Island’s summer film series gear up

Martha's Vineyard Film Society's founder Richard Paradise will enjoy his first summer at the new M.V. Film Center in Vineyard Haven. — File Photo by Ralph Stewart

A bumper crop of new independent films and documentaries are coming to the Vineyard as both the Chilmark-based Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival (MVFF) and the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society (MVFS) in Vineyard Haven gear up their summer series.

“We’ve found our rhythm and are repeating what’s worked,” says MVFF managing director Brian Ditchfield. That includes cutting-edge documentaries like “Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia.” This portrait of the late social critic and novelist launched the weekly Wednesday night screenings on June 28. Long based at the Chilmark Community Center, the Festival added a repeat screening of many films on Thursdays at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown last year and will continue to do so this summer.

The highlight of the MVFF’s summer program will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 20, with a documentary about political activist Angela Davis, held at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s Performing Arts Center in Oak Bluffs. Ms. Davis will attend the screening of “Free Angela and All Political Prisoners,” along with her friend, Margaret Burnham, the first African-American woman to serve in the Massachusetts judiciary system, and the film’s director, Shola Lynch. Two prominent Vineyard summer residents, Henry Louis “Skip” Gates and Charlayne Hunter-Gault, will lead the post-film discussion, Mr. Gates as host and Ms. Hunter-Gault as moderator.

The bulk of the MVFF offerings are documentaries, including “Dirty Wars,” about our nation’s covert wars (7/3); “Free the Mind,” about neurologist Richard Davidson’s research on consciousness (7/17); “Life According to Sam,” about a child with a progressive aging disorder (7/31, 8/1); “Muscle Shoals,” about the legendary music of the same name (8/14, 8/15); and “Gideon’s Army,” about public legal defenders in the South (8/21, 8/22).

The three fiction films in the series are “Touchy Feely,” about a massage therapist (7/10, 7/11); “Afternoon Delight,” about a housewife who takes in a stripper (7/24, 7/25); and “A.C.O.D.”, a comedy about adult children of divorce (8/28).

A hallmark of the Chilmark summer series has long been its special guests – producers, directors, film subjects, and others – who introduce some movies and lead discussions afterwards. That practice will continue with film subject Rich Low attending “Free the Mind” on July 17, along with Willoughby Britton of the Brown University Contemplative Studies Initiative. Chilmark resident Jake Davis, a research affiliate at Brown, will moderate.

Film tickets are $15, $7 for MVFF members. Visit for information.

M.V. Film Center screens 7 nights

The Martha’s Vineyard Film Society’s Film Center in Vineyard Haven is already off and running in its first summer season with a full schedule of movies and special events, for the first time, on every night of the week. “It’s like 360 degrees different,” says MVFS director Richard Paradise. “It’s a totally new model for us.

“We can get the best first-run Indie films now because of our new equipment,” says Mr. Paradise. Art house movies like Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” will play on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Friday, July 12 will be devoted to a special screening of “John Belushi: Dancing on the Edge.” A benefit for Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, this event includes an appearance by Mr. Belushi’s widow, Judy Belushi Pisano, with guests, and will be catered.

Sunday nights are reserved for the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center’s Summer Institute Jewish film series, beginning on July 7 with “Hava Nagila,” a documentary about the quintessentially Jewish tune often played and sung at weddings.

The new Midnight at 10 Summer Movies series will bring cult favorites, as well as edgier movies and classics like “Jaws,” at 10 pm on Friday and Saturday nights instead of the traditional 12 midnight. Wednesday nights at the Film Center will offer documentaries like “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel,” which plays July 3, and some private events with special guests.

Along with its movie offerings, MVFS will present concerts, poetry readings, comedy acts, and other non-movie events on Monday and Tuesday nights. Planned for July 9 is “Betrayed! on Martha’s Vineyard,” a one-woman comedy act, starring Louise DuArt and author SQuire Rushnell. Throughout the season, audiences can also expect to be greeted some nights with informal piano or combo music in the lobby.

MVFS will finish off the season with a flourish by presenting its eighth annual Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival September 5–8.

Starting July 1, no screenings or events will take place before 7:30 pm and off-site parking with parking attendants will be available for major events and weekends.

General admission prices for movies are now $12, $7 for MVFS members, and filmgoers can, for the first time, purchase tickets online at

“Our summer community is coming back to a whole new experience,” says Mr. Paradise. “We do things with the community in mind and with the community in hand.”