Film

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An expanded Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, hosted by the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society, opens Tuesday, Sept. 2, in what festival director Richard Paradise calls a soft opening.

After two additional days of film screenings, the Festival’s grand opening takes place on Thursday, Sept. 4, at Saltwater Restaurant, followed by A Trip to Italy, starring British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Also for the first year, the festival films will be screened entirely at the state-of-the-art Martha’s Vineyard Film Center in Vineyard Haven.

The Polish movie IDA screens on Tuesday, Sept. 2, followed on Wednesday, Sept. 3,by Land Ho from Iceland, followed by appetizers and Icelandic cocktails at The Port Hunter in Edgartown, with live music by the Mike Benjamin Band.

The documentary Austin to Boston, playing Saturday, Sept. 6, in its U.S. premiere, epitomizes what is best about the M.V. International Film Festival. This independent film is a gem not likely to be found at the local multiplex. It follows the 2012 road tour across the U.S. of a group of primarily British musicians, traveling more than 4,000 miles in five VW buses. Starting out in Austin, the group travels from Oklahoma City to Kansas City, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Nashville, New York, and Woodstock, N.Y. before ending up in Boston. Narrator-musician Gill Landry says, “What drew me into this trip was the ridiculousness of it.”

Beautifully photographed and edited, Austin to Boston, directed by James Marcus Haney, captures the youthful exuberance of a group of scruffy-looking musicians who have none of the slickness of musical headliners but all of the natural talent that the best of them offer. Playing guitar, drums, and bass, as well as other instruments, Ben Howard, the Stave, Nathaniel Rateliff, Bear’s Den, and Communion convey a sense of pure joy performing their folkie-based music. The musical odyssey is for some of them their introduction to America, reminiscent in tone of Simon & Garfunkel’s 1968 hit, America. By the end of the tour in Boston, one member of the group says, “I didn’t think I’d fall in love with America the way I have.” Along the way, the movie illustrates what it’s like to be a musician on tour. “It’s a damn good time,” says another member of the group.

More new elements of the M.V. International Film Festival include post-film coffee discussions at Nat’s Nook Café in Vineyard Haven, and a Closing Night Party at the Film Center with music and refreshments. Reel Food returns on Friday, Sept. 5 with hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, and spirits at Saltwater Restaurant. Following that is the Juried Competition of International Shorts with nine finalists from more than 450 entries. Bill Plympton’s signature Animation Showcase screens on Saturday, Sept. 6.

“What I like best each and every year is the reaction and feedback of the audiences, whether good or bad,” Mr. Paradise said in a telephone interview this week. “The more you can learn about other cultures, the more you understand your own culture. The tolerance for differences is very important.”

Other films playing over the six-day event include Child’s Pose from Romania, Metro Manila from the Philippines, the children’s film Belle and Sebastian from Switzerland, Ilo Ilo from Singapore, Attila Marcel from France, May in the Summer from Jordan, Kumiko the Treasure Hunter from Japan, Hunting Elephants from Israel, and A Five-Star Life from Italy.

Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, Tuesday, Sept. 2 through Sunday, Sept. 7, M.V. Film Center, Vineyard Haven, For screening times, additional information, and tickets, visit mvfilmsociety.com.

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Director Richard Linklater’s new film, “Boyhood,” opens at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center this weekend. One of the superstars from the 1990s Indie movement, Mr. Linklater is probably best known for his trio of films about a couple, played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, who meet on a train in Europe and fall in love in “Before Sunrise,” (1995); renew their romance nine years later in “Before Sunset,” (2004); and, most recently, continue their seasoned relationship after 20 years together in “Before Midnight” (2013).

A highly versatile director, Mr. Linklater has produced comedies like “Bad News Bears” (2005), “School of Rock” (2003) and his breakout film, “Slacker” (1991); as well as documentaries including “Fast Food Nation” (2006). Linklater fiction films tend to take place over 24 hours and be set in Texas, where the director was born, grew up, and returned after working on an oil rig.

