International Film Festival ends on high note

People gathered to share drinks and music after the last film of the Martha's Vineyard International Film Festival. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Michael and Robin Deveau of Truro, Nova Scotia, were among the crowd of film lovers who toasted the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival at its closing reception on Sunday, Sept. 7. Since their marriage on Chappaquiddick in 2008, the couple has made the 16-hour drive to the Vineyard in September to vacation for two weeks and attend the festival.

“What a wonderful thing for the Island,” Mr. Deveau, a financial advisor, said. “No matter where you sit, you have a good seat.” Two of the friends they have made at the festival are Kathy Soscia, a summer resident of Oak Bluffs, and Pat Farley of Edgartown. Both women have volunteered at the festival since its inception nine years ago. “Every year we get together for a salmon dinner,” said Mr. Deveau. “We bring the salmon from Nova Scotia.” Mr. Deveau also emails with Festival and Film Center Director Richard Paradise in the off-season.

This year’s Festival had an earlier start, on Tuesday, Sept. 2, and its 16 programs represented a smaller number than in previous years because every film was shown at the Vineyard Haven Film Center. Each movie had a larger audience than in previous years, however, and eight films were sellouts. “This year I focused on narrative films instead of documentaries,” said Mr. Paradise. “I’m always surprised at how people love these noncommercial films.” In contrast, the Nantucket Film Festival emphasizes Hollywood and studio-driven films.

This year’s M.V. Festival featured films from more than 20 countries. Its popular juried shorts program received a record-breaking 450 entries, out of which 10 finalists were chosen. The winner was “So You’ve Grown Attached,” a 15-minute comedy by Kate Tsang about a girl with an unusual imaginary playmate. It was selected by Diana Barrett of the Fledgling Fund; Tim Miller, film critic of the Cape Cod Times; filmmaker Matthew VanDyke, who won last year’s shorts competition; and Patrick Harrison, New York director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts. Prominent independent animator Bill Plympton returned this year to curate the animation program, which included two of his own films, and answered questions from the audience. “To make animation is such a pleasure,” Mr. Plympton said. Rather than go to the beach or sightsee, he spent so much time working on his latest project that he ran out of drawing paper. “We love Martha’s Vineyard,” he said. “It’s our favorite festival.”

Mr. Paradise said this year Skype put audiences in contact with some of the films’ producers and directors, including “Land Ho!” co-director Aaron Katz. “It’s hard to get them to come to the festival, but Skype gives them an opportunity to participate. We will continue to use it all year long.” Equipment failures were almost nonexistent at this year’s event. “The Film Center is a well-oiled machine,” said Mr. Paradise. “It runs so smoothly because we do it all year long.” He has been joined this year by staff member Chloe Riley of Oak Bluffs, who serves as production and communications manager.

This year’s biggest hits were “Land Ho!,” “The Trip to Italy,” “Le Chef,” and “Hunting Elephants.” “Especially popular were the more comic, lighter films,” Mr. Paradise said. “People appreciated the skill, the storytelling, and the production values. Because we had a smaller program, we had fewer duds.” According to Mr. Paradise, fewer people came to the animation program. “People think animation is only for kids,” he said. “Not so.”

Particularly popular was a screening of “The Graduate,” with director and summer resident Mike Nichols attending to discuss his celebrated 1967 film, starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft. According to Mr. Paradise, Mr. Nichols plans to participate again next year to discuss films, like “A Place in the Sun,” that have influenced him.

Architect John Wolff, who summers in Edgartown, and his houseguest Alistair Palmer of Vancouver watched 11 out of the Festival’s 16 programs. Mr. Wolff said his favorite was “May in the Summer,” a first-time effort by the Jordanian Cherien Dabis, who wrote, directed, produced, and acted in the comedy about a successful young woman about to be married to her Muslim fiancé. “Richard is amazing,” said Mr. Wolff. “I really like the way he’s combining the films with a better sense of how they are made.”

Next year the festival will celebrate its 10th anniversary. The program remains a secret, but Mr. Paradise said, “I’m planning to go all out.” The Martha’s Vineyard Film Society now has more than 1,900 members. This weekend, two of the most popular festival films will return: “Belle et Sebastien,” about a boy and a feral dog, and “The Trip to Italy,” a comedy about two food critics. There will be additional screenings of festival films in the coming weeks. In conjunction with Martha’s Vineyard Fashion Week, the Film Center will play three documentaries next week: “Advanced Style,” about seven over-60 New York fashionistas; “Mademoiselle C,” about former French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld; and “Yves St. Laurent,” a biopic about the celebrated French fashion designer.

All films screened at M.V. Film Center, Tisbury Marketplace, Vineyard Haven. Tickets $12 (M.V. Film Society members, $9; 14 and under, $7). For information and tickets, see mvfilmsociety.com.