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Oscar winner Julianne Moore shines in her portrayal of a woman in the throes of the disease.

Julianne Moore won an Oscar for her role in 'Still Alice.' –Photo courtesy

Julianne Moore’s Oscar-winning portrait in Still Alice of a college professor who learns she has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease comes to the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center this weekend. Don’t let the bleak subject deter you from watching this compelling film. It is compassionate, moving, and well told. Ms. Moore has also won Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and BAFTA awards for her performance as well.

–Courtesy Rotten Tomatoes
–Courtesy Rotten Tomatoes

A strong narrative buttresses the story of Alice Howland’s illness and its impact on her family. Based on the novel by Lisa Genova, and ably directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, Still Alice opens by establishing the high-functioning world of a renowned linguistics professor who teaches at New York’s Columbia University, has raised three children, and enjoys a happy marriage to John Howland, well captured by Alec Baldwin.

The Howlands’ two daughters, Anna (Kate Bosworth) and Lydia (Kristen Stewart), have a frequently fractious relationship that is believable and interesting. Also engaging is Alice’s tendency to pressure Lydia into going to college instead of pursuing the acting career that has taken her to the West Coast. We see Alice at work in the classroom, spending time with her husband, and interacting with her son Tom (Hunter Parrish) as well as her two daughters. Her life is rewarding and accomplished.

The early symptoms of Alzheimer’s emerge gradually and with appropriate subtlety. Anyone who has reached midlife can appreciate Alice’s lapses in memory — forgetting a name, getting disoriented while running — even though she is barely 50 years old. Before sharing her worries with her husband and children, Alice takes herself to a neurologist (Stephen Kunkel), who eventually makes the ominous diagnosis.

Ms. Moore brings a sweetness and calm to her frightening condition as it develops. In one scene, she wets herself when she can’t find the bathroom in her own home. She forgets about an important dinner date with John and his boss. Her students complain about her mental lapses in the classroom. It takes her three days to craft a short speech her doctor has asked her to give to an Alzheimer’s support group. Demonstrating that she is no milquetoast, Alice argues with John when he appears not to take her anxiety seriously early on, and she impatiently cuts off a Skype session with Lydia while rehearsing her upcoming speech. Hysteria and melodrama have no place in this well-written tale. While the focus stays on Alice, the film shows how each member of the family copes with her growing disability. The form of Alzheimer’s she suffers from is genetic, which means her children stand a 50 percent chance of contracting the disease. Without becoming didactic, Still Alice does an excellent job of explaining how Alzheimer’s develops, and what the effects are on the family and the larger community of the victim.

Still Alice, Friday March 6 at 4 pm, Sunday March 8th at 4 pm followed by a discussion on Alzheimer’s with the Healthy Aging Task Force, at Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, Tisbury Marketplace, Vineyard Haven. For information and tickets, see

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Spike Lee enlists help from the Island community while filming his latest movie.

Spike Lee's "Da Sweet Blood of Jesus" is a remake of a film from 1973, "Ganja and Hess." – Photo courtesy Rotten Tomatoes

It’s not unusual for a film crew to camp out on the Vineyard during the off-season while taking advantage of Island locales for a new movie. It’s a lot less common for a legendary Hollywood director to choose the Vineyard as a location and then manage to wrap the whole thing pretty much under the radar of the local community.

That, however, is exactly what happened last fall when Spike Lee brought cast and crew to the Island to film scenes for his just-released film Da Sweet Blood of Jesus. Much of the movie takes place on the Vineyard — although, aside from a few shots outside the Martha’s Vineyard Airport, the Island scenes are limited to one remote, classic Cape-style beach house and its grounds.

The movie centers on a wealthy college professor and his new partner, who become addicted to drinking human blood. Hardly your classic horror flick, the movie is highly stylized and almost (intentionally) emotionless in tone, and includes a good deal of social commentary. But this film is not for the squeamish. The violence (as well as the sex) is quite graphic, and more disturbing than your average vampire film, given it’s played out in more of a serial-killer realism vein, versus straight over-the-top gore.