In “Boyhood” the director tries a new approach, following the life of Mason  Jr., played by Ellar Coltrane, from the age of five to 18. Mason lives with his mother, played by Patricia Arquette, and his sister Samantha, played by the director’s daughter, Lorelei Linklater. Mason’s dad –– divorced from his mom –– is played by frequent Linklater cast member Ethan Hawke. Viewers will enjoy the remarkable experience of watching not just Mason Jr., but the actor who plays him, grow up before their eyes, since the film was shot over 12 years.

Mr. Linklater masterfully depicts the messy but loving dynamics of a Texas-based, Middle-America family. Mom runs through three marriages, gets an advanced degree and a job teaching psychology, and moves the family numerous times over the course of the movie. Viewers will watch how Mason Jr., a dreamy, sensitive boy, reacts to the life-changing experiences thrust upon him and his sister Sam by their parents. His father, Mason Sr., plays an important role in Mason Jr.’s life, as do his mother’s other husbands and the stepsiblings who move in and out of his world.

As Mason Jr., moves toward adulthood, the viewers see him struggle with his responses to his experiences and to the decisions that arise over the 12 years covered by the film. Shooting from 2002 to 2013, Mr. Linklater brought the cast together annually, and, in effect, first created a series of 10 to 12 short films, each representing another year in Mason Jr.’s life and that of his family. Amazingly enough, the entire film was shot in 39 days over 12 years’ time. Rather than rely on the conventional Hollywood melodrama formula, “Boyhood’s” two-and-a-half hours unfold in an episodic format. As such, the movie establishes the deeply satisfying kind of intimacy that comes from the serial nature of the best TV shows.

“Serendipity: The Story of Tony Hussein Hinde,” Thursday, August 21, 8 pm, The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, Harbor View Hotel, Edgartown. For tickets and information, visit tmvff.org.

 “Boyhood,” Friday, August 22; Saturday, August 23; Monday, August 25; Tuesday, August 26, 7:30 pm, M.V. Film Society, Vineyard Haven. $12; $9 members; $7 under 14. For tickets and information, visit mvfilmsociety.com.

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The Twelve from Bloemfontein in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania in 1961.

The Martha’s Vineyard Branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History presents a documentary film, “Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela,” on Tuesday, August 19 at the Oak Bluffs Library. “An important documentary,” wrote the New York Times of the film that has won Best Documentary at the Pan African Film Festival and the Santa Cruz Film Festival, and the Henry Hampton Award for Excellence at the Roxbury Film Festival.

Special guest Thomas Allen Harris, filmmaker/producer/director of Chimpanzee Productions, will attend the event, which features two showings: 1 and 3 pm.

“The film is an intimate tale about the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa from the perspective of Harris, an African American stepson of one of the Disciples,” according to a press release. “As part of the first wave of South African freedom fighters, Harris’s stepfather, Pule Benjamin Leinaeng and his comrades left their homeland in 1960 and went into self-exile, to broadcast to the world, the brutality of apartheid and to raise support for the African National Congress (ANC) and its leaders Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo. In 1960, the South African government outlawed the ANC, forcing its leaders underground.”

Admission is a $5 suggested donation. For more information, call 508-693-8714.

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On August 18 at 7:30 pm, documentarian Stanley Nelson, who Islanders may be familiar with for his personal retrospective of Oak Bluffs, “A Place of Our Own,” will be joined at the Tabernacle by PBS journalist Gwen Ifill for a screening and discussion of his motion picture “Freedom Summer.” A Vineyard summer resident, Mr. Nelson was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Obama in late July.

Stanley Nelson, producer and director of "Freedom Summer."

Stanley Nelson, producer and director of “Freedom Summer.” — Marvin McLinn / ITVS

The film screening is presented by the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival (TMVFF) and hosted by Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., with pre-screening music performed by recording artist John Forte of The Fugees.

Through historical footage interspersed with contemporary interviews, Mr. Nelson’s film chronicles the lead up, execution, and aftermath of a significant campaign during the civil rights era called the Mississippi Summer Project.

