Film

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Imagery from the unreleased film "The Seasons." – Photo courtesy MV Film Center

The Martha’s Vineyard Film Center and the Vineyard Conservation Society have come together to create the Island’s first annual Environmental Film Festival, on the big screen this weekend at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. Titled “Nature as Inspiration: The Films of Jacques Perrin,” the festival will screen five of the celebrated actor and filmmaker’s nature documentaries, including A Night on Earth in its North American premiere. The Paris-based Mr. Perrin, along with members of his film staff, will attend the festival and present clips from his newest film, The Seasons, set to premiere in December 2015.

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the Vineyard Conservation Society has organized a yearlong series of events to promote environmental awareness on the Island. In addition to the film festival, its “Connect, Reflect, Protect” series will include lectures and children’s programs. Artwork about the environment from a contest for Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School students will be on display in the Film Center’s Feldman Family Artspace all week, culminating in an awards ceremony on Sunday, May 24, to honor contestants. Following the awards ceremony, Océans will be screened for the second time during the festival. The Sunday screening is free for all filmgoers 18 years old and younger.

MV_FilmEnvironment_poster_5_COL.jpgOcéans, which was released in 2009 and won a César in 2011, will launch the festival with its initial screening on Thursday, May 21. The film follows a 6:30 pm opening reception featuring Mr. Perrin and longtime Oak Bluffs seasonal resident Jesse Ausubel. Mr. Ausubel, who worked on the film as part of its scientific team, serves as director and senior research associate of the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller University in New York. He also is on the faculty of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Following both screenings of Océans, he will lead Q & A sessions.

Mr. Perrin narrates Océans, and co-directed it with Jacques Cluzaud. The film, which took seven years to make, explores the mysteries of the bodies of water that make up nearly three-quarters of the earth’s surface and are considered to be the planet’s last frontier. It is the most expensive documentary ever made, according to Mr. Ausubel. “I came to be a huge fan of Galatée [Films],” Mr. Ausubel said in a telephone interview about Mr. Perrin’s production company.

Mr. Perrin’s 2001 film, Winged Migration, will play on Friday, May 22. Nominated for a 2003 Best Documentary Oscar, this hauntingly beautiful film tracks the migration patterns of birds over all seven continents. Rob Culbert of Tisbury will lead the Q & A session following Winged Migration. An expert birder and ecological consultant, Mr. Culbert leads birding tours on-Island.

Mr. Perrin served as producer for the 1992 film Microcosmos, playing Saturday, May 23. Directed by Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou, this remarkable film explores the world of insects close-up, on two square meters of French prairie. Specially designed cameras take the viewer beneath the earth’s surface, and demonstrate just how athletic tiny insects really are. Paul Z. Goldstein, who has served on the board of directors of the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, and in 2010 led the conservation, monitoring, and management of the Martha’s Vineyard native bee inventory for the Edey Foundation, will lead the Q & A session following the film. He serves as a research associate in the Departments of Entomology at the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Maryland.

Actor and filmmaker Jacques Perrin is being celebrated at the Film Center. – Photo courtesy MV Film Center
Actor and filmmaker Jacques Perrin is being celebrated at the Film Center. – Photo courtesy MV Film Center

A champagne reception will precede the Saturday screening of Night on Earth. Mr. Perrin will first show clips from The Seasons, which he co-directed with Mr. Cluzaud. Still in production, this work looks at the cycle of seasons through the eyes of animals in Europe over the past 10,000 years. Night on Earth, which follows, and which Mr. Perrin co-produced, uses specially developed cameras capable of recording in very low light. The film captures the nocturnal activities of animals as never seen before. Doctoral candidate Luanne Johnson will lead the Q & A session following the film. Ms. Johnson studies the influence of urbanization on biodiversity, particularly as it affects bird species, including the piping plover. She is also studying populations of northern long-eared bats on the Vineyard.

The final festival screening on Sunday, May 24, will feature Himalaya: The Boyhood of a Chief, produced by Mr. Perrin and directed by Eric Valli. This 1999 Nepalese drama, nominated for a 2000 Best Foreign Film Oscar, follows the story of a Tibetan tribal chief and his fractious relationship with a younger chief-to-be.

In addition to being a film producer and director, Mr. Perrin has had a distinguished career as an actor, starring in Costa-Gavras’ Z, which won the 1970 Best Foreign Film Oscar for Algeria, and Giuseppe Tornore’s Cinema Paradiso, which won the 1990 Best Foreign Film Oscar for Italy and played at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center last week.

“What I love about these nature films is that they’re global,” says Mr. Ausubel. “Because of the visual power, sound and music, everyone can enjoy them. They have an incredible directness. He [Mr. Perrin] has a real genius. He gets you to fly like a bird, move like an insect.” The festival is made possible by support from the Richard Lounsbery Foundation.

 

Oceans, Thursday, May 21, 7:30 pm; Sunday, May 24, 4 pm (free screening for 18 and younger).

Winged Migration, Friday, May 22, 7:30 pm.

Microcosmos, Saturday, May 23, 4 pm.

The Seasons (clips), Saturday, May 23, 7:30 pm.

Night on Earth, Saturday, May 23, 7:30 pm.

Himalaya: The Boyhood of a Chief, Sunday, May 24, 7:30 p.m.

All screenings part of “Nature as Inspiration: The Films of Jacques Perrin” at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, Tisbury Marketplace, Vineyard Haven. For tickets and information, see mvfilmsociety.com.