Mr. Lee has publicly shunned the idea that he has made a “vampire” film. He was seeking less to shock with the violence of the theme than to explore the nature of addiction — as well as touching on typical Spike Lee themes like race, class, and power. The movie is actually a remake of a little-known film from 1973, Ganja and Hess, which Lee was inspired by years ago as a film student.


So far the film has received mixed reviews and been met with some controversy, although not so much for its subject matter as for its production history.

The low-budget ($1.4 million) film was funded through Kickstarter — a crowdsourcing platform usually reserved for independent projects by artists with limited means. The precedent for celebrity directors turning to crowdsourcing was set by Zach Braff (Wish I Was Here) and Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars), who both raised funds through Kickstarter for their 2014 projects.

In an interview with ABC News Radio, Mr. Lee clarified that while his use of the Kickstarter site was new, the notion of crowdsourcing funding was not new to him. “It was not called crowdsourcing back then. It was just getting money. For example, the first film, She’s Gotta Have It, we raised $170,000 back in 1985 for the film,” he says. “So we’ve always used principles of crowdsourcing, but now it’s just the technology makes it that much easier to get the financing from the fans.”

Although some criticized Mr. Lee for turning to crowdfunding, the highly regarded filmmaker has defended the move by explaining that he wanted the complete artistic freedom that he would not have been allowed in a project “owned” in part by others.

And Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is clearly a labor of love — an homage to an all-but-forgotten director (Bill Gunn) and an overlooked film (Ganja and Hess).

The movie also lays claim to an innovative approach to distribution. Da Sweet Blood of Jesus was released on Vimeo, the popular video-sharing web site, a full month before it hit select theaters on Feb. 13. The films The Bachelorette and The Interview were similarly prereleased online prior to their big-screen debuts.

Vineyard connection

Mr. Lee owns a home in Oak Bluffs and spends a good deal of time on the Vineyard. In his interview on ABC News Radio, the director explained why he chose the Island as a location:

“I’ve had a house there for 20 years, and it’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I love Martha’s Vineyard. Even though they know I’m from New York, I get mad love in Martha’s Vineyard. So we didn’t advertise it, but many people stepped up to and helped get that film made.”

One of those who stepped up was Christopher Arcudi, who along with his partner Celeste Elser owns Biscuits restaurant in Oak Bluffs. Mr. Arcudi was able to visit the Lambert’s Cove set while delivering food for cast and crew. Biscuits catered all of the food during the shoot — providing two or three meals a day for up to 140 people.

“The Screen Actor’s Guild requires that employees eat every six hours,” said Mr. Arcudi. “The hours varied. Sometimes we’d deliver food around four or six in the morning. Sometimes at twelve in the afternoon, then six.”

Twice the cast and crew ate in the restaurant. The timing worked out well for the Biscuits owners, as the restaurant was winding things down for the season.

“Spike’s been coming to the restaurant for quite a few years,” said Mr. Arcudi. “He thought the crew would like the food. I’ve done some little catering jobs for him previously. He’s filmed some small projects on the Island before.”

“They were cool,” said Mr. Arcudi of the production team members. “I had one perception of Hollywood before, and I have a totally different perception now. It was a good experience. They worked really hard.” He said, “Spike has always been good to our business — supporting us and sending us clients. We’re happy to support him and the work that he does.”

Another local business owner who contributed to the making of the film was hotelier Caleb Caldwell of Oak Bluffs, who lent the filmmakers his classic Rolls Royce. The 1956 moss green, right-hand-drive Rolls Royce Silver Cloud is featured prominently in the film, and helps establish the lead character as a man of wealth.

“I knew they were working with a limited budget, and I was happy to be able to help out in some small way,” said Mr. Caldwell. “After the fact some people said that I had really missed the boat in not asking for any money. I was just dazzled by the fact that the car would be used in a movie by Spike Lee. They treated the car very well.”

