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Opening at The Berkshire International Film Festival


The 17th Annual Berkshire International Film Festival, held over four days in Great Barrington and Lenox, Mass., beginning June 1, will showcase two notable documentaries about pioneering female voices whose resonant and sincere work has marked them as masters of American storytelling — the folk-singing duo The Indigo Girls and author Joyce Carol Oates.

Coming off its premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, “It’s Only Life After All” directed by Alexandria Bombach recognizes the groundbreaking career of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, the platinum-selling lesbian icons of confessional rock. With lyrics peppered with references to Galileo Galilei, Grigori Rasputin, and “The Iliad,” the musical poetry of Ray and Saliers has always been literary — their 1992 album “Rites of Passage” even features a song about reading the diaries of Virginia Woolf. Combining sing-along acoustic melodies with intricate turns of phrases to explore unrequited love, existential pondering, and optimism in the face of loneliness, the out-and-proud pair created anthems in the ‘80s and ‘90s for gay women whose intricate feelings of longing were rarely heard on the Billboard chart.

If the harmonizing vocals of Ray and Saliers often created a seemingly single voice, Joyce Carol Oates is their opposite: a solitary intellect who shapeshifts into any and all man, woman, and beast; a chameleon writer. In Swedish director Stig Björkman’s “Joyce Carol Oates: A Body in the Service of Mind” the 84-year-old author of over 50 novels shows no signs of slowing down. The identities of her first-person narrators are as varied as their voices are frighteningly realistic and fully realized, from Marilyn Monroe in “Blonde” to a Jeffrey Dahmer stand-in in “Zombie,” to a fictionalized version of Mary Jo Kopechne, the girl who drowned in a car driven by the U.S. senator Ted Kennedy. With an eye for the true horror that lives within the cracks of American society, Oates has courted controversy as she channels the inner worlds of those who live on the fringes, who indulge in acts we wouldn’t dare, and who keep secrets in the dark.

For tickets and a full schedule of films and events go to www.biffma.org

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