In 1964, the U.S. south was still infected with many of the same depraved racial attitudes that had helped stoke the Civil War more than a century before. Topping a long list of indignities and injustices regularly inflicted on African-Americans in the region was the systematic suppression of their Constitutional right to vote under the Fifteenth Amendment. Among the southern states, Mississippi distinguished itself as the most staunchly bigoted, and therefore the most unaccommodating, if not oppressive, for African-American voters.

Under the leadership of Robert Paris Moses, regional branches of four civil rights organizations united into an entity called the Council of Federated Organizations and recruited student volunteers from across the nation to travel to Mississippi and help register African-American voters in volume. In many instances those volunteers were greeted with handcuffs. In other instances they encountered the shotguns, truncheons, firebombs, and other tools of terror local African-Americans had been long subjected to. The intimidation of workers for the Mississippi Summer Project reached a crescendo when three of its activists disappeared and were subsequently found under an earthwork dam after a massive Federal search. It was determined they had been shot to death. Several members of the Ku Klux Klan, including a sheriff, were implicated in the crime. The deaths heightened national media attention on Mississippi and helped to further push the momentous issues unfolding there to the forefront of the American conscience.

“This film makes history feel so present, not only because it’s the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, but also because it’s a powerful reminder of how a courageous group of people can make positive change in the world. I’d like to think that’s as true today as it was 50 years ago,” said Brian Ditchfield, managing director of TMVFF. “We chose to screen the film at the Tabernacle because it’s in the heart of Stanley’s home town. Also, I think the grandeur of the place should match the energy of the night.”

Film: “Freedom Summer,” 7:30 pm, Monday, August 18, Tabernacle, Oak Bluffs. $16; $8 TMVFF members; $100 reserved seating and drinks with special guests. 508-645-9599; tmvff.org.

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Whistling is an art whose time has come, suggests Kate Davis and David Heilbroner in their film, “Pucker Up: The Fine Art of Whistling.”

These filmmakers, who summer in West Tisbury, have two new films playing at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. In addition to “Pucker Up,” their most recent documentary, “Newburgh Sting,” about an FBI sting operation targeting a New York Muslim community, is currently on HBO and has also played at the Film Center. International World Champion whistler Geert Chatrou from the Netherlands will attend the Thursday, July 24, screening of “Pucker Up” and answer questions.

If “Pucker Up,” seems too odd or not a terribly interesting documentary, nothing could be further from the truth. The world of whistlers is intriguing and entertaining. The film introduces viewers to many interesting whistlers and a variety of whistling genres. Bird whistlers, for instance, understand and imitate the songs of our avian friends with great accuracy. One Long Island whistler retired from the advertising business after 35 years to become a full-time whistler.

“My lips are getting so fat I will no longer be able to puckulate,” bemoans a Key West whistler named Tom.

The narrative structure of “Pucker Up” is built around the 2004 International Whistling Convention held in Louisburg, N.C., and interviews with six of its competitors. Interspersed with them is footage of Elvis Presley whistling in one of his movies, as well as Bing Crosby. And, of course, there are the seven dwarfs from “Snow White.”

“Pucker Up” suggests that whistling was, of necessity, the first musical instrument. In Los Angeles and Detroit, where it’s used as a code for gangs, it is against the law. There are whistling corsairs, whistling arrows, and whistling torpedoes. Whistling techniques include use of the hands, fingers, tongue, lips, throat, and palate. A double whistle reproduces the “ooga” sound of a car horn.

Viewers learn about the Golden Age of Whistling in the 30s and 40s, when people relied more on themselves for their own entertainment. “It’s just this pure wave,” explains one whistler interviewed in “Pucker Up.” “Sound is pressure waves sent through the air.” Many cultures around the world depend on whistling to communicate, and whistling sounds carry well because they occur in a different sound register. As an expression of pure feeling, whistling is a good cure for depression, states the film.

