The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival (MVFF) is offering a better option than hibernation for Island families this weekend.
Their three-part Family. Film. Feast. series culminates Saturday, Feb. 5, at 5 pm at the Chilmark Community Center. The goal is to bring Island families together in a setting that promotes community and camaraderie.
First comes a variety of fun activities for kids and grown-ups, headlined by drummer Rick Bausman. Mr. Bausman will set up his drums and invite both children and adults into a drum circle for a little bit of instruction and a lot of musical improvisation. Invited as guest drummers are fourth and fifth graders who have been working with Mr. Bausman at the Chilmark School.
A menu of Tunisian food prepared by Kitchen Porch’s Robert Lionette will be available at $6 for children and $12 for adults. Relying primarily on Island-grown foods, Mr. Lionette plans to prepare lentil soup, braised chicken with artichokes and feuille brick and couscous, along with figs and dates. For dessert he will serve Tunisian-style baklava and couscous pudding. The children’s menu will have a kid-friendly modifications.
Then follows a selection of seven short animated films, specially curated by MVFF’s Director of Children’s Programs Lindsey Scott, with help from Production Associate Jennifer Christy. The cinematic theme for the 45-minute series is tricksters and pranks.
Behind the scenes
“It speaks to the need for family-friendly activities in the off-season,” says Ms. Scott, a former M.V. Charter School teacher with her own four-year-old Charlotte and six-year-old Tristan. “We’ve been very successful in gathering families with young children to events without having to worry about meals.”
Family. Film. Feast. began last winter as an extension of Cinema Circus, MVFF’s highly successful summertime activity run in conjunction with its adult film series. Ms. Scott picks short films with strong storylines balanced by experimental work that focuses on creative, funny little twists that will appeal to an audience of 3- to 10-year-olds, as well as their parents. Scary and frightening topics are off-limits.
“It’s difficult,” Ms. Scott says. “We’re trying to collect the whole family — parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors.” She relies on her children to help. “They help me enormously. I run all kinds of programs past them and get their feedback.”
Ms. Scott also attends children’s film festivals and searches the Internet for the best in available films. Weston Woods, a division of Scholastic, has proved a particularly good resource, since it creates films from the best children’s books on the market.
Different cultures provide another component and will be on tap in Saturday’s Weston Woods films, “Strega Nona,” and “The Beast of M. Racine.” Ms. Scott looks for positive role models like the retired Frenchman who befriends a beast stealing his pears, and the Italian witch in “Strega Nona,” who punishes misbehavior with a gentle touch.
Family. Film. Feast. relies on short films rather than feature-length because they best accommodate the audience’s age range. “It’s difficult to find a feature film that hasn’t been picked up by other sources,” Ms. Scott adds. “The short films ensure that if one theme doesn’t float their boat, another will.”
She has spent a lot of time thinking about how to use the films as teaching tools and to provide layers of activities. Ms. Scott’s educational background includes a B.A. in art history and an M.A.T. from Tufts/Boston Museum School. She has a strong interest in using film and play activities to stimulate creativity in children.
After bringing her own children to Cinema Circus, Ms. Scott says, “What drew me in was being a mother and wanting to create events for families, activities to let kids be kids.” Her husband, Josh Scott, an arborist who runs Beetlebung Tree Care, grew up on the Island, making the Chilmark couple’s children a 12th generation of Islanders.
Ms. Scott’s associate, Jennifer Christy, came on board last summer as the festival’s new production coordinator. Formerly serving as Aquinnah’s librarian for five years, she also taught at the Charter School with Ms. Scott, and the two founded the art program there.
Ms. Christy, who also serves as Chilmark’s town clerk, sees film as a great way to communicate with children about their lives. She describes the festival’s curated films as “not just slick, glossed-over images, but ones that help children see things about life.”
As a former librarian, she is still very attached to the physical book, but she notes how children quiet right down when watching a moving image. “If that’s happening, we need to provide something appropriate, stories that mean something.”
She suggests Family. Film. Feast. returns the viewer to an old-fashioned film-going experience, where you watch with a bunch of other people. “That ties it together and makes it a whole different experience,” she says.
Ms. Christy and Ms. Scott have been brainstorming about ways to enrich the children’s programming at the festival. One possibility is to develop activities related to the claymation and stop-motion processes used in filmmaking.
As with any nonprofit organization, funding remains a crucial component. The festival relies on private donations as well as membership and ticket sales, and Ms. Scott says the children’s programming is looking for a patron. “Then we could really take events to the next level,” she says.
Family. Film. Feast., 5 pm, Saturday, Feb. 5, Chilmark Community Center. $10; $5 for children; free for MVFF members. Individual memberships: $50; $95 for families. Island Club card discounts apply. For more information, visit tmvff.org.