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A hard look at an aging actress.

Juliette Binoche stars in Clouds of Sils Maria.

As Alejandro Inarritu’s Oscar-winning Birdman most recently illustrated, filmmakers never tire of the navel-gazing involved in explorations of acting, aging, and celebrity. French director Olivier Assayas takes on the task in his latest film, Clouds of Sils Maria, playing this weekend at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center.

Juliette Binoche, celebrated for her roles in movies including The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Chocolat, plays Maria Enders, a fortysomething actress who reluctantly decides to play the older woman in a revival of Maloja Snake, an ill-fated lesbian romance that launched her career some 20 years earlier when she played Sigrid, the fickle younger woman. The title of the play is inspired by a dramatic cloud formation in the Swiss Alps that winds through the mountain valleys like a serpent.

The viewer meets Maria as she travels by train to Zurich with her personal assistant, Valentine, played compellingly by Twilight saga actress Kristen Stewart. Ms. Stewart won a French César as supporting actress for her role, the first American actress to receive a César. Valentine juggles movie offers, paparazzi, and other aspects of Maria’s life, while Maria prepares to accept an award for Klaus, the reclusive theatrical director who cast her in the first Maloja Snake.

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While en route, Valentine and Maria learn that Klaus has committed suicide. Once the two arrive in Zurich, Maria discovers to her dismay that Henryk (Hanns Zischler), an actor with whom she had an unhappy affair during the run of the original Maloja Snake, has also been invited to accept the prize for Klaus. She meets with Christopher (Johnny Flynn), the British director who plans to revive Maloja Snake on the London stage, and wants Maria to play Helena, the older woman, in the play.

While it may seem as if a lot is happening in Clouds of Sils Maria, Maria’s conversations with Valentine are what really make up the bulk of the movie. Jo-Ann (Chloe Grace Moretz), the up-and-coming and volatile starlet being tapped for Sigrid in the London production, also plays an important role.

Maria and Valentine are invited to stay at Klaus’s home in the Alps by his widow, Maria’s close friend Rosa (Angela Winkler). The actress and her assistant take frequent walks in the breathtakingly beautiful alpine meadows where Klaus committed suicide.

In addition to their hikes, Maria and Valentine spend much of their time rehearsing for the new production of Maloja Snake. They take time to watch Jo-Ann’s blockbuster sci-fi film, which Valentine likes and Maria dismisses as shallow pop-culture junk. As suspicious and potentially jealous of Jo-Ann as Maria may be, she discovers the starlet is very different from the way she is portrayed by the media.

Often it is hard to tell whether Maria’s and Valentine’s relationship parallels the roles the two are rehearsing. The mix-up of real and imaginary lives can be dizzying, but the powerful performances of Ms. Binoche and Ms. Stewart will keep the viewer engaged.

Clouds of Sils Maria, Friday, May 15, and Saturday, May 16, at 4 pm, Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, Tisbury Marketplace, Vineyard Haven. For tickets and information on all films playing at the Film Center, visit mvfilmsociety.com.

 

 

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Alex Garland, who wrote the screenplay for Danny Boyle’s multiple award-winning horror flick 28 Days Later, has produced a compelling sci-fi thriller, Ex Machina, for his directorial debut. It opens this weekend at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center.

Don’t look for slam-bam special effects or spectacular car/spaceship chases in this one. Ex Machina depends on the interaction between CEO genius Nathan (Oscar Isaac of Inside Llewyn Davis) and Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). A program coder, Nathan has selected to test Ava (Alicia Vikander), the artificial intelligence (A.I.) cyborg he has created. Ex Machina has a fitting title, making the allusion to the classical Greek dramatic device deus ex machina, in which the gods intervene to bring resolution to the plot of a play.

The question Nate hopes to answer through Caleb is whether or not Ava has evolved beyond machine-based artificial intelligence to experience truly human qualities. The first half of the movie focuses on intricate conversations between Nathan and Caleb, along with those Caleb has with Ava to see whether she’s evolved.

Computer geeks will have no problem following the dialogue, although the rest of us may flounder a bit. By the second half of the movie, the suspense builds, and even the most computer-illiterate viewers will find themselves hanging on every word and scene.

One of the suggestive devices the director uses is crosscuts between Nathan’s remote, futuristic “lab” home and the lushly beautiful vistas of woods and mountains where it is set. Caleb learns Ava has never been outside the building. Is this what she most longs for? A number of other puzzling elements begin to pile up.

What does it mean that Nathan lifts weights and drinks heavily? Caleb’s meetings with Ava always take place with a glass wall separating them, reminiscent of the way prison visitors are separated from inmates. Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno) appears periodically, apparently as Nathan’s maid, but why is it she never speaks? The power frequently fails, necessitating a backup generator, and when it does, Nathan, who has cameras everywhere, can’t hear Caleb and Ava’s conversation. When Ava begins wearing dresses and wigs, does that signify she is evolving into human status? Why does Caleb slice open his arm and smear blood on the mirror in his room? Why are the cyborgs in Ex Machina women? Does that make them inferior or superior to the men in the film?

Like the pieces of an intricate puzzle, these elements slowly fit together. Then what happens to Nathan, Caleb, Ava, and even Kyoko seems both surprising and inevitable.

 

Ex Machina, Friday, May 8, and Saturday, May 9, 7:30 pm; Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, Vineyard Haven. For tickets and information on this and other film center films, see mvfilmsociety.com.

