Martha's Vineyard Film Festival this weekend
The annual Martha's Vineyard Film Festival (MVFF) will add a lively accent to Island life this weekend with dozens of films for adults and children. Celebrating its 10th year, the festival offers children's programs, personal discussions with filmmakers, and a special dinner appearance by New Yorker film critic David Denby, during the festival's March 12 to 14 run at the Chilmark Community Center.
Comfy sofas and delicious local food have long been MVFF's hallmarks, along with an emphasis on hard-to-find documentaries and international films. The inviting milieu at the Chilmark Community Center includes dialogues with filmmakers and audience discussions, and new this year, the MVFF Talkback, a free program intended to encourage discussion among attendees and filmmakers.
The doors of the Chilmark Community Center open at 6 pm Friday with a reception and food prepared by Danielle Dominick from the Scottish Bakehouse. The documentary "Collapse" launches the film series at 7 pm.
In "Collapse," Chris Smith, who directed the Sundance prizewinner, "The Pool" in 2007, profiles former cop and investigative journalist Michael Ruppert. Mr. Ruppert founded the watchdog newsletter and website "From the Wilderness," where he predicted the current economic downturn. His most recent book is "Confronting Collapse: The Crisis of Energy and Money in a Post Peak Oil World."
At 9:30 pm on Friday, the British comedy-drama, "Somers Town," directed by Shane Meadows, follows "Collapse." "Somers Town" combines coming-of-age and ethnicity issues in a story about two teenagers in London. The MVFF lounge at the Community Center will remain open until midnight for conversation.
Saturday's program begins at 11 am with "The Wind Journeys." This fiction film by Colombian director Ciro Guerra tells the story of an itinerant musician and his accordion, which supposedly once belonged to the devil.
"Still Bill," a documentary tribute to singer/songwriter Bill Withers, directed by Damani Baker and Alex Vlack, follows at 1:30 p.m. Vineyard summer visitor Dr. Cornel West is among those interviewed about the creator of songs like "Lean on Me" and "Just the Two of Us."
Preceding "Still Bill" will be a trailer for "A Life's Work," 24-year-old Island resident Elliott Vecchia's documentary-in-progress on his father, Vineyard metal and stained glass artist Barney Zeitz.
After a short break, a program of international shorts, curated by local filmmaker Jeremy Mayhew, is planned for 3:15 pm.
At 5:15 pm is "Girls on the Wall," an hour-long documentary about young women serving time at Warrenville Prison in Illinois. Director Heather Ross has filmed the inmates performing an autobiographical musical. Following the film, Ms. Ross will lead a discussion with Whitney Hilson, a college student and former inmate who appears in the film.
Director Barry Ptolemy and his wife Felicia Ptolemy lead a discussion following their documentary, "Transcendent Man," screening at 7:15 pm on Saturday. The film spotlights futurist Ray Kurzweil, an artificial intelligence specialist and inventor.
Mr. Kurzweil has predicted that information will grow exponentially to the point that in the future, humans will need internal computers the size of blood cells to process it. He also believes people will eventually conquer aging and live forever.
The final film on Saturday is "One Too Many Mornings," a comedy directed by Michael Mohan playing at 9:30 pm. This romantic comedy concerns two friends trying to help each other find their way into maturity. Mr. Mohan leads a discussion after the film, and the MVFF lounge will stay open until 12 midnight.
Enjoy MVFF Talkback on Sunday 9:30 am in the screening room of the Chilmark Public Library. Moderated by Chilmark resident and selectman Warren Doty, this talkback features Michael Ruppert, the controversial subject of "Collapse," and Mr. Ptolemy, the director of "Transcendent Man.
Sunday's films for adults begin at 11 am with the challenging "Double Take," directed by Belgian Johan Grimonprez. This experimental feature appropriates Alfred Hitchcock as a character into an investigation of Cold War paranoia using vintage Folger's Coffee ads, old news clips, Hitchcock doubles, and the notion of doubling. "Double Take" was shown at Sundance this year in the New Frontier category, which showcases cinematic works that expand the boundaries of storytelling and film.
The idyllic "Sweetgrass," directed by Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, follows after lunch at 1 pm. A visual tone poem that follows the last sheep drive into Montana's Beartooth Mountains, this mesmerizing documentary never romanticizes the job of herding sheep to summer pastures and back, fending off predators and dealing with the brutal physical demands of living in such a rugged environment.
"Sweetgrass" does not use voiceovers, music, or talking heads to convey its story. It incorporates images of birth, evisceration, and physical hardship as well as pastoral beauty. Co-director Castaing-Taylor leads a discussion following the film.
This year's Oscar-nominated film playing at the festival is the documentary "The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers." Playing Sunday at 3:15 pm. The examination of Ellsberg's role in American politics, directed by Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith, has been called a political thriller.
"Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian" follows at 5:30 pm. Canadian/Cree Neil Diamond examines how Native Americans are portrayed by Hollywood in the 4,000 films over the last 100 years. Editor and co-director Jeremiah Hayes will be present for the discussion following the film.
At 7:30 pm, film critic David Denby discusses the state of American filmmaking. Writing in the New Yorker Magazine since 1998, Mr. Denby, a Vineyard summer visitor, has also written film criticism for the Atlantic Monthly, New York Magazine, and the Boston Phoenix. He is the author of three books: "Great Books," American Sucker," and "Snark."
The final film in this year's festival is the shocking and well-made feature, "Strella," by Greek director Panos Koutras. [See Strella: How sexual identities shift] Using male nudity and sexually explicit scenes, it tells the story of an ex-jail mate entering the world of transvestites and transsexuals in search of his son.
For the kids
Saturday's film event for children, with the theme Edge of Your Seat, is from 9 to 10:30 am, with films for kids. Highlighting the fare for children 10 and up are "The Scare" and "Finger Lickin' Good," two short films made by students from the Martha's Vineyard Charter School, starting at the Community Center at 9. (For more information, see "Two spooky shorts from Charter School.")
A screening of the latest Wallace and Gromit short, "A Matter of Loaf and Death," follows, as well as shorts from Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, Germany and Norway.
Meanwhile, Animated Antics, a selection of animated shorts for younger children ages two to five, begins at 9:30 am at the Chilmark Library.
More short films for youngsters (age five to eight) kick off Sunday's MVFF events at the same times. The program, called Its All How You See It, includes films from Latvia, Hungary, France, South Korea and Norway.
Admission is $12 for adults; $6 for children and MVFF members.