Mr. Caldwell is the owner of the Nashua House and the Madison Inn, and co-owner of the Dockside Inn in Oak Bluffs. The Rolls Royce, purchased by Mr. Caldwell in 1994, was never intended to be a source of income. “I use it strictly as a courtesy car for the guests of the three hotels,” he said. “We give the guests rides to dinner or pick them up at the boat or the airport or just go out for a joy ride. It’s strictly a free service for the guests of the hotels.”

An interviewer for Entertainment Weekly asked Lee if he had the chance to take the Rolls for a spin. The director said, “No, no, no, no. I was too busy. But all the cars you see in the film, those were donated by people who live in Martha’s Vineyard. [They] just let us borrow their car. We had great cooperation, not just the many who gave money, but also across the board. A whole lot of people had to call in a whole lot of favors to get this done. So I’m eternally in their debt.”

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is available on Vimeo and iTunes and at select theaters. For more information, visit

A real Oscar attended the screening. – Photo by Siobhan Beasley

While stars flocked to the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles for the 87th Academy Awards, locals visited the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center for their annual Oscar Viewing Party on Sunday night. Guests mingled and listened to music performed by pianist Jeremy Berlin in the Film Center lobby, and had the opportunity to have their photos taken with a real Oscar statue. Attendees completed Oscar prediction ballots, making for some intriguing conversation about the impending awards. This year three attendees — Judy Golden, Frank Bergon, and Emily Kennedy — correctly guessed 18 out of 25 winners, an impressive feat given the stiff competition between this year’s films. Each winner will be awarded free admission to Film Society movies for a period of time.

As the Oscar ceremony began, guests gathered in the theater to watch the main event. It was a spectacular treat to watch this live awards show — especially the musical numbers — on the big screen, with a small crowd rooting for their favorites in each category. The setting of the Film Center provided a communal aspect to watching the Oscars. Much like attending a film, attending the Oscar Viewing Party gave guests a sense of collective comradeship as they laughed, cried, and cheered alongside strangers who felt like friends. It was a unique experience, and a great treat in the midst of a cold, often lonely winter.

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"Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1," an Oscar nominated documentary short, examines the dilemma of suicidal veterans who reach out to a hotline in upstate New York. – Photo courtesy

The Martha’s Vineyard Film Center will devote this weekend to Oscar-related films and events. On Sunday night, the Film Center will screen the 2015 Oscar TV ceremony live, with a buffet reception featuring Jeremy Berlin on piano.

In addition to the feature films Birdman and Selma, all three of the Oscar-nominated shorts categories will play.On view Saturday, Feb. 21, the Oscar-nominated documentary shortsdemonstrate how powerful explorations of social issues can be when executed in the short form. Each of the five nominations addresses its theme with the intensity and finesse a longer version might not attain, while audiences might find full-length treatments of these subjects too grim.

At 40 minutes, the Polish short, Joanna, comes close to a full-length film. Combining lyrical countryside scenes with dialogue amid a family dealing with the impending death from cancer of the mother Joanna, director Aneta Kopecz illustrates the way Joanna prepares herself and her husband Piotr, but most importantly her 5-year-old son Jas, for a future without her. Family milestones like Jas’ learning to ride a bicycle without training wheels acquire a special resonance. Rather than appearing ravaged by illness, Joanna glows with an appreciation for the time she has remaining. With rare sensitivity and very little sentimentality, this film celebrates life in the context of its inevitable end.

In contrast, the 39-minute American nominee Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, directed by Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry, examines the dilemma of suicidal veterans who reach out to volunteers on a national telephone hotline in upstate New York. While the subject may seem bleak, the heroism of the volunteers who work hard — often for long hours — to persuade veterans they can and should survive is palpable. Crisis Hotline demonstrates the value of educating viewers about the help available to American soldiers in light of the psychological damage often imposed by military conflict.