Also playing this week at the Film Center are “Detropia,” a documentary about the woes of Detroit by Heidi Ewing, who will attend the screening, and “Last Days of Vietnam” with director Rory Kennedy in attendance, about the fall of Saigon and subsequent end of the Vietnam War.

TMVFF schedules three documentaries

Chilmark’s Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival will screen three new documentaries this week at a variety of locations. Playing at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown on Thursday, July 24, is “To Be Takei,” about the quest of “Star Trek” actor George Takei for life, liberty, and love.

In a special event at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center on Friday, July 25, the Film Festival will show “Fed Up,” the Katie Couric-inspired and summer Vineyarder Laurie David-directed film about the nation’s epidemic of childhood obesity and reliance on sugar products. The following week, Judy and Dennis Shepard, director Michele Josue, and producers Liam McNiff and Arleen McGlade will attend the screening of “Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine,” about the Wyoming gay student who was tortured to death, at the Chilmark Community Center.

The M.V. Hebrew Center’s Summer Institute does not have a film scheduled this weekend.

“Pucker Up: The Fine Art of Whistling,” Thursday, July 24, 7:30 p.m., M.V. Film Center, Vineyard Haven. For tickets and more information, visit mvfilmsociety.com.

“To Be Takei,” Thursday, July 24, 8 p.m., with TMVFF, Harbor View Hotel, Edgartown. For tickets and more information, visit tmvff.org.

“Fed Up,” Friday, July 25, 8 p.m., M. V. Performing Arts Center, Oak Bluffs. For tickets and more information, visit tmvff.org.

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The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival’s Dinner and a Movie night on Wednesday, July 23 features “Fishing Without Nets,” a dramatic thriller based in the shadowy world of Somali pirates. Dinner at the Chilmark Community Center begins at 7 pm, followed by the film at 8 pm.

The screenwriter is Sam Cohan, an actor and writer who was a seasonal resident of West Tisbury, until a sojourn to Italy several years ago. Mr. Cohan now lives in California, where he is working on another screenplay.

Following the screening, director Cutter Hodierne will discuss the film, which won the directing award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

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Two of the Island’s independent film venues are screening documentaries this weekend, and the Hebrew Center’s Summer Institute Film Series presents the French farce, “What’s In A Name.”

behind-scenes-Case-Against-8.jpg“The Case Against 8,” a narrative of the fight to rescind California’s anti-gay marriage proposition, plays on Thursday, July 17, at the Harbor View Hotel as part of The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival’s program. After the screening, directors Ben Cotner and Ryan White will lead a discussion moderated by former Congressman Barney Frank.

The Martha’s Vineyard Film Center opens two new documentaries this week. “An Honest Liar” presents a portrait of magician James “The Amazing” Randi who seeks to uncover fraudulent psychic and paranormal tricks; and “Newburg Sting” is a new film by Islanders Kate Davis and David Heilbroner about FBI persecution of a Muslim community. Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut” comes to the Center on Tuesday, July 22, as part of the Center’s Opera in Cinema Series.

In March 2013, California passed Proposition 8, which repealed the state’s marriage equality act. “The Case Against 8” presents an incisive exploration of the campaign to restore marital equality. Mr. Cotner and Mr. White’s film follows how two gay couples — Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, Kristin Perry and Sandy Stier — committed themselves to overturn the initiative that ousted California’s same-sex marriage legislation.

By focusing much of the documentary on the two couples, their children, and extended families, the directors shed light on how similar the lives of gay couples are to those of heterosexual couples. Mr. Katami and Mr. Zarrillo wanted to marry so that if they have children, their offspring will have the same rights as those of opposite sex parents. Both Ms. Stier and Ms. Perry have sons from previous heterosexual relationships, and the film provides solid evidence for how normal and well-adjusted the lesbian couple’s children are.Case-Against-8.jpg

Another important element of “The Case Against 8” comes in its portraits of the lawyers pursuing the gay couples’ lawsuit. Both Ted Olson and David Boies had participated in the Bush-Gore 2000 election litigation brought before the U.S. Supreme Court, but were on politically opposite sides. The film calls Mr. Olson the most prominent conservative lawyer in America, an illustration of how irrelevant political leanings became to the struggle in California for same-sex marriage.

