Learning to accept the differences in everyone’s lives is one of the most essential lessons that people of all ages need to continuously be reminded of in their experiences. So the 2016 Boston Film Festival (BFF), which is celebrating its 32nd edition this year, is emphasizing tolerance and youthful perspectives with its diverse lineup. Many of the movies address themes of acceptance, tolerance and bullying, which are timely and urgent concerns in contemporary society.

Question and answer sessions will take place following film screenings with directors and actors. Among the stars scheduled to appear are William Fichtner, Dylan Gelula, Bill Sage, Sean Patrick Flanery, Christina Scherer, Kevin Bigley, Ali Afshar, George Kosturos, former Governor Michael Dukakis, World Welterweight Champion Tony DeMarco and Tony Vaccaro.

BFF will also host parties, will be listed on its official website, and announced via social media, including Facebook, where the public can purchase tickets. The festival is scheduled to run between Thursday, September 22 and Sunday, September 25.

Among this year’s BFF sponsors are Union Point, A&E, NBCUniversal, the Revere Hotel, the Hollywood Reporter and the Boston Globe. The local venues of the will showcase this year’s festival films include the AMC Boston Common, Theatre One at the Revere Hotel, the Boston Public Library and the Patriot Cinema in Hingham, Massachusetts.

Among the feature movie highlights is the closing night film, ‘American Wrestler: The Wizard,’ which was directed by Alex Ranarivelo. The true story begins in Iran in 1980, and follows a teenaged boy who escapes the unrest in his country by coming to America, where he encounters more hostility due to the ongoing Iranian hostage crisis. Determined to fit in, he joins the school’s weak wrestling team and fights to master the sport and identify as a real American, and finds the inner strength to become his own champion. Fichtner, Jon Voight, Kevin G. Schmidt, Lia Marie and Gabriel Basso are among the stars. Newton native and producer Haleel Reda will be attending the screening.

Another feature gaining critical acclaim that’s scheduled to play during BFF is ‘The First Girl I Loved.’ The movie centers on 17-year-old Anne, who falls in love with Sasha, the most popular girl at her Los Angeles high school. But when Anne confides in her best friend Clifton, who harbors a secret crush on her, he does his best to get in the way. The film stars Gelula, Brianna Hildebrand and Pamela Adlon, and was directed by Kerem Sanga.

Featured in the Center Piece spotlight is ‘Delinquent,’ which was directed by Kieran Valla. The movie explores a teen’s struggle to manage the fallout after a robbery goes wrong. The feature probes the ties between family and loyalty, and what the young man knows to be the morally right thing to do. Kim Director, Erin Darke and Sage star in the film, which was shot entirely in Connecticut.

Other feature films include the world premiere of ‘Interior Night,’ which depicts four characters whose lives are enmeshed as they hit bottom over the course of one night. Riley Smith and Christina Scherer star in, and Alan Watt directed, the comedy-drama. In ‘Kepler’s Dream,’ an 11-year-old girl searches for a missing rare book from her grandmother’s library, as she tries to understand why her family is fractured during a memorable summer in a New Mexican adobe house. Amy Glazer directed. and Holland Taylor, Flanery and Kelly Lynch starred, in the adventure family drama.

The documentaries include ‘Finding Oscar,’ an East Coast premiere from producers Spielberg, Frank Marshall and Nick Loud and director Ryan Suffern. The film tells the real story about the quest for justice in the devastating aftermath of the 1982 Dos Erres massacre in Guatemala. The bloody trail of evidence leads to two little boys who survived the nightmare, and implicates the government of Guatemala.

In the Opening Night U.S. Premiere documentary ‘Underfire,’ World War II veteran Tony Vaccaro fought as an infantryman before returning to begin a successful career as a renowned commercial photographer. As a 21-year-old soldier, Vaccaro’s story began in combat as he took over 8,000 photographs on the front lines. He shot harrowing and personal images that were not made public until the 1990s. Max Lewkowicz directed the documentary, and will be in attendance at the film’s premiere with Vaccaro.

New to the Boston Film Festival this year is the presentation of two documentary films at the Boston Public Library (BPL) on the afternoon of Saturday, September 24, which is open to the public at no charge. Robin Dawson, the Executive Director of BFF, said “We are delighted to partner with the Boston Public Library this year. The landmark organization is a storied part of Boston’s history and is an ideal venue to present thought provoking, engaging and entertaining films.”

The BPL program includes a documentary evoking keen interest ‘Midsummer in Newtown,’ which chronicles a theater production that arrives in Newtown, CT, in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting tragedy. The troupe seeks to cast local children in a rock-pop version of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ which reveals how the process of producing the play offers healing for the traumatized children and community. Lloyd Kramer directed the project, which is from Participant Media.

Also slated for the BPL afternoon screening is ‘Bang! The Bert Berns Story,’ which features Steven Van Zandt, who narrates the life of Bert Berns, the songwriter, producer and record label owner behind such classics as ‘Twist and Shout’ and ‘Piece of My Heart.’ Multiple perspectives include interviews with Sir Paul McCartney, Van Morrison, Solomon Burke, Ben E. King and Ronald Isley.

On Closing Day and Night, the BFF will highlight films with local ties, including the East Coast premiere of ‘Unforgotten: The Paul Pender Story.’ the movie depicts the true story of Paul Pender, a boxer who overcomes his physical struggles to beat the odds and defeat Sugar Ray Robinson to become a world champion. However, his biggest challenge comes when he suffers from the debilitating brain disease CTE, and his brain study ignites a movement that transforms sports. Former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis appears as himself. Felicia Leeds directed the film, and will host a Q&A with former Governor Dukakis and Tony DeMarco.

Rhode Island based director Mary Healey Jamiel’s documentary ‘Search Dog,’ is the inspirational story of Matthew Zarrella, a Rhode Island police sergeant who rehabilitates unadoptable shelter canines and transforms them into search-and-rescue/recovery dogs. ‘Search Dog’ reveals the reason for Zarrella’s devotion, as well as the unique bond between man and dog. Seven dogs and their State Trooper handlers from the New England area will be in attendance.

Tickets are available through BFF’s official website, which offers addition details on the festival. Festival goers are also asked to make a seat reservation for the free films at BPL through the BFF website.

Boston Film Festival Embarks on 32nd Season of Spotlighting Innovative Feature and Documentary Films

Written by: Karen Benardello

By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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