Closed since the Covid lockdown in March 2020, the Waters Edge Cinema in Provincetown is finally reopening. The reason: the 2021 Provincetown International Film Festival (PIFF), which will be running for a record 10 days, from Wednesday, June 16 through Friday, June 25.
Last year, the festival was virtual, with a limited selection of films. Not so in 2021 — PIFF is going “hybrid.”
“We’re really trying to produce two festivals in one,” artistic director Lisa Viola says. “We have a full slate of features and shorts that will be available virtually. In addition to that, a portion of the festival will be live and in person. There are a lot of moving parts.”
There will be a few limited-access parties and outdoor screenings, as well as limited-seating indoor screenings at Waters Edge Cinema.
“It’s exciting,” Viola says. “If you can’t come to Provincetown, you can participate virtually, and if you can, you can enjoy a modified experience on the ground.”
The full lineup of titles, as well as two of the honorees, were announced last week. Richard Linklater, the Austin, Texas virtuoso behind such indie classics as Slacker, Dazed and Confused, Waking Life, School of Rock, the Before Sunrise-Sunset-Midnight trilogy, and the epic Boyhood, has been dubbed Filmmaker on the Edge 2021 and will be interviewed virtually by festival stalwart John Waters.
The Next Wave Award, given to emerging talent, will go to Natalie Morales, an actor who is bringing her directorial debut, Language Lessons, to the festival.
The Excellence in Acting Award has not yet been announced.
The opening night presentation (on Wednesday, June 16) will be In the Heights, the pre-Hamilton Lin-Manuel Miranda Broadway musical set on the streets of the largely Hispanic Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights. It’s directed by Jon M. Chu, and will be screened live at the Wellfleet Drive-In. (It would have been a premiere, but distributor Warner Bros. moved up the film’s release to June 11 at the last minute.)
The closing night presentation will be Being BeBe, a documentary about the drag queen BeBe Zahara Benet, who hails from the homophobic African nation of Cameroon and won the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Viola is particularly excited about another documentary, Playing With Sharks, featuring scuba diver Valerie Taylor. “She’s a really big advocate for preserving sharks,” Viola says. “It’s a wonderful film. As soon as I saw it, I knew it had to play on Cape Cod. Sharks in their natural habitat are beautiful creatures with no interest in bothering humans.”
Viola also recommends Storm Lake, “about independent journalism — a newspaper out of Iowa, an editor trying to save his local paper. It’s a really great story.”
There are documentary portraits of architect Marcel Breuer, choreographer Alvin Ailey, Latina star Rita Moreno, non-binary Black activist Pauli Murray, gay philanthropist Ric Weiland, and ’70s graffiti artist Kenny Scharf, among others.
Of the 20 narrative features being offered, Viola cites CODA, the multi-award-winner from Sundance, about a child of deaf adults (the acronym of the title) who struggles to pursue her own career in music. “That’s a Massachusetts story,” she says.
Red River Road is a paranoid thriller “that was shot on a shoestring budget in Harwich during the pandemic,” Viola says. “It shows what happens when a family is isolated and there’s a nefarious outside force going on.”
Mogul Mowgli, a semi-autobiographical account of a Pakistani-British rapper that’s co-written by star Riz Ahmed, “is fabulous,” Viola says. “It’s not too dissimilar from Sound of Metal,” for which Ahmed was Oscar-nominated.
Viola also notes two other international features, Luzzu, from Malta, about black-market fishing, and Sublet, from Israeli master Eytan Fox. In the latter film, John Benjamin Hickey plays a New York Times writer who finds solace with a young Israeli man after a personal tragedy.
Among the local shorts at the festival are Jay Critchley’s Provincetown 2020 — 36 Solar Lights and Fermin Rojas’s documentary King Philip’s Belt.
See the full lineup at provincetownfilm.org/festival/coming-soon/. Passes to the festival are now on sale, and passholders will be able to buy tickets to individual screenings as of 10 a.m. on Monday, May 17. Sales open to the general public on June 1.