Although “The Case Against 8” provides plenty of evidence on how vicious the anti-gay marriage lobby could be, its message is primarily positive, documenting how our nation has shifted its cultural values in ways that support gay rights. Also part of TMVFF’s summer series is the children’s animated film “Frozen” playing Friday, July 18, at Owen Park in Vineyard Haven and including a pre-film sing-along. “Fishing Without Nets,” a drama about a Somali who pursues then rejects piracy, plays Wednesday, July 23, at the Chilmark Community Center, and director Cutter Hodierne will answer questions after the screening

A magician debunks magic

Tyler Mason’s documentary, “An Honest Liar” is a multi-faceted examination of one man’s efforts to use his own magic skills to uncover the deceptions practiced by a variety of psychic and paranormal figures. Along the way, the film adds a portrait of Mr. Randi’s partner, Jose Alvarez.

“I’m a liar, a cheat and a charlatan,” Mr. Randi proclaims. Unlike other magician/escape artists, though, he uses his skills to entertain. Directors Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein use “An Honest Liar” to explore many types of deceivers, some of whom even succeed at fooling scientists from institutions like the Stanford Research Institute. One psychokinesis practitioner, Israeli Uri Geller, appears to be able to bend spoons and locate objects in a bevy of separate boxes. Faith healer Peter Popoff dupes people into filling his pockets with money by professing to cure them. Mr. Randi shows how this scoundrel gets away with his illusions.

In an interesting ancillary to Mr. Randi’s campaign against using deception to conceal instead of reveal, “An Honest Liar” follows the arrest and trial of Mr. Alvarez.

“We all spin personal narratives,” Mr. Randi says by way of explanation. “At the end of the day there is nothing to reveal.” Yet another surprising part of the film shows how many of the charlatans that Randi exposes reinvent themselves and continue to practice their deceptions.

Also playing at the Film Center next week are two Oscar-winning shorts, “Thoth,” and “Marjoe.” Filmmaker Sarah Kernochan will answer
whats-in-a-name-still-2.jpgquestions after the screening.

The Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center’s film playing this weekend at the M.V. Film Center is “What’s in a Name?” Alexandre de la Patelliere’s and Matthieu Delaporte’s farce concerns a family that announces the name for their soon-to-be-born baby at a dinner party with unexpected results.

“The Case Against 8,” Thursday, July 17, 8 pm, M.V. Film Festival, Harbor View Hotel, Edgartown.

“An Honest Liar,” Thursday, July 17, and Friday, July 18, 7:30 pm, M.V. Film Center, Vineyard Haven.

“What’s in a Name,” Hebrew Center Summer Institute Film Series, Sunday, July 20, 7:30 pm, M.V. Film Center.

“Thoth” and “Marjoe,” Oscar-winning shorts, Wednesday, July 23, 7:30 pm, M.V. Film Center, Vineyard Haven.  For tickets and information, visit tmvff.org for M.V. Film Festival films and mvfilmsociety.com for M.V. Film Center films, including the M.V. Hebrew Center’s Summer Institute film series.

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Weekends this summer will conclude with shrieks sounding from Edgartown’s Entertainment Cinemas as the Island’s claim to thriller fame hits the screen. Each Sunday at 6:30 pm, the theater will show Steven Spielberg’s 1975 classic, “Jaws,” which was filmed on Martha’s Vineyard. The film is rated PG.

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Dakoka Fanning, right, shown with Elizabeth Olsen, will attend Saturday's screening of "Very Good Girls" at the Chilmark Community Center.

The Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center has launched its Summer Institute Film Series. Playing Sunday, July 13, is “E-Team,” a documentary about Human Rights Watch’s investigative wing that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last winter.