A second Polish entry, the 27-minute Our Curse from Tomasz Śliwiński and Maciej Ślesicki, examines the anguish of a couple whose infant has a genetic defect that causes him to stop breathing when he falls asleep. The directors repeatedly film the couple facing the camera from their living sofa, and discussing what it means to have such a challenge and how they should handle their baby’s disability. It is an effective stylistic device. While the parents find their situation overwhelming, shots of their baby, full of vitality and thriving despite his illness, articulate the life-giving power of modern medicine and the importance of maintaining hope.

American director J. Christian Jensen’s 20-minute White Earth lets the viewer see the benefits and downside of oil production in the Northern Plains country, primarily through the eyes of children whose families have migrated to the oil fields in search of economic survival. While filmmakers have explored many sides of the controversy over oil production, White Earth’s perspective adds an important and unusual element to the issue.

From Mexico comes The Reaper (La Parka), directed by Gabriel Serra Arguello, a 29-minute portrait of a man, nicknamed the Reaper, who supports his family by killing livestock in an abattoir. This film demonstrates the toll working in a slaughterhouse takes on the individual. In an era when vegetarianism has become increasingly popular, The Reaper confronts the viewer with some of the realities underlying the choice to eat meat. It is a visually disturbing film, but one that conveys an important message.

It will be difficult to decide which of these documentary shorts merits the Oscar: Joanna for its lyrical treatment of death; Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 for its compelling view of help for troubled veterans; Our Curse for the skill with which it addresses a life-changing quandary; White Earth for its unique perspective; and The Reaper for the sympathy with which it presents its subject. My pick is Joanna; but there are plenty of arguments for choosing one of the other four.

Live-action Oscar-nominated shorts, Friday, Feb. 20, 7:30 pm

Documentary Oscar-nominated shorts, Saturday, Feb. 21, 4 pm

Animated Oscar-nominated shorts, Sunday, Feb. 22, 4 pm

Oscar viewing party, Sunday, Feb. 22, 7:30 pm

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Islanders recount their experiences at the famous film festival.

Richard Paradise of the Martha's Vineyard Film Center poses outside the Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah.

More than half a dozen Vineyarders made their presence felt at the nation’s premiere film festival, Sundance, in Park City, Utah, last month. Three — Stanley Nelson, Matt Heineman, and Al Shackman — were part of the program. For Brian Ditchfield and Anne Evasick of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival (MVFF), and Richard Paradise of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center (MVFC), attendance at Sundance was mostly business. Also attending were Jim and Susan Swartz of Edgartown and Park City, whose production company, Impact Partners, was involved with six documentaries at the festival. Ms. Swartz has been active in developing documentary screenings at Sundance for the past 15 years.

Stanley Nelson, who summers in Oak Bluffs, premiered his latest documentary, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution. With seven films opening at Sundance over the years, Mr. Nelson has premiered the most films of any documentary director there, according to Mr. Paradise. Matt Heineman, a frequent presence at MVFF in March, won Best Director of a U.S. Documentary for Cartel Land, which tells the story of Mexican drug cartels. The film also won a Special Jury Award.

Musician and Oak Bluffs resident Al Shackman appears in the Liz Garbus documentary about singer Nina Simone, What Happened, Miss Simone? that opened at Sundance.Miss Simone’s longtime guitarist and music director, Mr. Shackman is interviewed by director Liz Garbus in her film on the High Priestess of Soul. While Vineyard resident Judy Belushi didn’t attend Sundance this year, she appears in the documentary Drunk, Stoned, Brilliant, Dead, about National Lampoon magazine.

“We [the Island] were well represented,” said MVFF’s managing director Brian Ditchfield in a telephone interview with the Times. Attending Sundance for the sixth year, he viewed 38 films over seven days, and selected five for the Chilmark-based festival, which runs from March 17 through March 22. “It was a banner year,” Mr. Ditchfield said. “It’s a very quick turnaround. I’m trying to book films [for MVFF] while I’m at Sundance.” In addition to What Happened, Miss Simone? Mr. Ditchfield scheduled Cartel Land, The Hunting Ground, Most Likely to Succeed, and Meru. At the March festival, students will be admitted free to The Hunting Ground, which concerns the sexual-assault epidemic on college campuses. Most Likely to Succeed, a documentary about project-based education, will be free for teachers.