 

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Photo courtesy Rotten Tomatoes

Except when vampires and zombies parade across the screen, most modern cinematic fairy tales have happy endings. Not so with the Argentine film Wild Tales, which harks back to the primitive violence of Grimm’s or Aesop’s original fables. It is currently playing at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center.

Screenwriter and director Damián Szifron spins a potent web of satire and violence in his six short stories of revenge run amuck, which also includes the work of celebrated Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar and his brother Agustin as producers of the film. Wild Tales earned a Best Foreign Film nomination at this year’s Oscars, as well as one last year for the Cannes Palme d’Or, with many wins elsewhere.

Unlike vampire and zombie films, Wild Tales sets its six shorts in a world of real characters and settings. Pasternak, the first, takes place almost exclusively in the cabin of a jetliner and ends up uncomfortably close to the recent plane tragedy in France. A runway model and a classical music critic in the story strike up a flirtatious, across-the-aisle conversation, and discover that they have in common an acquaintance with Pasternak, the model’s ex-boyfriend and the critic’s former student, whose work he savaged. As their chat continues, other passengers who overhear it chime in. They know Pasternak, too. And guess who has locked himself in the pilot’s cabin and taken over the controls?

The rainy set for The Rats is a roadside café, where the one customer is a rude and arrogant loan shark who inspired the suicide of the café waitress’s father. When the cook suggests lacing the man’s food with rat poison, the distressed young server resists, but the cook has fewer scruples and more of a yen for revenge. In Road to Hell, the smug, self-satisfied owner of a new Audi has no qualms about giving the finger to a bedraggled driver of a clunker and calling him a redneck before zooming by. Road rage goes postal, after Mr. Audi gets a flat tire near a conveniently precipitous bluff by a highway bridge.

A demolitions engineer in Bombita finds his car has been towed, not once, not twice, but three times. The fines he incurs rise higher and higher, and he faces an egregious lack of concern from recalcitrant city clerks. Bad goes to worse once his wife files for divorce and he loses his job. Indignant, he uses his professional skills to retaliate.

Particularly grim is The Bill, in which the son in an affluent family accidentally hits a pregnant woman while driving home. After the woman and her unborn baby die, the father persuades the family gardener to take the rap in exchange for a big chunk of change. Then it turns out the prosecutor wants his cut, as does the family lawyer, and so on. Last and best of all is Till Death Do Us Part, the story of a wedding from hell. After the bride discovers that her betrothed has not only cheated on her but invited his liaison partner to the wedding, she threatens more and more extreme revenge, until the nuptial celebration turns into the scene of threats, anarchy, and violence.

Mr. Szifron, who claims to have written most of the six stories while reclining in his bathtub, directs Wild Tales with a crispness and eye for tongue-in-cheek authenticity. We all have our fantasies of revenge when minor events go belly-up. Watching what happens when such fantasies become real makes these stories fun and satisfying, if a little uneven.

 

Wild Tales, Thursday, April 30, and Saturday, May 2, 7:30 pm; Friday, May 1, and Sunday, May 3, 4 pm, Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, Tisbury Marketplace, Vineyard Haven. For tickets and information on other films, see mvfilmsociety.com.

 

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‘While We’re Young’ comes to Island cinemas this weekend.

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts star in "While We're Young."

Filmmaker Noah Baumbach takes over Woody Allen’s mantle as the explorer of artsy middle-class neurotics in his new film, While We’re Young, opening this weekend at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center and Entertainment Cinemas. Too bad about the boringly flat title and the heavy-handed opening quote from Henrik Ibsen, because this is a romantic comedy that charms and amuses.

Central characters Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) are a 40-something couple experiencing an identity crisis. Childless after multiple miscarriages, they find themselves out of sync with longtime friends like Fletcher (Adam Horovitz) and Marina (Maria Dizzia), who have moved on to doting parenthood. In While We’re Young, 40-something becomes the new 20-something for Josh and Cornelia, when the millennial couple Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried) happen into their lives. It seems like a perfect fit.

Like Josh, Adam is an aspiring documentary filmmaker, and he looks up to Josh as the older, more accomplished artist who produced a successful film 10 years ago. The catch is that Josh has been floundering ever since, procrastinating on his second cinematic effort, a political/philosophical morass. He’s suffering from a Gen-X midlife crisis. So is Cornelia, who works on production for her celebrated documentarist father Leslie (Charles Grodin), who hasn’t made a film in years. The green-eyed monster rules Josh, who resents his father-in-law’s success in the face of his own lack of follow through.

Hooking up with Jamie and Darby seems like the perfect solution to Josh and Cornelia’s angst. After all, Jamie seems to hero-worship Josh, and the 20-something couple enjoys youthful millennial pastimes. Josh builds his own furniture, collects vinyl records and “pukes up his demons” under the influence of a New Age guru. Darby makes boutique ice creams and attends hip-hop exercise classes, but like Cornelia, stays on the sidelines in this male-centered comedy.

As the friendship between the two couples develops, Josh starts to see another, less appealing side to Jamie. The younger, fledgling filmmaker may act like a laid-back Mr. Cool, but he’s also an ambitious one, who knows how to capitalize on all the latest trends that Josh finds questionable.