“E-Team” describes the work of four members of the Human Rights Watch’s Emergencies Team, which works to uncover evidence of human rights violations and then document and publicize them. Ross Kauffman and Katy Chevigny have directed the cinema vérité style documentary, and one of the four E-Team members interviewed is Fred Abrahams, a member of the Vineyard Cronig family; he will answer questions after the screening.

“We knew they were very accomplished,” Mr. Abrahams said of the two directors in a M.V. Times interview last weekend. “They wanted creative independence, but we didn’t want a puff piece.” Mr. Kauffman previously directed the Oscar-winning documentary “Born into Brothels,” and Ms. Chevigny directed “Deadline,” a film about former Illinois governor George Ryan’s commutation of death sentences that was broadcast on NBC. In the case of “E-Team,” the question was whether the production crew could safely go into difficult, even dangerous situations with members of the E-Team.

“My mother [Carol Cronig Abrahamson] grew up on the Vineyard,” Mr. Abrahams said. His grandparents Henry and Mae Cronig emigrated from Lithuania and ultimately settled on the Vineyard, where they opened Cronig’s Market. Another relative, Ruth Stiller, worked for more than 40 years at the Tisbury Elementary School.“I spent every summer of my childhood on the Vineyard, and now my children, Milan, four, and Simon, one, do the same,” said Mr. Abrahams, who lives in Berlin with his wife Natasa in the off-season. He has worked for Human Rights Watch for 20 years, predominantly in Eastern Europe, visiting seven or eight different war zones to document human rights abuses. Most recently he has investigated abuses in Libya after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

Also interviewed in the film are Russian émigré Anna Neistat and Norwegian Ole Solvang, a married couple. Peter Bouckaert, the fourth member of the team, has been called “The James Bond of human-rights investigators” by Rolling Stone. Upcoming films in the Summer Institute series include “What’s in a Name,” “The Outrageous Sophie Tucker,” and “Soft Vengeance: Albie Sachs and the New South Africa.” For more information, visit mvsummerinstitute.org.

Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard come to M.V. Film Festival

On Saturday, July 12, director, screenwriter and Vineyard summer resident Naomi Foner (mother of actors Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal) will appear with her new film, “Very Good Girls,” a coming-of-age story. Also attending the Chilmark Community Center screening will be actors Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard, and cinematographer Bobby Bukowski. Along with Mr. Sarsgaard, the star-studded cast of the film includes Ellen Barkin, Richard Dreyfuss, Elizabeth Olsen, and Demi Moore.

In a Brew and View event, which gets its name from the opportunity to purchase beer and drinks from the venue’s bar, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival screens “Appropriate Behavior” on Thursday, July 10, at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown. This film is about a hip young bisexual woman in Brooklyn.

The Film Festival’s children’s program, Cinema Circus, will be held on Sunday, July 13, at the Chilmark Community Center. And on Monday, July 14, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal will attend a screening of the comedy, “Frank” at Edgartown Cinemas, where she will answer questions following the film. The film also stars Michael Fassbender.

Former Congressman Barney Frank and his husband Jim Ready will answer questions after a Wednesday, July 16, screening of the documentary “Compared to What: The Improbable Journey of Barney Frank.” For more information, visit tmvff.org.

“Supermensch” at M.V. Film Center

Opening this weekend at the M.V. Film Center is “Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon,” a Mike Myers documentary about the celebrated Hollywood agent. The film opens with a series of celebrity testimonials ranging from actor Michael Douglas to comedian Groucho Marx.

Mr. Gordon started out as a young man thinking he wanted to become a probation officer. But after he was beaten up by the youthful offenders he was put in charge of, musician Jimi Hendrix said to him, “Are you Jewish? You should be a manager.” His first client was the Godfather of Shock Rock, Alice Cooper. As soon as Mr. Gordon handed the musicians in this group a container of marijuana, he was hired.

