers currently involved in a lawsuit against NYC. This includes tape recordings and videos of discussions between the officers and their colleagues and superiors. The screening was followed by a powerful Q&A with the filmmaker and many of the subjects.

The World Before Your Feet

Director Jeremy Workman

I’d call this film a love letter to New York City, but that would sell it short. It’s also about living in the present, and the choices we make while trying to live a life that has meaning for ourselves. It’s an impressive piece of filmmaking as Workman has managed to cut together 500 hours of footage taken during subject Matt Green’s 8000+ mile (and counting) walk across all of the streets and public spaces of New York’s five boroughs into a captivating and meaningful essay. And if you are or were a New Yorker, you’ll appreciate it even more.

First Reformed

Director/Writer Paul Schrader

Schrader hints at several greats in his latest film, including The Night of the Hunter, Ida and Tarkovsky, not to mention his own Taxi Driver and The Last Temptation of Christ. Reserved performances, delayed cuts and minimal camera movement engulf the audience in a methodical thriller about a preacher pondering his painful past and a hopeless future while preparing his small, upstate New York church for its 250th anniversary. Check out Schrader’s enlightening post-screening Q&A.

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