An accomplished filmmaker and occasional Vineyard visitor, Mr. Baumbach enriches the relationships among the Gen-X and millennial couples, as well as the oedipal-flavored one between Josh and his father-in-law, with finesse. His satire has a gentle and affectionate side. All the actors — from Mr. Stiller and Ms. Watts to Mr. Driver and Ms. Seyfried, along with Mr. Grodin — are well cast and give spot-on performances. In the best romantic comedy tradition, all’s well that ends swell. Also cast in minor roles are my stepson Matthew Kaplan and step-grandson Victor Kaplan, Vineyard summer residents and friends of Mr. Baumbach, which provided a special feature of the film for me.

 

While We’re Young, Friday, April 24, and Sunday, April 26, 4 pm; Saturday, April 25, 7:30 pm, at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center; Saturday, April 25, 12:45 pm and 3:45pm; Sunday, April 26, 1 pm and 7 pm; Tuesday, April 28, 1 pm, 4 pm, and 7 pm; Thursday, April 30, 4 pm and 7 pm, at Entertainment Cinemas.

 

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Local filmmakers bring attention to Islanders who are working to develop a sustainable local environment.

In "The Hidden Life of Conch," Islander Shelley Edmundson shares groundbreaking research about the conch. – Photo courtesy MV Film Center

In celebration of the 45th anniversary of Earth Day on Wednesday, April 22, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center will screen three short films by Vineyard filmmakers Liz Witham and Ken Wentworth of Film-Truth Productions. The shorts are part of the married couple’s documentary series, Sustainable Vineyard Episodes. The three films —The Hidden Life of Conch, The Story of Seeds, and Goatscaping — are free to the public.

The goal of the series is to promote a sense of community by profiling Islanders who are working to develop a sustainable local environment. Vineyarders active in the Island environmental movement and interviewed in the three shorts will answer questions following the film screenings. Participants include: Noli Taylor, director of Island Grown Schools; Melinda Rabbitt-DeFeo, Edgartown School garden program; Tim Boland, executive director of Polly Hill Arboretum; Tim Clark, curator of Polly Hill Arboretum; Ian Jochems, horticulturist for Polly Hill Arboretum; Kristen Fauteux, director of stewardship at Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation; Rebecca Gilbert, owner of Native Earth Teaching Farm; Shelley Edmundson, doctoral student in the department of biological sciences at the University of New Hampshire; as well as the two filmmakers.

In The Hidden Life of Conch, Ms. Edmundson describes her ongoing research on the conch, which make up the Island’s largest fishing industry, earning $6 million annually. With most information on conch dating from the 1940s, relatively little up-to-date data on this sea snail, also known as the channeled whelk, is available. Conch harvested by Vineyard fishermen travel primarily to Hong Kong, and Ms. Witham has suggested that one local project might be to persuade an Island chef to develop a menu using this marine animal.

The Story of Seeds examines the Island movement to collect local plant varieties and make them available to gardeners. By learning how to save seeds from local plants rather than destroying them, individuals can help counter the increasing corporatization of the U.S. food industry, according to Ms. Witham.

Goatscaping explores the use of goats to remove invasive foreign shrubs and woody plants. Goats also consume poison ivy, and unlike herbicides, they don’t leave behind any toxic residue. In this short, Ms. Fauteux describes how the Sheriffs Meadow Foundation has used goats at Cedar Tree Neck to eliminate bittersweet, one of the invading species at that site.

Ms. Witham and Mr. Wentworth came up with the idea for making a series of film shorts on Island sustainability in 2010, while they were working on a full-length documentary, The Greening of Eden, about the broader issue of humanity’s relationship to plant life. They received a 2014 Martha’s Vineyard Vision Fellowship and a Massachusetts Cultural Council grant to produce the series.

Ms. Witham explained Film-Truth Production’s decision to make shorts about Island sustainability rather than a full-length documentary. “With increasing use of the Internet, people are consuming media differently than they did even just a few years ago. We designed the Sustainable Vineyard series of short documentaries in a form and length that is optimal for sharing online. Our concept was to make short pieces that are easy to utilize but that can also be combined and played together to make a wonderful, longer short documentary that is optimal for film festivals and community screenings.”

They have also made Foraging in Aquinnah with Kristina Hook-Leslie and Pig Farming with Jan Buhrman. While The Story of Seeds was shown last month at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, The Hidden Life of Conch and Goatscaping will receive their first public screenings on April 22. Film-Truth Productions plans to make the series available to Island schools, libraries, and sustainability organizations. The film company is also exploring broadcast opportunities.

Earth Day originated in 1970, after Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson witnessed the massive 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif., and organized a national teach-in on the environment with California Rep. Pete McCloskey. Earth Day went global in 1990, expanding to include 141 countries, and in 2010 it emphasized the threat of global warming and the need to develop sources for clean energy. Formed in 1970, the Earth Day Network supports year-round environmental awareness and action worldwide.

 

Sustainable Vineyard Episodes, Wednesday, April 22, 7:30 pm, Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, Tisbury Marketplace, Vineyard Haven. For tickets for these and other scheduled films, see mvfilmsociety.com. For additional information on Sustainable Vineyard Episodes and Film-Truth Productions, contact Liz Witham at liz@film-truth.com or 508-693-3672.

 

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Al Pacino and Christopher Plummer star in "Danny Collins." – Photo courtesy Rotten Tomatoes.