“It’s nice to see things before you’ve read about them,” Mr. Ditchfield said. “It’s a whole different feeling.” He also spends time meeting with distributors and directors, and almost as soon as he returns to the Island, he starts preparing for the March festival. He looks for films MVFF might show during its summer series, too. Although he spent most of his time indoors watching films, Mr. Ditchfield said the weather at Sundance was beautiful — 50° and sunny.

Fellow programmer Anne Evasick of Island Entertainment helped select the fifth documentary, Meru, about mountain climbers, which will play in March. This year was Ms. Evasick’s third at Sundance, and she saw 34 films, primarily at what are known as industry screenings. Films shown this way do not include question-and-answer sessions, as the public screenings do.

“I’m going as their [MVFF] ears and eyes,” Ms. Evasick said. “But it’s a huge help to me at the store, too.” The Sundance Best of Fest, Grand Jury Prize, and Audience Award all went to Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, which Ms. Evasick saw. She said it was her favorite, and she knew it would be a winner.

Richard Paradise, founder and executive director of MVFC, has attended Sundance for three years, and saw 11 films during the five days he spent in Park City most recently. “I can’t watch four or five movies straight,” he said in a phone interview. He explained that industry screenings he went to allow programmers to attend films for free at one fourplex cinema. “A lot of the buyers go to the public screenings,” he said, “because they want to see the reaction of the public.” Films that premiere at Sundance — if they are lucky — are bought by a distributor, or go straight to HBO or other outlets. Out of 7,000 to 8,000 entries, 60 to 70 features and 100 shorts make it into Sundance, Mr. Paradise estimates.

Mr. Paradise also checks out Slamdance, the alternative Park City festival for films that don’t make it into Sundance. There he saw Batkid Begins, a documentary about a boy dying of cancer who became Batman for a day in 2013 through the San Francisco Make-A-Wish Foundation.

At Sundance, “directors are treated like gods,” said Mr. Paradise. Getting into parties or hobnobbing with celebrities proves difficult for others: “Just being downtown in Park City is a party.” While the films of Sundance are sometimes overshadowed by the celebrity hype, as Park City’s Main Street transforms into a fashion runway for the famous, Ms. Evasick said, “That’s not why I go.” It is an opinion seconded by Mr. Ditchfield and Mr. Paradise.

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The Martha's Vineyard Film Center hosted a complimentary screening of "Selma" for Island youth. – Photo courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes

Despite the snowy conditions last Saturday, Feb. 14, many high school students ventured out to take advantage of the free screening of Selma at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. The complimentary screening was part of a national effort to provide youth with the opportunity to witness firsthand the film about a moment of pivotal historical significance.

The MVFC, in collaboration with the Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative, screened the film. The event began with Isabella Hazell El-Deiry and Dukes County commissioner and NAACP member Gretchen Tucker Underwood paying tribute to Island women who participated in the civil rights movement: Polly Murphy, Nancy Hodgson Whiting, Peg Lilienthal, Virginia Mazer, and Nancy Smith.

Following the screening, The Times asked students for their reactions to the film. We asked, What element of the film had the most impact on you? How did you feel about the film? Did you already know the history of the march before seeing the film?

“I thought Selma was inspirational, and showed a side of the civil rights movement that I wouldn’t have ever seen or known about before this movie. Something that stuck out for me was the intense brutality and violence against the peaceful protestors [men, women and children]. The police were not above killing people young and old, and would even seek them out if they escaped the violence that followed after the march.” —Sarah Dawson, age 18, Oak Bluffs

“The fact that people of color were in a constant state of fear [was most memorable]. Also too, that when you learn about the civil rights movement, it’s [typically] from an outside view, and I could never really grasp the situation until I saw it in the movie.” —Avery Hazell, age 18, Edgartown

“It was a good movie! it was eye-opening that they were actually that brutal back then.” —Altair Oliveira, age 17, Vineyard Haven

Hallie MacCormack is a work-study intern with The Times. She will be reporting occasionally throughout the semester.

