Martha’s Vineyard International Film Fest recap

The closing party, at the Vineyard Haven Marina, was packed. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival (MVIFF) not only provided Island audiences with great opportunities to see a variety of films, but the parties sprinkled throughout the four-day festival gave people a chance to discuss the movies with other movie goers and mingle with some of the filmmakers.

The festival kicked off with an outdoor gathering under a tent behind Saltwater Restaurant on Thursday evening. While guests enjoyed passed hors d’oeuvres and live music by Afro Beat Project, people compared notes on which screenings they would be attending.

Egyptian born filmmaker and stand-up comedian Ahmed Ahmed, who was in attendance, commented on working the film festival circuit. He said, “It’s a whole culture I was never really exposed to. It’s taken me all over the world.” This was Mr. Ahmed’s first visit to the Vineyard. His documentary, “Just Like Us,” shot in locations around the Middle East and featuring fellow comedians, was the opening night film on Thursday and screened again on Sunday afternoon.

On Friday night at Saltwater, the fourth annual Reel Food event featured a three course dinner prepared by chef Joe daSilva from local ingredients, and an on-site screening of international short films introduced by Joy Vaccese, whose short “Place Stamp Here” was among the selections. She has been involved with the Martha’s Vineyard festival for the past three years, though this was her first time here without her twin and filmmaking partner, Noelle Melody. Ms. Vaccese has travelled to many of the nation’s film festivals in one capacity or another and she said of the MVIFF, “It’s unlike any other festival. You can actually meet a genuine fan. The festival directors are so accommodating and people are really encouraging.”

Oscar nominated animator Bill Plympton, who introduced Saturday evening’s Animation Spectacular, was also in attendance at the Friday night dinner. He is a regular participant in the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, and he said, “The environment is amazing, and the programming is excellent. The audiences really appreciate and understand animation. We always get really good crowds.”

Also on Friday evening, a Scandinavian-themed party took place at Swedish-born Stina Sayre’s boutique on Main Street, Vineyard Haven. Ms. Sayre served Aquavit, Swedish meatballs, lingonberry jam, and Swedish fish in her beautiful roomy store during a party to honor one of the film festival’s featured films, “Happy Happy,” which was shot in Sweden .

After the day’s last screening on both Friday and Saturday, moviegoers gathered in the temporary Festival Lounge, (the former Che’s Lounge) off of Main Street, Vineyard Haven, to enjoy snacks and DJ music. On Saturday night, Sally Rowe stopped in after the screening of her film, “A Matter of Taste — Serving Up Paul Liebrandt,” which aired on HBO this summer. She said, “I think filmmakers always want to see who else is in the festival — the pack they’re running with. This festival is really first class and really broad.” Commenting on her film’s post screening Q&A, Ms. Rowe said, “It’s always a pleasure to have a responsive audience. The questions were really good, really smart.”

Among filmgoers at the Saturday night party were Joan and Henry Kriegstein of Oak Bluffs, who have been attending the film festival for the past four years. Ms. Kriegstein notes that they are movie fanatics and regularly attend other festivals, including the Tribeca, Sundance, and Nantucket festivals. As of Saturday evening, Mr. And Ms. Kriegstein had viewed eight and four films, respectively. Said Ms. Kriegstein, “We love the fact that these independent international films are here and you don’t have to go off-Island to see them. It’s a great roster.”

The closing party on Sunday at the Vineyard Haven Marina filled up quickly as moviegoers stopped by to listen to Ballywho and enjoy hors d’oeuvres from Blue Canoe. There was a lot of comparing of notes on the weekend’s films. Cameron Washington of San Francisco was attending the festival for the fourth year in a row. He was here helping out with events and filing day-to-day reports on his Russian Hill Project blog. Said Mr. Washington, “I first drove up from New York for the festival in 2008. I loved everyone here. It’s the nicest group of people I’ve ever met.” He added, “Something like this needs to be supported. It’s a great way for people to be introduced to the Island.”

Festival founder and organizer Richard Paradise was very pleased with the turnout at the films this year. He said that many screenings were sell-outs and the parties were well attended. He also noted that the festival has gained a reputation in the film community during its six years, noting that this is the first year that directors have asked for a laurel (a laurel leaf icon with the festival’s name that can be included in promotional material for films). “I guess it’s important enough,” Mr. Paradise said.