Danny Collins, which played for one night last month at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center as part of the New York Film Critics Series, returns this weekend. Al Pacino stars as the has-been singer who gets a new lease on life thanks to a letter from John Lennon that he receives 40 years after it was mailed. Playing next week in honor of the late author and politician Jonathan Revere, whose birthdate is April 15, is Man from Reno, a neo-noir, biracial film about a Japanese crime novelist on the lam from her promotional tour.

Currently, a popular theme in Hollywood seems to be investigations into the underside of fame. Jeff Bridges played a down-and-out country-western singer in Crazy Heart (2009), and the Coen brothers directed Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis, a tale about the folk scene of the early ’60s in Greenwich Village. Birdman: Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance — a multiple Oscar winner this year — stars Michael Keaton as a superhero film star trying for a more serious comeback on Broadway.

Danny Collins — which was not available for review — provides Mr. Pacino’s Danny with the support of a star-studded cast, including Christopher Plummer as the singer’s agent; Annette Bening as Mary, hotel manager and would-be amour; Bobby Cannavale as Tom, Danny’s estranged son from a long-ago liaison with a groupie; and Jennifer Garner as Tom’s wife Samantha. Once Danny receives the belated fan letter from Lennon, he decides to turn over a new leaf, limit his drug and alcohol use, and write new material instead relying on his repertoire of past hits. He also tries to reconnect with his out-of-wedlock son Tom. Dan Fogelman, screenwriter for the Steve Carell vehicle Crazy, Stupid, Love, and for Tangled, the animated retelling of the fairytale “Rapunzel,” wrote the script for Danny Collins. It is his debut as a director.

Dave Boyle directed and co-wrote Man from Reno with Joel Clark. Mr. Boyle has built a track record of films about Asians in America, after spending time in Australia as a Mormon missionary who hung out with Japanese surfers. In Man from Reno he changes up the usually lone male protagonist by pairing San Marco County sheriff Paul Del Moral, played by veteran character actor Pepe Serna, with Aki, a Japanese detective author played by Steven Seagal’s daughter Ayako Fujitani.

The film opens with Paul driving through a practically impenetrable fog south of the city, one of the first cues to the audience that the director will handle neo-noir conventions with a bit of tongue in cheek. After the sheriff hits the putative owner of an abandoned vehicle, the twists and turns of the narrative threads take over. A depressive who is not dealing well with her growing celebrity, Aki goes AWOL from her book tour and lands in a San Francisco boutique hotel. The viewer meets Aki as she is interviewed about her new book, Inspector Takabe. Before long, she has a one-night stand with a handsome Asian who identifies himself as Akira Suzuki. Like the sheriff’s last name, Akira’s is a pun intended. After his tryst with Aki, Akira heads out for a cigarette and doesn’t come back, so Aki dons her detective hat to hunt for him. As is so often the case in the noir genre, nobody turns out to be whom they appear to be. Although the meandering plotline grows more than a little attenuated, strong acting by Mr. Serna and Ms. Fujitani, and handsome cinematography by Richard Wong, keep Man from Reno enjoyably on track. Music and refreshments are planned before the screening.

 

Danny Collins, Friday, April 10, and Saturday, April 11, 7:30 pm; Sunday, April 12, 4 pm at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center; Saturday April 11, 12:45 and 4 pm; Sunday April 12, 12:45 and 7 pm; Monday April 13, 4 and 7 pm; and Tuesday April 14, 1, 4 and 7 pm at Entertainment Cinemas.

Man from Reno, Wednesday, April 15, 7:30 pm at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center.

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Canaries, those sweet little yellow songbirds, have provided fodder for a host of slang phrases, ranging from “canary in a coal mine” to synonyms for snitch, barbiturate, and a female singer. It’s hard to be sure what director Lawrence Michael Levine had in mind by titling his 30-something, mystery–romantic comedy combo Wild Canaries, opening this weekend at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. But that may be the ultimate joke. Other than being caged in the sense that New York City apartment dwellers are, Wild Canaries has little to do with birds except for a few random, mostly irrelevant shots seen at the start and finish of the film.

Brooklynites Barri (Sophia Takal) and Noah (Mr. Levine) are inching their way toward marriage with enough gabbing and squabbling to qualify for a nouveau mumblecore movie. They share their Cobble Hill apartment with freckle-faced Jean (Alia Shawkat), a lesbian with somewhat lustful eyes for her best friend Barri. Out of work going on six months, Barri has plenty of time on her hands, and conjures up a possible murder à la Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window or Woody Allen’s Manhattan Murder Mystery. The putative victim is the couple’s downstairs neighbor, 83-year-old Sylvia (Marylouise Burke), who drops dead of an apparent heart attack.

Noah, who is 10 years older than his fiancée and runs a fledgling film business, pooh-poohs Barri’s suspicions that Sylvia’s son Anthony (Kevin Corrigan) did in his mother in a plot to get control of her apartment. But before long, Barri has outfitted herself in a detective-style trench coat, floppy hat, and sunglasses, and sneaks into the deceased Sylvia’s apartment looking for clues. Add to the mix Damien (Jason Ritter), the shady artist/landlord who is on the outs with his ex-wife, and Noah’s lesbian ex-girlfriend-turned-business partner Eleanor (Annie Parisse), and the plot thickens.