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Photo courtesy Rotten Tomatoes

The Martha’s Vineyard Film Society brings an offbeat romantic comedy to the screen for Valentine’s Day, Saturday, Feb. 14. A military veteran and an Iraqi immigrant make the unlikely couple whose budding romance taps into a number of current social issues, including free-market capitalism and racism as well as immigration and veterans’ postwar re-entry.

Part of what makes Amira & Sam work as well as it does is the background brought and applied by director Sean Mullin, which includes a West Point degree and experience doing standup comedy. Sam, played with low-key, spot-on timing by Martin Starr of Silicon Valley and Freaks and Geeks fame, is fresh from multiple Middle East tours as a Green Beret. He finds himself adrift in New York, living in Staten Island and trying out various jobs, until he hooks up with Bassam (Laith Nakli), the Iraqi ex-interpreter he befriended overseas. Bassam is sheltering his niece Amira (Dina Shihabi), and hostile sparks fly from the start between feisty Amira and Sam. Also an interpreter, Amira’s father died as a result of his work for the American military, which explains Amira’s hostility to American soldiers.

No one quite fits the anticipated stereotypes for such an odd ethnic and social mix. Amira dutifully wears a hijab, but her inappropriate décolletage incurs the wrath of another Muslim woman pedestrian, who calls her disgusting. Peddling pirated DVDs on Canal Street in Manhattan, Amira’s a spunky, outspoken combination of traditional Muslim and new American cultural values. Sam may seem like a laid-back version of your average middle American, but he makes a point of letting people like a Veteran’s Administration clerk know he made it through his tours of duty unscathed, both mentally and physically. Although he fails at first as a standup comedian, he doesn’t give up, and he’s not afraid to take action against lewd behavior, like a drunken 20-something relieving himself in front of the building where Sam’s working as a doorman.

Credible or not, circumstances work to push Amira and Sam together. After Amira runs away to avoid arrest for selling pirated DVDs and other offenses, Bassam persuades Sam to house her in his Staten Island flat until he can move with his niece to Michigan. Amira’s icy demeanor toward Sam begins to melt when he takes her for a sail in his rich uncle’s boat, then leaves her at the helm while he goes for a dip. In much the fashion of the Clark Gable–Claudette Colbert classic It Happened One Night, Amira and Sam end up pristinely sleeping together in Sam’s bachelor quarters, and the two gradually make friends. Can romance be far behind?

Meanwhile, Sam’s cousin Charlie (Paul Wesley), a hedge fund trader, talks him into helping land a big account with another veteran. But the shady world of high finance does not prove a very good fit for Sam, who gets into a fight at his cousin’s engagement party when racist slurs against Amira fly. Not one to sit out a good fight on the sidelines, Amira manages to punch Charlie’s fiancée Claire, who files charges against her. Once Amira is arrested, deportation looms. Can this unlikely couple find a way to live happily ever after? Join the audience at the Film Center to find out.

Amira & Sam, Saturday, Feb. 14, 7:30 pm at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, Tisbury Marketplace, Vineyard Haven. For information and tickets, see

The Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, in collaboration with the Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative will offer a free screening of Selma to filmgoers under 18 this Saturday at 4 pm.

"Selma" chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965. – Photo courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes

The Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, in collaboration with the Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative, will offer a free screening of Selma to filmgoers under 18 this Saturday at 4 pm. Dukes County commissioner and NAACP member Gretchen Tucker Underwood and Isabella Hazell El-Deiry, a MVRHS graduate and Howard University undergraduate, will lead an interactive dialogue after the film. This event is a tribute to Island women who participated in the civil rights movement: Polly Murphy, Nancy Hodgson Whiting, Peg Lilienthal, Virginia Mazer, and Nancy Smith.

