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High Falls Film Festival 2014 

The High Falls Film Festival returns Thursday, October 23, through Sunday, October 26, for its 12th year. Under the guidance of a new Executive Director, Mary Manard Reed, the festival has shifted to a new fall timeframe (previous editions occurred in early summer) but remains committed to its focus on spotlighting the achievements of female filmmakers. With the release of several recent studies showing that women continue to be sorely under-represented in roles both in front of and behind the camera (including one by the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film which revealed that in the 250 top-grossing films released in 2013, women comprised only 16 percent of key behind-the-scenes roles) it's clear that the festival's mission remains as important as ever.

Along with film screenings, the festival will also host Q&A sessions with filmmakers before select screenings, a free educational panel discussion on Saturday, October 25, and free coffee chats with filmmakers on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mornings. For more information, the complete schedule, and ticket information visit highfallsfilmfestival.com.

What follows are a few selections that City Newspaper was able to preview from this year's lineup.

For its opening night selection, High Falls screens a cinematic ode to women of a certain age: "I Know a Woman Like That." Director Elaine Madsen (mother of Virginia Madsen, who acts as producer) interviews a variety of women who haven't let a little thing like getting older slow them down or prevent them from accomplishing everything they want in life. Madsen talks to authors, artists, activists, and more, finding women (like Rita Moreno, Gloria Steinem, and Lauren Hutton) who are vibrant, charismatic and fascinating. By its nature, the film occasionally feels a bit self-congratulatory, but it's hard to fault it too much when the focus is on a demographic who rarely get the appreciation they deserve. Screens Thursday, October 23, 6:15 p.m. at The Little; and Friday, October 24, 10:30 a.m. at the Dryden Theatre.

A small Appalachian town deals with the aftermath of a tragic mining accident in "Little Accidents," from writer-director Sara Colangelo. Expanding her 2010 short, the filmmaker gets good performances out of a strong cast, including Elizabeth Banks, Chloe Sevigny, and Josh Lucas. Boyd Holbrook is a particular standout as the sole survivor of the accident, who's forced to testify about the possible negligence of the mine's executives while facing pressure from the townspeople who rely on the mine to survive. Despite some contrived plot developments and a leisurely pace, the film nevertheless emerges as an intriguing examination of class divides in rural America. Screens Friday, October 24, 9 p.m. at the Dryden Theatre; and Saturday, October 25, 6:30 p.m. at The Little.

There are 1.6 million young people currently homeless in America, and with their documentary, "The Homestretch," directors Anne de Mare and Kirsten Kelly hope to put a face to that staggering number. Focusing on three homeless youths living in Chicago — Roque, who faces immigration issues; Kasey, kicked out by her family for being gay; and Anthony, a former criminal hoping to gain custody of his son — the film delivers a compelling take on a heartbreaking issue. Screens Friday, October 24, 6:15 p.m. at The Little.

With all the depth of a Lifetime made-for-TV movie, "Lies I Told My Little Sister" examines the bonds of sisterly love in the face of a devastating loss. Following the death of their older sister to cancer, the youngest daughter of a WASPy family convinces her sister and mother to accompany her family on a Cape Cod vacation, hoping they can spend time together, "like old times." Trafficking entirely in trite platitudes and clichés, it's the type of movie where years of resentments can be solved with a brawl on the beach followed by a hearty laugh, and cancer seems to exist solely to teach the main character a valuable lesson about living life to the fullest. Screens Saturday, October 25, 12 p.m. at The Little.

From Brockport native Ann LeSchander, "The Park Bench" follows the blossoming friendship between college students Emily and Mateo as she tutors him in English literature. She's neurotic, he's laid back; she's got a fiancé, he's a bit of a ladies man, but over the course of the semester, they meet and... well you probably know where this is headed. It's a familiar but well-told story, aided immeasurably by two charming leads. Screens Saturday, October 25, 2 p.m. at the Dryden Theatre.

Very much of the "nothing was ever the same after that summer" genre, "Very Good Girls" follows best friends Lilly and Gerry (Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen), who decide they each want to lose their virginity before heading off for college. Wouldn't you know it, they end up falling for the same guy, in this case a shaggy-haired artist named David (Boyd Holbrook again). It's a shame that so many tales of female friendship default to the same old plot about competing for a man, but writer-director Naomi Foner brings enough insight to keep the story feeling fresh. Screens Saturday, October 25, 7:15 p.m. at the Dryden Theatre.

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