The post–Hurricane Sandy world of these not-yet-fully-domesticated-by-children urbanites bustles with contemporary allusions. Barri dreams of renovating a Catskills resort into a music mecca. Gender identity and marriage have become fluid qualities, and sex roles, if not strictly equal, have nevertheless evened out. Barri, for instance, is by far more assertive than the often-befuddled Noah, who is unable to master the intricacies of his smartphone and worries that his sperm is going bad. Noah also ends up as a walking sight gag with a neck brace and a black eye.

The tangle of relationships, misadventures, and suspects in Wild Canaries at times overwhelms the film’s coherence, but Barri and Noah, along with Jean, Eleanor, Anthony, and Damien, make for entertaining characters, offering the viewer a goofy version of Nick and Nora Charles of the classic Thin Man film series.

Returning to the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center this weekend is Monk with a Camera, a handsome documentary about Nicholas Vreeland, grandson of Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. Mr. Vreeland left behind a life in the glamorous world of high fashion and professional photography to become a monk. After studying at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery for 14 years, he became the disciple of Khyongla Rinpoche in New Jersey, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama appointed him Abbot of the Tibetan monastery where he had studied. Mr. Vreeland became the first westerner to achieve such an honored position. He continued to take photographs, and in order to raise money to enlarge the monastery, he sold a collection of his work. Directed with an acute aesthetic sense by Tina Mascara and Guido Santi, Monk with a Camera tells the fascinating story of this unusual man, as well as providing valuable insights into Tibetan Buddhism.

 

Wild Canaries, Friday, April 3, and Saturday, April 4, 7:30 pm; Sunday, April 5, 4 pm.

Monk with a Camera, Friday, April 3, 4 pm; Sunday, April 5, 7:30 pm.

O Festival de Filmes de Martha's Vineyard uniu a comunidade

Crislaine Santos’ daughter Julyanne plays at the children's area of the Film Festival. – Photo by Juliana da Silva

From time to time, The Martha’s Vineyard Times will offer Portuguese translations of stories. A translation of this story follows the English version. A tradução deste artigo em português está localizada logo após a versão em inglês.

At the 15th annual Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, many Island Brazilians went to volunteer and watch newly released films. Some of them have been residents for more than 20 years, but attended the festival for the first time this year.

The films Margarita, with a Straw; Cartel Land; and Rosewater caught some Brazilians’ attention. Rosewater presents the struggles of Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari with the Iranian regime and his unjust imprisonment for “bearing witness.” The pain that his mother and expectant wife experienced during his time in prison, and their efforts to free him, are something to which many Brazilians can relate. Most grew up listening to how family members had been killed, incarcerated, or exiled by the Brazilian dictatorship that ruled from 1964 to 1985. Many Brazilians experienced the effects of an unstable economy coupled with living in silence due to the looming fear of punishment for expressing their opinions against the military regime.

Gregory Germani and Vilma Silva at the merchandise stand at the Film Festival. – Photo by Juliana da Silva
Gregory Germani and Vilma Silva at the merchandise stand at the Film Festival. – Photo by Juliana da Silva

The thought-provoking Cartel Land caught the Brazilian audience’s attention because of its resemblance to Brazil’s own struggles with drug violence and corruption. The film portrayed many sides of the ongoing battle to combat crime created by drug cartels in Mexico; the discussion among Brazilians following the film largely focused on corruption and its consequences on communities as a whole if left unchecked. Currently in Brazil, infuriated citizens are taking to the streets and asking for President’s Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment after a bribery scheme surfaced that involved the government and Petrobras, Brazil’s largest oil company. Both Mexico and Brazil, which are potential Latin American powerhouses, have remained plagued by corruption, and their chronic inability to live up to their capability continues to undermine growth, stability, and hope for the future. This is one of the many reasons why some Brazilians have chosen to call Martha’s Vineyard home, and perhaps why those in attendance were deeply moved by the film.

The Brazilian audience also appreciated the opportunity to hear from the film’s creators, Matthew Heineman of Cartel Land, and via Skype from Maziar Bahari, the journalist whose time in prison was portrayed in Rosewater. As they answered audience questions and expressed their own experiences and views, many film festival attendees reflected on the joy and security of living in a country where they can not only experience freedom of speech and the press, but give back directly as well. Vilma Silva, a Brazilian resident of Oak Bluffs and a volunteer for the MVFF merchandise stand, said, “It is wonderful to have the opportunity to volunteer — not only do I get to contribute to an event important to the community, but I am also being exposed to a side of the Island that I was not aware of. I am definitely going to volunteer again.”

After watching Margarita, with a Straw, Francisco Santos, a Brazilian resident of Oak Bluffs, expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to watch films that are intellectually provocative and stimulating, and to discuss his opinions with a variety of people from all over the Island.

Many families were also drawn to the farm-to-table food selection, and the kids’ area, where children were able to create their own movie, listen and dance to live music, and fill up on fresh popcorn, drinks, and other snacks. Crislaine Santos, a resident of West Tisbury, loved the ambience: “It is so simple and creative.”

The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival successfully sparked community building, created a platform for healthy discussion and left the audience with a desire to investigate how they can contribute to a better world. Additionally, it created gratitude among the Brazilian community for feeling integrated and part of something unifying.

 

Em Português

O Festival de Filmes de Martha’s Vineyard uniu a comunidade

No décimo quinto ano do festival de filmes da ilha de Martha’s Vineyard, muitos moradores brasileiros da ilha prestigiaram o evento como voluntários ou assistiram aos filmes que foram recentemente lançados. Alguns dos brasileiros presentes residem na ilha há mais de vinte anos, porém esta foi a primeira vez que muitos participaram do festival.