The special screening was organized by a national effort in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Twenty-eight African-American business leaders sponsored more than 275,000 middle and high school students in 40 cities at free screenings of the Oscar-nominated film. Following their lead, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society is providing complimentary tickets so Vineyard youth can see the historical significance of the film firsthand.

Selma chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965 when Dr. King led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement.

Selma, Thursday, Feb. 12, and Sunday, Feb. 15, 7:30 pm; special screening Saturday, Feb. 14, 4 pm (free admission to youth under 18 years of age, normal admission prices for adults and MVFS members). All showings at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, Tisbury Marketplace, Vineyard Haven. For information and tickets, see

A number of Island venues are offering regular film series, with a focus on vintage films.

The 1966 version of "Batman" will be shown at the Vineyard Playhouse on Feb. 16. – Photo courtesy Vineyard Playhouse

Island moviegoers will find plenty of opportunities this winter to see film classics on the big screen. In addition to Wednesday nights at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, the Vineyard Playhouse, and a number of Island libraries are offering regular film series, with a focus on vintage films.


Jamie Alley of Island Entertainment Video hosts a 7:30 pm Monday series at the Vineyard Playhouse. As well as being a theatrical venue, the Playhouse is also equipped as a movie theater, with a large screen and surround sound. Coming up are Shock Treatment, a 1981 satire on reality TV by the makers of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, on Feb. 9; the 1966 version of Batman on Feb. 16; and Mary Poppins on Feb. 23, which will be screened at 6:30 pm for a special family-night screening in conjunction with school vacation week. Mr. Alley draws on his extensive cinematic background to provide introductions to the films. The charge for these films is $5 cash at the door, and the series will continue through March.

The Martha’s Vineyard Museum has teamed up with the M.V. Film Center to screen films from the 1960s on Wednesday nights in conjunction with its current exhibit, “Sea Change: M.V. in the 1960s.” Historian and film buff A. Bowdoin Van Riper will discuss how films like Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), scheduled for Feb. 11, and Easy Rider (1969), which will play Feb. 25, reflect the climate of the Sixties. These films will be shown at the M.V. Film Center for a charge of $12 for members and $15 for nonmembers.

Now in its seventh year, the Tuesday-night film series at the Edgartown Public Library is currently screening films about war for an adult audience. The theme for upcoming movies shown in April is road films. The screenings start at 7 pm, and are free. The West Tisbury library is running a monthly series at the M.V. Film Center in honor of the late Jonathan Revere. The next movie will be Sullivan’s Travels (1941) on Wednesday, Feb. 18. Pianist Michael Haydn will play Cole Porter tunes during the hour before the screening, and champagne and cookies will be served.

Two winter movie series are underway at the Chilmark public library. Weekly on Wednesdays, the free Chowder and a Movie events begin at noon. Playing Feb. 11 is The 39 Steps (1935), The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945) follows on Feb. 18, and The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) is slated for Feb. 25.


Friday nights at 7 pm the Chilmark library offers water-themed movies, the next of which will be Million Dollar Mermaid (1952) on Feb. 6, Chocolat (2000) on Feb. 13, South Pacific (1958) on Feb. 20, and Mister Roberts (1955) on Feb. 27. Sponsored by Friends of the Chilmark Library, this free series provides moviegoers with popcorn and drinks.

In Vineyard Haven, the library has a Tuesday-night schedule of Oscar films. After the 2015 Academy Awards are announced on Feb. 22, the Vineyard Haven Library will select from the winners for its next series. These 7 pm movies are free, and popcorn and cider are served. The Chilmark-based Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival will hold its 15th annual festival March 19 to 22, with the schedule of films still to be announced. Check for additional details as the date gets closer.

Esther Burgess’ acts of civil rights leadership are acknowledged in new civil rights documentary.

The late Esther Burgess, long time Vineyard resident, was one of four women who traveled to St. Augustine in 1964 and were subsequently arrested. – Photo courtesy of AugustineMonica Films

In the long and often violent history of the civil rights movement, the city of St. Augustine, Fla., is not often mentioned. But a months-long series of events and actions there, which involved Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and other civil rights leaders, actually played a pivotal role in the passing of civil rights legislation.

