Programming refinements and expanded venues punctuate Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival

The Martha's Vineyard Film Festival's March festival is March 13-16. — File Photo by Ralph Stewart

Those attending the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival (MVFF) this month, scheduled for March 13–16, will find that the four-day event has been enhanced and expanded. The upgrades to the festival include a special showing in Edgartown, repeated screenings of selected films, a campus-like intermission environment, onsite artists and artisans, a greater variety of Island-oriented filmmaking, and, in collaboration with the Chilmark Library, a children’s program.

Along with the Chilmark Community Center, organizers have incorporated the Chilmark Library into the festival and reintroduced the Chilmark School with the overall aim of creating a connected atmosphere in and around the three buildings that goes beyond the utility of any one of them.

“Intermissions are one of the most important elements of our film festival,” said MVFF  executive director Thomas Bena. “For years we’ve had a ‘one venue’ festival and this helped the event to feel like a community gathering. By adding venues that are so close to the heart of the festival, our hope is that the very special feeling of our community gathering will be enhanced. Kind of like walking around the Ag Fair…”

While the Community Center and school will primarily be screening and speaking venues, the library will be the center of the children’s program.

“We are excited to be collaborating with the Chilmark Library to explore the rich tradition of films inspired by the written word,” said Alexandra London Thompson, the new director of children’s programming. “The screenings and activities of the weekend highlight films and the books they are based on.”

Ms. Thompson has looked beyond mere use of the library and its contents and opted to tap at least one of its staff.

“In addition to the library hosting the majority of the children’s programming for the March festival, I have collaborated with Kristin Maloney [Assistant Director and Youth Services Librarian] on much of the curriculum. Kristin will be one of the teachers for the first two Sunday programs “READING the Movies” and “HEARING the Movies,” and will also tie her excellent Saturday “Stories & Songs” program [10:30 to 11:30 am] into the theme of the weekend.”

One film that festival attendees aren’t likely to find in their programs, but may nevertheless have an opportunity to see, will be shot during the event by some of the Island’s newest and youngest filmmakers.

“On Saturday from 1:30 to 5:30 pm,” continued Ms. Thompson, “we are going to guide kids through the steps of making a film from pre-production up to the editing process. They will make a documentary about the film festival, with the kids coming up with the questions, acting as interviewers, camera operators, and crew. We then have two fantastic filmmakers who will stay up late Saturday night furiously cutting the film together so it can premiere at the library Sunday night, ‘Watching OUR Movie,’ at 6 pm.”

“Watching OUR Movie” will be preceded by a series at the festival called “Hidden Gems” that has been geared for children and their parents.

“We encourage the entire family to come and enjoy our ‘Hidden Gems’ evening film series on Friday and Saturday, and then the ‘Watching OUR Movie’ film premiere at 6 pm on Sunday,” Ms. Thompson said. “The Friday Hidden Gem is ‘The Iron Giant,’ directed by Brad Bird [4 pm] and on Saturday we will screen Alfonso Cuaron’s ‘A Little Princess’ at 6:30 pm, the film that Cuaron still considers to be his masterpiece.”

Adding to the selection of artists exhibiting, performing, or creating at the event, West Tisbury landscape and marine painter Kenneth Vincent will execute new work in full view of festival-goers. Images of the works he makes at the festival will eventually grace posters that will be offered for sale at upcoming festivals as well as online. Wampum keychains crafted by Aquinnah resident Joanie LeLacheur will be part of a stock of Island-crafted items and artwork available for purchase during the festival.

“Brian [Ditchfield] and I were talking about our desire to merge with other art forms,” said Mr. Bena. “We already incorporate dance, music, and of course, the culinary arts, into our film festival. So painting just seemed to make sense. We’ll be creating posters of Ken’s work that audience members can purchase and our hope is that we will work with a new artist each year. We are also incorporating Joan LeLacheur’s wampum into the festival. She’ll be creating one-of-a-kind wampum pieces that audience members can purchase. The goal is to have our ‘merchandise’ remind people about the unique and special beauty of Martha’s Vineyard.”

During the festival, the number of times certain films are shown on a given day will increase to accommodate demand and act as a hedge against movies selling out.

“We wanted to make sure that anybody making the drive up to Chilmark could see the films,” said Mr. Bena. “In past years we’ve sold out and had to turn people away. This year we are playing our most popular films more than once and we are screening films simultaneously. It will allow us to serve more people and to give them more options.”

However, those wanting to see at least one festival film need not travel to Chilmark to view it. Edgartown’s Entertainment Cinemas will show “Fading Gigolo,” starring John Turturro and, in part, co-starring Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, and Sofia Vergara.

“We have had great success screening in Edgartown during the past few summers,” said Mr. Bena. “It seemed like a great idea to try screening a film there in March. Also, Entertainment Cinemas has state-of-the-art DCP projection equipment and the film was only available on DCP.”

For those craving more works relevant to Vineyarders, a plump offering of shorts by Island filmmakers, or with Islanders as subjects, will be shown at the festival this month along with a feature documentary in progress by Victoria “Tori” Campbell, formerly of Tisbury.

“We are supporting local filmmakers in an expanded way this year” said Mr. Ditchfield, the festival’s managing director. “Not only are we playing Tori’s film, we also have an amazing lineup of short films by or about Vineyarders. We are playing my sister’s film, which is a stunning narrative film shot in Cambodia that just won an award from the Director’s Guild of America for The Best Student Film by a Woman. We are also playing some short documentaries about Vineyarders, including one by ESPN about a local couple, Holly and Henry Stephenson. For 25 years they were in charge of making the Major League Baseball schedule out of their home office. It’s an incredible story and I think most Islanders had no idea that was happening here.”

For a complete list of all the films showing at the festival, visit

And for off-Islanders seeking accommodation, the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown has put together a special festival package. Learn more by visiting