In addition to interviewing a host of celebrities, “Supermensch” offers viewers insights into how a successful agent develops publicity for his clients. In the case of Alice Cooper, Mr. Gordon got the music group a gig performing between John Lennon and The Doors. He developed outrageous stunts like having lead musician Alice Cooper photographed nude with a reptile covering his genitalia and, another time, packaging female panties as part of the group’s album, “School’s Out.” Another time Mr. Gordon arranged for Mr. Cooper to appear to be shot out of a cannon. To boost Canadian singer Anne Murray’s profile, he booked the singer into Hollywood’s legendary Troubadour Club with the Hollywood Vampires and John Lennon.

In a special, live performance on Tuesday, July 15, Adam Strauss brings his one-man show, “The Mushroom Cure,” to the Film Center. Mr. Strauss, who won the Leffe Craft Your Character international storytelling competition, describes how he tried hallucinogenic mushrooms as a way to cure his obsessive-compulsive disorder.

For more information, visit mvfilmsociety.com.

“Appropriate Behavior,” Thursday, July 10, 8 pm. Harbor View Hotel, Edgartown.

“Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon,” Friday, July 11, and Saturday, July 12, 7:30 pm, M.V. Film Center, Vineyard Haven.

“Very Good Girls,” Saturday, July 12, 8 pm, Chilmark Community Center.

“Cinema Circus: Kickin’ Off in Chilmark,” Sunday, July 13, 12 noon–6 pm, Chilmark Community Center. Free TMVFF event.

 “E-Team,” M. V. Hebrew Center Summer Institute Film Series, Sunday, July 13, 7:30 pm, M.V. Film Center, Vineyard Haven. For information, see mvsummerinstitute.com.

“Frank,” Monday, July 14, 7 pm, Entertainment Cinemas, Edgartown.

“The Mushroom Cure,” live by Adam Strauss, Tuesday, July 15, 7:30 pm, M.V. Film Center, Vineyard Haven.

“Compared to What: The Improbable Journey of Barney Frank,” Wednesday, July 16, 8 pm, Chilmark Community Center.

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Hanna's Journey is one of the films slated for this summer's MVFF.

Chilmark’s Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, which has expanded its screenings to five of the Island’s towns, will screen two social action documentaries next week. Director Rory Kennedy’s “Last Days in Vietnam” plays Wednesday, July 9, at the Chilmark Community Center, with dinner offered before the film, and the director will answer questions after the film. On Thursday, July 10, “Appropriate Behavior” will screen at Edgartown’s Harbor View Hotel. Across town in Vineyard Haven, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center features a new, re-mastered version of the classic Beatles film, “A Hard Day’s Night” on July 4 and opens “Whitey,” a gripping documentary about Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger.

Members of the generation that came of age during the early 70s will recall the vivid images of South Vietnamese desperately attempting to reach an evacuation helicopter landing on the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. The year was 1975, and filmmaker Kennedy’s harrowing film documents the 24-hour period when the U.S. pulled out of South Vietnam and the North Vietnamese Army took over. A preview of “Last Days in Vietnam,” which opened at Sundance, was not available for viewing, but Bob Nelson of Variety praises the film as “a worthy addition to the historical record.”

At the heart of the film is the moral dilemma faced by the American officials ordered by the White House to evacuate only U.S. citizens. Ms. Kennedy mixes archival footage of the U.S. withdrawal with more recent interviews of U.S. officials who were present during the evacuation. Although the late Ambassador Graham Martin has been criticized for not preparing properly for the siege and takeover of Saigon, other government officials defied their orders and shipped out 30,000 South Vietnamese refugees.

Playing on Thursday, July 10, “Appropriate Behavior” is a comedy that addresses the dilemmas of a young, bisexual Iranian-American woman living in Brooklyn. The film is directed by Lena Dunham of “Girls.”

Harrowing documentary on Boston’s legendary crime boss

Not to be missed is the new documentary film about James “Whitey” Bulger, the South Boston gangster and crime boss who wreaked havoc in the city for almost 30 years. Playing this week at the M.V. Film Center, “Whitey: United States of America vs. James J. Bulger” tracks the arrest and trial of the ruthless criminal, whose brother, William Bulger, served as President of the Massachusetts Senate and President of the University of Massachusetts.