A new documentary, Passage at St. Augustine, by filmmaker and journalist Clennon L. King, shines a spotlight on a piece of history which Mr. King refers to as “arguably the bloodiest campaign of the civil rights movement.”

On Feb. 7 at the Howes House in West Tisbury Mr. King will unveil the preliminary cut of the film, which has been 20 years in the making. The first-time screening, with an introduction by Mr. King, is sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Martha’s Vineyard.

Mr. King was invited by League member Julia Burgess, whose mother was interviewed for the film. The late Esther Burgess was one of four women (the only African American) who traveled to St. Augustine in 1964 and were subsequently arrested.

In 2003, Mr. King made the trip from Washington, D.C., where he had interviewed a former New York Times journalist, to the Vineyard specifically to interview Ms. Burgess. “I flew into Logan and overnighted it at South Station,” he said in a phone interview. “On my return the buses weren’t running, so I hitched a ride back to Boston.” The journey paid off. Mr. King, who interviewed dozens of those involved in the actions, was very impressed with the former Bostonian: “I had a huge amount of respect for Esther Burgess, this Canadian transplant.”

Among the other women who traveled to Florida in 1964 was the mother of the sitting governor of Massachusetts. “But Mrs. Burgess was the one who showed a rare leadership,” said Mr. King. Ms. Burgess passed away less than a year after the interview.

The footage sat on a shelf for more than a decade while Mr. King pursued various career paths, including positions as a video and print journalist for, among other media organizations, WGBH and the Boston Globe.

Previously Mr. King had screened rough cuts and footage from the film, but he was unable to raise money to complete the documentary until his brother stepped up and offered some of his winnings from a Powerball windfall.

In order to remain true to his vision, Mr. King taught himself film editing and finished the project in record time — partly at the urging of his girlfriend, and partly to meet the deadline for the Vineyard screening.

The one-hour documentary features a number of contemporary interviews with many of those involved, plus lots of 1960s footage, and archival interviews with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other key players, such as Andrew Young and C.T. Vivian. The film also includes interviews with members of the opposition, including Klansmen and the daughter of the segregationist sheriff.

“I approached this film very much through a journalist’s lens to give balance,” said Mr. King. “I was able to get access to the other side. As a journalist, what I’ve specialized in is getting interviews that no one else could get,” he said.

Mr. King’s father was a lawyer for the Reverend King. The younger Mr. King previously worked for former U.S. congressman and mayor of Atlanta Andrew Jackson Young, who was was a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the 1960s and was a supporter and friend of Dr. King’s.

“I come by the subject matter honestly,” said Mr. King, adding, “It’s not uncommon for a journalist to fall in love with a story. For me it was always St. Augustine.”

With the aid of the archival footage, the documentary unflinchingly depicts powerful but graphic scenes such as civil rights foot soldiers being beaten by Klansmen and cops, a white hotel owner pouring acid into a swimming pool in which protesters were holding a wade-in, and other shocking events that have helped stamp those involved with the civil rights movement as fearless heroes.

This fascinating film will shed some light on an all-but-forgotten yet crucial piece of civil rights history. Mr. King refers to the St. Augustine movement as “the catalyst by which the Civil Rights Bill [Civil Rights Act of 1964] was passed.”

“The Senate fought it tooth and nail in one of the longest filibusters in history. It was not passed until July of 1964. After JFK’s death, [the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.] needed a campaign to fan the flames to get this bill passed. The fires of Birmingham had cooled. It was because of the bloodiness of St. Augustine that the bill got passed.”

Clennon King is pleased that he is finally able to fulfill a personal mission: “I had been entrusted with the stories of these people. Half of them are dead. I felt that I owed it to them and to history to have this story told.”

AugustineMonica Films presents Passage to St. Augustine at the Howes House at 9:00 am on Sunday, Feb. 7. A brunch will precede the screening, starting at 8:30 am. For additional information, call 508-693-3338 or email