International Film Festival finds room for local filmmakers

A slice of Chilmark life is featured in Jeremy Mayhew's "Beetlebung Farm." — Photo courtesy of Jeremy Mayhew

While the annual Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, which opens on Thursday, Sept. 5, spotlights more than 30 movies from around the world, it also finds a place for the work of Island directors. Eight of them – Dan Martino of Martha’s Vineyard Productions; Len and Georgia Morris of Galen Films; Jeremy Mayhew of Oceanscape Arts; Marcia Rock of the Journalism Institute at New York University; Liz Witham and Ken Wentworth of Film–Truth Productions; and Sara Nesson of Portrayal Films – will gather Sunday, Sept. 8, to screen some of their latest work, talk about it, and answer questions. The forum is called “Thinking Globally, Shooting Locally.”

“It’s a tight-knit film community on the Vineyard,” Mr. Martino said. “It’s kind of the usual gang.” He is in his third year of organizing the forum with his brother Greg. This year finds Island filmmakers producing a lot of documentaries, and Mr. Martino sees a shift toward more feature-length, issue-oriented films that address a variety of social issues.

“Scow: The Zen of Boatbuilding”

Mr. Martino and will present a five-minute trailer from his feature film in progress, “Scow: The Zen of Boatbuilding.” The project follows Vineyard Haven resident Ted Box and his effort to build a 100-foot, flat-bottom wooden schooner in an open shed on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven. The vessel is being constructed primarily by hand, and Mr. Martino’s film highlights traditional boatbuilding techniques.

“Nothing of this scale has been built on this island in a long time,” he says. Boat building shops used to exist in every major port along the East Coast, according to Mr. Martino, and now only three or four are left.

After reading a news article about the project two years ago, the filmmaker visited the building site, introduced himself, and asked if he could track the boat’s construction on film. Ernie Boch Jr., who owns the property where Mr. Box is constructing his wooden boat, recently told the builder he must move his half-completed boat by the end of the month.

“The boat’s not water ready,” Mr. Martino said. “So we don’t know how it [the film] will turn out.”

“The Same Heart”

Len and Georgia Morris will show a trailer for “The Same Heart,” the third in a series of documentaries about the impact of poverty on children. “At the center of the film is the Robin Hood tax, a way to provide food for hungry children through a small tax on financial transactions worldwide,” Mr. Morris said. Seven Nobel Prize winners step forward in the film to discuss the financial transaction tax in the film.

Mr. Morris has been working on “The Same Heart” with his wife Georgia for six years and hope to complete it by January. He is looking forward to the opportunity to screen a trailer for the film at the Festival. “We have been using social media to build an audience for the film,” Mr. Morris said, and he suggested the importance of local support. “This is our community. It’s always been very helpful and supported us in many ways. We want people to understand what we’re working on.”

“Beetlebung Farm”

Mr. Mayhew’s “Beetlebung Farm” is a seven-and-a-half minute short about the five-acre vegetable farm in Chilmark started by the late Albert “Ozzie” Fischer. It is now operated by his grandson Chris Fischer, who enlisted the filmmaker to create the short and produced it. A professional chef, Mr. Fischer prepares community dinners served al fresco in one of the farm’s greenhouses, and sells produce, flowers, and local meat. The dinners have attracted national media attention from the Wall Street Journal, Martha Stewart Living, and Glamour Magazine.

“Warriors Return”

“Warriors Return” is the trailer for a feature-length documentary by Ms. Rock of New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. It examines the Native American warrior tradition through the eyes of World War II Code Talkers, and veterans of U.S. wars fought in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Known for her films on women’s issues, Ms. Rock has won two Emmy awards. She spends weekends in West Tisbury throughout most of the year and edited “Warriors Return” on-Island during the month of August.

“It’s just finished,” Ms. Rock said in a telephone interview. “This will be the first public audience for the film.”

“Children of God”

Ms. Nesson will bring a work in progress, “Children of God,” which she is producing. The film narrates the story of a young woman born into a cult but kicked out of it at age 15. Bexy Cameron, who is the film’s subject as well as its director, will accompany Ms. Nesson, who lived on the Vineyard from 2000 to 2006 and continues to be a frequent visitor. Ms. Nesson’s film “Poster Girl,” about an Iraqi war veteran, originated on the Island and was nominated for an Oscar. Ms. Nesson hopes to bring “Rubblebucket,” a work in progress that she’s directing about a rock band challenged by the cancer diagnosis of its lead singer.

Ticket proceeds will fund a scholarship for a Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School student to study filmmaking.

“The Pampas Grass Affair”

Ms. Witham and Mr. Wentworth will screen excerpts from “The Pampas Grass Affair,” a documentary Mr. Wentworth directed that follows six years in the life of John Siegfried, a homeless man living behind a dumpster in Palo Alto, Calif.

“Think Globally, Shoot Locally,” Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2 pm, Katharine Cornell Theatre, Vineyard Haven. $12; 9 for M.V. Film Society members. For information and tickets, visit