Tuesday nights at the movies
The Martha's Vineyard Film Society, which provides the Vineyard with quality film programming year-round, is shifting into high gear these next few months with an array of film experiences so unique, you won't mind braving the summer crowds to attend. First up is a series of open-air screenings at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs. Working with the Camp-Meeting Association, the film society will show an independent film Tuesdays at 8 pm (tickets go on sale at 7:15 pm) through August 28. A 14-foot screen and updated sound system promise quality viewing and the location couldn't be better for pedestrians or those who must drive in, because parking around the Tabernacle is open to moviegoers.
Slated for the same week as the Monster Shark Tournament, Rob Stewart's award-winning "Sharkwater" offers an alternate perspective on the feared masters of the sea. Filmed in stunning hi-def video, Stewart - who will answer questions after the screening - objects to the demonizing of sharks, which are pillars of their ecosystem and now vulnerable to out-of-control and illegal shark-fin harvesters.
Stewart planned a nature documentary when he boarded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's vessel, but after entering Central American waters, he found himself up against boat pirates, a shark-fin "mafia," and corrupted courts. His crewmates, trying to stop the slaughter of sharks, were attacked and then arrested. Stewart decided his movie had to include the human drama as well as the undersea story.
Asian markets that clamor for shark fins, and the poachers who supply them, are the greatest threat to sharks' survival, not events like the Vineyard's tournament. But the lack of public outrage over the shark slaughter seems due, says Stewart, to widespread and irrational fears fed by the media, which portrays sharks as "mindless killers." With "Sharkwater," Stewart hopes to educate people on the reality of sharks. You can get a glimpse of both the drama and beauty of the film at www.sharkwater.com, but once you do you'll know why this is a not-to-be-missed event.
"Third Monday in October"
Co-sponsored by Habitat for Humanity, this family film blends the comedy of "Election" with the passion of "Spellbound." Director Vanessa Roth - who will answer questions after the screening - filmed the same autumn as the Bush vs. Kerry election. Her focus, though, was on presidential elections at a very local level: four middle school student councils. The result is a funny, moving story that gives a 12-year-old's view of the world. Sure, there's griping (and promises made) about textbooks and cafeteria food, but the war in Iraq and bullying come up, too. "Third Monday," says Variety, is "ingenious...highly entertaining, consistently surprising." Newsday crowned it a "Not To Miss" feature at this year's Tribeca Film Festival. (Still leery about thinking about school in the middle of summer? Dip into a clip at www.thirdmondayinoctober.com and you'll be convinced.)
"Big Dreams, Little Tokyo"
This "Half-Japanese Comedy," is the story of Boyd Wilson, an American longing to become a Japanese businessman. His roommate, Jerome, is Japanese-American but having no better at luck in achieving his own dream: to be a Sumo wrestler. Both friends are stuck on the outside, looking in. They're sure they'd fit into their chosen worlds - if they could just find the key.
Director and star Dave Boyle is a Japanophile who learned the language, and met his co-star Jayson Watabe, while a Mormon missionary in Australia. In "Big Dreams, Little Tokyo," Boyle and Watabe explore the struggle for cultural identity when all the boundaries and definitions are in flux. Deemed sly, wry, and totally original by critics, you can see for yourself at www.bigdreamslittletokyo.com (don't miss the link to the hilarious YouTube promo!)
"Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"
A Very Original Presentation: live soundtrack by Devil Music Ensemble. Not since the 1920s has the Island seen anything like it: A silent horror classic with a live musical accompaniment. Devil Music Ensemble's original soundtrack will add to the thrills as legendary John Barrymore (yes, Drew's grandfather) plays the repressed London doctor who, pondering the two natures of mankind, unleashes a monster: a man without a conscience. Devil Music Ensemble is a three-man band composed of Tim Nylander (drummer), Brendan Wood (guitar and synthesizer), and Jonah Rapino (electric violin and vibraphone player). They play everything from rock to contemporary classical but have recently been making a name for themselves with their silent film soundtracks. So ask yourself: How often do you get the chance to see what it was like to go to the movies before the "talkies" arrived?
A Multimedia Life"
In the public eye since she hit the folk music scene in 1962, Buffy Sainte-Marie is best known for her love ballads and protest songs, but her life has taken dramatic turns. She was blacklisted by the (LBJ) White House but later won an Oscar for her song "Up Where We Belong." She spent five years on "Sesame Street" in the 1970s, teaching American children that "Indians still exist," and then earned a Ph.D. in fine arts at the University of Massachusetts and became a pioneer in digital art. All along her journey, she's challenged the preconceptions about Native Americans and about who she is (and it's not "Pocahontas in fringes," as her web site www.creative-native.com puts it). This film captures the rich complexity of her life and her talent, following her from folk sensation to artist and educator. Ms. St-Marie has been invited to attend.
Tuesday film series, Tabernacle, Campground, Oak Bluffs. Tickets $8 or $5 for members. For more information, call 508-693-9594 or visit www.mvcma.org.
MV Film Society highlights
In August, Martha's Vineyard Film Society plans two benefits for local organizations:
August 1: gather at center field of the high school's new ballpark for a screening of the 2005 Farrelly brothers' hit, "Fever Pitch" (starring Drew Barrymore, Jimmy Fallon, and the Boston Red Sox). Proceeds go toward new bleacher seats for the field.
August 25: A screening of "Charlotte's Web' will benefit kids' programming at the FARM Institute, Katama Farm, 14 Aero Ave., Edgartown.
September 13-16, brace yourself for the most spectacular film event of the year, when the Second Annual Martha's Vineyard International Film Festival arrives. Co-directors Nevette Previd and Richard Paradise are planning a huge "destination festival." "Film is a wonderful medium for exploring cultures and examining attitudes and beliefs different from our own," says Paradise, who also founded the MV Film Society and serves as its chairman. "Our festival's goal is to foster curiosity about the world around us."
Festival details, and information about all summer programs, are available at www.mvfilmsociety.com and www.mvfilmfest.com
Brenda Horrigan is a contributing writer to The Times.