Nevette Previd (left) and Richard Paradise are ready to open this weekend's film festival. Photo by Ralph Stewart
International film festival a Vineyard first
When the Martha's Vineyard International Film Festival gets underway today, Vineyard Haven will provide the scene for a rich menu of international films and related events. A Sunset Cocktail reception from 6 to 7:30 pm launches the festival at the Mansion House, and the first film is a romantic fantasy, "The Science of Sleep," starting at 8 pm at the Katharine Cornell Theatre.
On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings, the public is invited to coffee with participating filmmakers - including award-winning documentarist and Oak Bluffs summer resident Stanley Nelson - at a variety of locations in Vineyard Haven. Afternoon and evening screenings run for the next three days, and viewers will need to study the program supplement, published last week in The Times and available at the festival box offices in the Mansion House and the Vineyard Playhouse, to decide which films to see.
Some screenings will occur simultaneously at the Katharine Cornell Theatre, the Vineyard Playhouse, the Vineyard Haven Public Library, the Unitarian Universalist Church, and the Mansion House. Post-screening events take place Friday night at Offshore Ale in Oak Bluffs, Saturday night at Outerland at the Airport, and on Sunday night at the Vineyard Haven Marina on the harbor. Children's films will be shown Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Vineyard Haven resident Diane Luckey will give an origami demonstration after the 3:30 pm screening of "The Peace Tree" at the Vineyard Haven Public Library, after which attendees will have the opportunity to try out this elegant paper-folding art technique themselves.
A flagship event
Sponsored by the Martha's Vineyard Film Society, which has brought independent and international films to the Island for more than five years, the festival owes its existence to film society executive director Richard Paradise. After the idea for such an event had percolated through his thoughts for a number of years, Mr. Paradise decided last fall that the film society needed a flagship event. He thought it should focus on the arena of international film, which doesn't get the same shelf space that American-made films do.
"Showing one film a week is very limiting," Mr. Paradise says, "and I always had a backlog of films at the end of the year." A festival permits screenings of 20 or 25 films and can pursue a variety of stories, themes, and issues.
The festival has been curated by a three-person selection committee - Mr. Paradise; festival co-director Nevette Previd, who has played a major role in producing the event; and Tanya Blumstein, a film scout who is based in New York and Paris. Cultural diversity provides the main theme, with a mini-theme of how people deal with displacement.
"We tried to give people options," Mr. Paradise says, since the festival is too short to allow for showing films more than once. Most films are not available on home video or dvd.
Co-director Previd works as a film marketing consultant, and like many Vineyarders had summer jobs on the Island as a teenager before deciding several years ago to move here full-time. "Being in the industry, I could help run a business," she says of her collaboration with Mr. Paradise.
Ms. Previd describes movies as a portal to the rest of the world in ways one cannot find in the news. Films made in other countries help viewers absorb other people's cultures, she adds. "You get their special stories."
"Movies are a shared experience, something you can talk about," Ms. Previd says. "They give the viewer a passport to travel without leaving home.
Both Ms. Previd and Mr. Paradise describe the Martha's Vineyard International Film Festival as a bookend to the already established Martha's Vineyard Independent Film Festival held in Chilmark every March.
"We're really looking to see this grow," Mr. Paradise says. The co-directors hope to add live music next year. They praised local merchants and sponsors for their generosity. The festival has also gone off-Island for sponsors to take the pressure off Vineyard merchants. But several local businesses have opened their doors to provide settings for festival events, including a Vineyard Haven gallery walk on Saturday from 5 to 7 pm.
Educating the viewers
Since the selections do feature big-name celebrities, the directors see as their main job now as educating viewers about the films. One of Saturday night's selections, the South African film "Tsotsi" won the 2006 Oscar for Best Foreign Film.
"You could go rent it," says Ms. Previd, "but the magic of a movie is that it's a shared experience." She and Mr. Paradise hope attendees will have discussions after the films, some led by local V.I.P.s, at the morning coffee sessions, as well as at the more festive post-screening events. Each film will be introduced by its filmmaker or a local volunteer.
Island filmmakers have been invited to submit a five-minute short film inspired by the theme "Think Globally, Shoot Locally." Island-based filmmakers Liz Witham and Ken Wentworth will introduce this event, sponsored by MVTV and MV Online, on Saturday from 1 to 4 pm at the Mansion House.
Because the annual Manhattan Shorts Film Festival coincides with the Vineyard festival, its International Shorts Competition has been incorporated into the program. Ten films will be shown at the Vineyard Playhouse on Friday at 9 pm and Saturday at 7 pm, with the audience voting for their favorite. For the past three years, Martha's Vineyard has been one of 50 venues around the world for the short, audience-participation competition. The 10 finalists will be announced later in the month.
"It's going to be like a big party," says the delighted Mr. Paradise. "It's never been an issue of how much money we can make. We just want to provide a wonderful event."
"Most film festivals reach a 70 percent capacity," Mr. Paradise added. "I think we can get closer to 100 percent."
For more information, check the festival supplement in last week's Times, or visit mvfilmfest.com.