Os Filmes Margarita with a Straw; Cartel Land e Rosewater chamaram a atenção de muitos brasileiros. Rosewater apresenta as dificuldades enfrentadas pelo jornalista canadense e iraniano Maziar Bahari com o regime iraniano e seu aprisionamento injusto. O sofrimento pelo qual sua mãe e esposa – grávida na época de seu aprisionamento –, como também seus esforços para o retirarem da prisão, é algo pelo qual muitos brasileiros passaram na época da ditadura militar entre 1964 e 1985. Muitos brasileiros viveram em um país de economia instável ou cresceram ouvindo as histórias de parentes próximos ou distantes que, por acreditarem nos seus ideais e lutarem por uma democracia, tiveram conseqüências desastrosas.

O filme Cartel Land, tocou a audiência brasileira por ser um filme que retrata a semelhança entre o Brasil e o México. O filme, em formato documentário, mostra diversos lados da batalha constante para combater crimes gerados pelo tráfico de drogas, assim como o ciclo interminável de corrupção no país. Num momento em que o escândalo de corrupção da Petrobras tem tomado conta das manchetes nacionais e internacionais e levado manifestantes de diversos estados às ruas a pedir o impeachment da presidenta Dilma Rousseff, a conversa gerada após o filme foi focada na corrupção, nas conseqüências geradas no país como um todo e no que deve ser feito para que seja aniquilada. Por serem países que mantêm-se perseguidos por incessante corrupção, e não se estabelecem como países oponentes, acaba não existindo esperança de futuro para a grande maioria de seus cidadãos. Uma das muitas razões as quais alguns brasileiros consideram Martha’s Vineyard a sua casa.

Francisco Santos and Vilma Silva inside the Hay Cafe at the Film Festival.
Francisco Santos and Vilma Silva inside the Hay Cafe at the Film Festival. – Photo by Juliana da Silva

A audiência brasileira também apreciou a oportunidade de ouvir as opiniões e reflexões do diretor do filme Cartel Land Matthew Heineman, o qual estava presente no festival, assim como, através do Skype, do jornalista Maziar Bahari, cuja história foi retratada em Rosewater. Após ambos compartilharem suas perspectivas, tanto a comunidade brasileira como também americana refletiram o contentamento e segurança que sentem por morarem nos Estados Unidos, onde todos podem expressar suas opiniões e contribuir coletivamente para o contínuo melhoramento de suas comunidades.

Vilma Silva, uma residente brasileira de Oak Bluffs e voluntária da banca de mercadoria do festival, disse: “É maravilhoso ter a oportunidade de ser voluntária – eu não só contribuo para um evento importante para a ilha, como também vivencio uma experiência ainda não tida. Com certeza irei retornar.” Após assistir a Margarita, with a Straw, Francisco Santos, morador brasileiro e residente de Oak Bluffs, expressou sua gratidão pela oportunidade de assistir a filmes intelectualmente estimulantes e debater suas opiniões com uma variedade de moradores da ilha. Muitas famílias foram atraídas pela seleção de comidas estilo fazenda à mesa e a área das crianças, onde as mesmas podiam criar seus próprios filmes, como ouvir e dançar ao som de música ao vivo. Crislaine Santos, residente de West Tisbury, gostou do ambiente criado. “É tão simples e criativo.”

O festival de Filmes de Marthas Vineyard definitivamente cativou a comunidade, criou uma plataforma para conversas estimulantes e deixou a audiência com a intenção de contribuir para um mundo melhor. Assim como gerou gratidão entre os brasileiros por se sentirem integrados na comunidade.


Juliana da Silva lives on Martha’s Vineyard, where she teaches English and yoga to students in the Brazilian community. She will be reporting regularly, in English and Portuguese, for The Times.

 

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The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival brings international talent and topics to the Island.

An audience takes in a film at the Chilmark Community Center. – Photo by Maria Thibodeau

From the scene inside a tent hanging off the side of a 20,000-foot mountain in the Himalayas to the midst of a smoke-filled gunfight between Mexican drug cartel gangs, some of the country’s hottest independent filmmakers brought audiences at the 15th annual Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival to places very few will ever witness firsthand.

The range of movies presented at last weekend’s four-day festival represented some of the most daring — both physically and professionally — work to be found in the documentary arena today. Among the selections were the aforementioned, Meru and Cartel Land respectively, along with the story of a British journalist who spent 118 days as a political prisoner in Iran, an indictment of the administrations of universities from Harvard to Notre Dame to Florida State University on their handling of sexual-abuse cases, to an exposé on the Church of Scientology that piles up one startling revelation after another.

Not all of the selections dealt with weighty subjects. The documentary-heavy lineup also featured uplifting human-interest stories, like a profile of concert pianist Seymour Bernstein, and the story of a young man who took on the challenge of a solo nonstop sail around the Americas, as well as a handful of narrative films, including a few comedies.

But if a theme had to be extrapolated from this year’s festival, it would be human endurance. Many of the selections proved that with passion and determination, a committed individual can overcome all obstacles.

