Scene in Chilmark
Droves of people, all ages and descriptions, tromped across muddy fields from nearby parking lots, converging at the Chilmark Community Center to see remarkable films, meet filmmakers, and join fellow cinephiles for the ninth annual Martha's Vineyard Film Festival (MVFF), held this past weekend.
Teenagers emerged from winter hibernation, couples gathered at the picnic tables outside the festival's tent to discuss "Film Inc.," which screened Saturday morning, while a few 20-somethings paced the parking lot, smoking cigarettes or trying to get cell phone service.
Photos by Ralph Stewart
The setting provoked as much discussion as the films. The Community Center's lobby was completely transformed into a chic lounge by Chilmark resident Michele Mayhew. The old fluorescent lights were hidden under canopies of gauzy white cloth, and conversation areas were created with white chairs and couches, vases of tulips and ferns, while Wayne Cimball, an Arlington D.J., played mellow electronic music. The aroma of buttered popcorn and a buffet prepared by Scottish Bakehouse wafted from the kitchen.
Saturday, March 14, the International Shorts Program was screened at 1 pm to a nearly packed house. And still, a few audience members - feeling very at home - stretched out on the long white couches that filled the screening room.
Selected by curator Jeremy Mayhew of Chilmark, the 12 films, from China, Colombia, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States, contained poignant humor. Leading the program was "Drop," a film by Vineyard native Janis Vogel. The compelling narrative and lush, kinetic cinematography distracted viewers from the fact that, at 31 minutes, it was by far the longest film to screen - all the others were between three and eight minutes. The film's rawness made the story seem real, which may explain the surprised murmurs when Island singer/songwriter Jemima James appeared playing a kindly convenience store clerk.
"Speechless," a British film about the absurdity of text messaging, got laughs mostly from older viewers, who seemed relieved to have their concerns addressed.
Michael Wellenreiter and Adam Carrigan's music video "Holy Most," featuring the Philadelphia band Prowler, imagined a black market alien auction in an abandoned warehouse.
"We like the ideas of cities and farms and aliens coming together in weird ways - we're Midwesterners," said Mr. Carrigan in a post-screening question-and-answer session that provided the audience with an intimate connection to the filmmaking process.
Also there to answer questions were Ms. Vogel and Kurt Kuenne, whose film, "Slow," was made by manipulating black and white photographs. Mr. Kuenne explained that his eight-minute short came about unexpectedly while he was working on other projects. "It was an accident," he said. "I guess I had nothing better to do that week."