More gripping than even the best fictional crime stories, “Whitey” reveals how Bulger developed connections with state police, the F.B.I., and the U.S. Department of Justice that allowed him free reign of Boston. Once captured, Whitey was prosecuted for 19 murders, racketeering, money laundering, and conspiracy charges.

Much of the strength of Joe Berlinger’s film comes from the way the director compares testimony from prosecutors and defense lawyers in Whitey’s 2013 trial. The documentary demonstrates the tangled web of corruption that kept FBI agents protecting Bulger instead of tracking him down. Using overhead tracking shots of the South Boston area where Whitey grew up and lived, combined with views of downtown Boston’s federal courthouse, the director often situates the individuals he interviews at the wheel of their cars.

The basic premise of “Whitey” is that while this gangster was willing to cop to murder, racketeering, and other crimes, he refused to admit to being an informant for the FBI. Such an admission would oppose the “good” bad guy ethics that characterized Whitey and other members of Boston’s Irish mafia. Although he did not end up testifying during his trial, Whitney did go on record as believing that federal law enforcement was more corrupt than criminals like himself. In addition, the director argues that the FBI and the Department of Justice were obsessed with tracking down the Italian mafia and ignored the widespread criminal activities of Boston’s Irish gangs, like the Winter Hill mob.

‘Hanna’s Journey’

The 2014 film series of the Martha’s Vineyard Summer Institute opens on Sunday, July 6, with a 7:30 pm screening of the award-winning romantic comedy, “Hanna’s Journey,” at the M.V. Film Center in Vineyard Haven.

In this 2013 film from director Julia von Heinz, Hanna is a young German woman traveling to Israel to work with mentally handicapped adults and visit a Holocaust survivor. Her journey has been calculated to impress a board considering her for a position at a huge consulting firm, but what she didn’t plan for was Itay, the handsome young Israeli counselor who becomes her mentor. She also didn’t plan on the elderly female survivor who sees through Hanna’s motives and reveals some startling facts about Hanna’s own past. What began as a brief trip to establish credentials for her prospective employers becomes a journey across cultures and into the center of her own heart and mind.

“Hanna’s Journey” is the first of six Sunday night screenings in this year’s series of the Summer Institute, a program of the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center.

-Nis Kildegaard

New version of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’

In a special July 4 screening, the M.V. Film Center presents a newly re-mastered version of the classic Beatles documentary, “A Hard Day’s Night.” Director Richard Lester’s film follows a day in the life of the famous British musical ensemble and includes many of their most famous songs.

“A Hard Day’s Night,” Friday, July 4, 7:30 pm, and Saturday, July 5, 9:30 pm.

“Hanna’s Journey,” Hebrew Center Summer Institute Film Series at M.V. Film Center, Sunday, July 6, 7:30 pm, $12; $9 Summer Institute sponsors via mvfilmsociety.com, and at door.

“Whitey: United States of America vs. James J. Bulger,” Monday, July 7, Tuesday, July 8, and Thursday, July 10, 7:30 pm.

“The Last Days of Vietnam,” Wednesday, July 9, 8 pm, The M.V. Film Festival, Chilmark Community Center. For tickets, and information, see www.tmvff.org.

“And So It Goes,” N.Y. Film Critics National Series, with Rob Reiner, Wednesday, July 9, 7:30 pm. Special pricing. All screenings at M.V. Film Center, Vineyard Haven unless otherwise noted. Tickets, except for special pricing events, $12 (MV Film Society members, $9; 14 and under $7).  For tickets and information, see mvfilmsociety.com.

“Appropriate Behavior,” Thursday, July 10, 8 pm, The M.V. Film Festival, Harbor View Hotel, North Water St., Edgartown. For tickets and information, see tmvff.org.

This article has been updated to reflect the fact that U.S. troops left Saigon in 1975, not 1973.