The Montclair Film Festival is an annual event that has been going on since 2012. The 2017 festival, which ran from April 28 – May 7, featured dozens of new films (plus a restored classic) and continued the non-profit 501(c)(3) organization’s mission of connecting “global filmmakers with audiences in a diverse, culturally vibrant community by presenting films and year-round programs that engage, entertain and educate through the power of visual storytelling.”

Best of NJ was on-hand for this year’s showcase, which presented a number of great movies. In addition, the Montclair Film Festival also featured panels, discussions and even a few parties. The panels and events included conversations with actor John Turturro, scientist Bill Nye and an “Emerging Black Voices” program which highlighted budding African American professionals in the independent and documentary filmmaking community. But for those most interested in the films on-hand at this year’s film festival, this article features two of the most interesting ones.

Bill Nye: Science Guy

Montclair FIlm Festival
Just about everyone in America who was alive during the 90s has heard of Bill Nye the Science Guy. Most famous for starring in a show of the same name, Bill Nye snuck his way onto the TV screens of classrooms — and living rooms — across the country with a half-hour long science show that successfully made learning fun for young minds. Winning 19 Emmy Awards out of 23 nominations during its 100-episode run from 1993 to 1998, Bill Nye quickly became a science hero for many children.

After the show concluded and syndicated airings slowed down, Nye briefly faded from the public eye. The documentary film shown at the Montclair Film Festival, titled Bill Nye: Science Guy, profiles Nye’s transition from kids show actor to genuine man of science. Directed by David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg, the film focuses on three key narrative threads: Bill Nye’s “Evolution vs Creationism” debate (and subsequent interactions) with creationist Ken Ham, Nye’s stance on human-made climate change and discussions with notable climate change contrarian Joe Bastardi (who is a meteorologist and TV weather forecaster) and his position as CEO of The Planetary Society, the world’s largest non-profit space organization, originally co-founded by Nye’s mentor Carl Sagan.

Montclair Film Festival
Stephen Colbert, Host of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and Bill Nye

The film does a great job of digging into the life of Bill Nye, a man many criticize for being “not a real scientist” because he doesn’t hold a PhD (his college degree is in mechanical engineering). Filled with personal asides about his family life and a story about the tough transition of a man made famous by a silly after-school kids show earning his place among the scientific community, Bill Nye: Science Guy follows in the footsteps of the show that came before it; the movie advocates the importance of science by making learning fun (and funny). The significance of understanding topics like evolution and global climate change was further emphasized during the post-screening Q&A between Bill Nye and Stephen Colbert.

Band Aid

Montclair FIlm Festival

Another standout film presented at the Montclair Film Festival was Band Aid, a comedy written, directed, produced and starring Zoe Lister-Jones, who most will know from television shows such as New Girl and Life in Pieces. Though extraordinarily funny, the movie also tells a very dramatic story about a married couple who, after years of being together and enduring a fairly recent tragedy, have fallen into a cycle of endless fighting. To “combat” the seemingly unending reasons they have to bicker, the two discover a shared hobby in playing music and decide to start a literal garage band.

Lister-Jones does exceptional work in her directorial debut, while also managing to write a story that is equal parts hysterical and emotional. Her down-to-earth dialogue immediately brings a sense of realism to the film, making the experiences that Anna (her character) and Ben (played by Adam Pally) live through instantly relatable to anyone with an understanding of what relationships are like. The duo is perfectly complimented by actor, comedian and real-life drummer Fred Armisan (most recognizable for his long tenure as a cast member of Saturday Night Live), who plays their strange neighbor Dave and inevitably winds up as their drummer.

Montclair Film Festival
Zoe Lister-Jones and Tom Hall, Executive Director of the Montclair Film Festival

Though the Montclair Film Festival only runs for about a week each year, as mentioned above, the Montclair Film organization is responsible for hosting year-round events. The Montclair Film + Education initiative hosts a Summer Academy as well as hands-on workshops. Montclair Film will also be hosting a number of “Movies Under the Stars” events over the summer, offering free outdoor movie nights. For more information about the Montclair Film Festival and upcoming events, visit the official Facebook Page and follow @MontclairFilm on Twitter.

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