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From left to right: Diana Whitten (director of Vessel), Miriam Hawley and Vilunya Diskin (co-founders of Our Bodies Ourselves), Andrea Pino and Annie Clark (film subjects of The Hunting Ground), and documentarian and MVFF board member Dawn Porter. – Photo by Maria Thibodeau

 

One of the best things about the festival was that, as always, many of these brave individuals, both filmmakers and film subjects, were on hand to add further insight to their films and to field audience questions. More than half of the festival’s 22 featured films were followed by live or live-video Q & A sessions. Skype technology, new to the festival this year, was employed very effectively for postscreening discussions with, among others, Emmy and Academy Award-winning documentarian Alex Gibney and the subject of Jon Stewart’s film Rosewater.

Filmmaker Matthew Heineman, whose film Cartel Land was honored with Best Director and Best Cinematography awards at Sundance, was on hand for discussions after both screenings of his film.

Cartel Land, which will be released theatrically around the country in July, was offered as a special “sneak peek” screening at the Film Festival. Mr. Heinemann was happy to share his remarkable film with Island audiences, partly because he has a long history with the Vineyard, as well as a connection to the Film Festival. The filmmaker has been visiting his family’s home here since he was a child. As a teenager, he spent a couple of years working as a volunteer for the festival. Two years ago he was on hand for a Film Festival screening of his previous film, Escape Fire, which focuses on the state of the American health care industry.

“I have screened all my films here,” said Mr. Heinemann. “I’ve spent my entire life coming here. I love the community. It’s always interesting to hear what people here have to say. It’s a pretty opinionated group. You always get questions you don’t get elsewhere. I love being challenged and hearing other points of view.”

Mr. Heinemann said that Cartel Land is the film that is most “deeply personal” to him. “I was embedded with these groups for over a year,” he said, referring to the armed citizen defense groups that he profiles, along with American vigilantes, in his amazingly up-close and personal look at violence in Mexico.

Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, subjects from the film The Hunting Ground, participated in an extensive audience discussion on Saturday night. The two young women who have turned their experiences as rape victims into a full-time crusade to change legislation in this country, were rewarded here for their efforts when festival founder and executive director Thomas Bena passed around a donation basket on their behalf to raise money for their organization, End Rape on Campus (endrapeoncampus.org). Both women stuck around all weekend, taking advantage of the socializing nature of the festival to raise awareness for their cause.

Children participated in festival activities at the Chilmark library. – Photo by Maria Thibodeau
Children participated in festival activities at the Chilmark library. – Photo by Maria Thibodeau

The festival sprawled across the area, encompassing a number of facilities in Chilmark. Screenings took place at the Chilmark Community Center and the Chilmark School. Children’s films and activities took place at the Chilmark library, and in a makeshift art shack. The Hay Cafe, a heated tent furnished with hay bales and picnic tables, served as an entryway and gathering space. Between screenings, attendees dined communally at long wooden tables, enjoyed entertainment provided by a laundry list of local musicians, perused the collection of paintings by local artists, and mingled with filmmakers, film subjects, and fellow spectators.

The food this year was provided by Robert Lionette of Morning Glory Farms, who prepared a different farm-to-table entrée and salad each day. In the Hay Cafe filmgoers could purchase Chilmark Coffee Company coffee, Not Your Sugar Mamas chocolate, Morning Glory Farm popcorn, cookies, and wine and beer.

The scene, as always, was a lively and convivial one. The festival attracts a wide range of movie fans representing all ages and all walks of life, and both visitors and locals. It’s a special treat for attendees to get the chance to interact with the filmmakers, and the filmmakers themselves find that the festival allows for a welcome exchange of both ideas and resources.

“Finish funds have been raised for movies here in the past,” said programming/managing director Brian Ditchfield. “At least one filmmaker hired an editor that he met here.”

Brian Ditchfield, Programming/Managing Director of the Film Festival, congratulates his sister, Miriam Ditchfield, skyping in after the showing of her short, "Day 90." – Photo by Maria Thibodeau
Brian Ditchfield, Programming/Managing Director of the Film Festival, congratulates his sister, Miriam Ditchfield, skyping in after the showing of her short, “Day 90.” – Photo by Maria Thibodeau

Actor/writer/filmmaker Peter Stray, whose short film You Were Great in This Scene was part of the Vineyard Shorts screening, has found that the festival provides many opportunities. “It’s a great way to get audience response,” he said. “I can also network as an actor as well as being here for my film. Making connections like this beats mailing out 100 résumés and head shots.”

While the festival here is far less of a celebrity schmoozefest than many of the larger film festivals, it has quickly earned a reputation among the film industry. “This year we had more submissions than ever from filmmakers and distributors,” said Mr. Ditchfield. “For the first time, I came out of all of this thinking that we could have a weeklong festival.”

While gaining national attention and attracting filmmakers from all over the country is flattering to Mr. Bena, what he was most pleased about was the hyperlocal nature of the festival.

Speaking of the Saturday morning film and breakfast event that featured The Future of Farming: Five Short Films, which brought together people involved in local agriculture, Mr. Bena said, “When we played the farming shorts here, there was this feeling that something happened. The visions were more realized than before.

“This is not a movie theater we’re building. It’s a gathering place and an arena for discussion. To have this level of industry success is amazing. But to realize community success on the same level is just as great,” said Mr. Bena.

Seems like the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival team is doing something right. Not only did sales increase from last year by 800 additional tickets sold, but three patrons made very generous contributions to the cause of some of the film subjects.

“That’s the sort of thing Brian and I are most proud of. Our mission is to produce community events, educational programs, and films that spark discussion, debate, and action,” said Mr. Bena.