2014: A bumper crop of great movies

A retrospective in Island cinema.

Photo courtesy of the Martha's V

Not many communities the size of Martha’s Vineyard are lucky enough to provide such a variety of films to moviegoers. In addition to the Entertainment Cinemas in Edgartown, which programs popular Hollywood blockbusters year-round, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival (TMVFF) in Chilmark and the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center in Vineyard Haven, along with the Summer Jewish Film Series of the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center, now based at the MV Film Center, bring the Island the best in independent filmmaking. Another film event growing in popularity is the annual African-American Film Festival, held in August in Oak Bluffs. Across the board, 2014 was an especially good year for provocative and insightful films.

Chilmark’s TMVFF addressed a variety of gender issues, including bisexuality in Appropriate Behavior, and gay marriage in The Case Against 8, civil rights in Freedom Summer, and food-industry abuses in Fed Up. In addition to its annual March festival, Chilmark’s TMVFF expanded its venues, bringing movies to Entertainment Cinemas in Edgartown, and outdoors to Owen Park in Vineyard Haven and the Menemsha public beach, in addition to its regular screenings at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown and at its home base at Chilmark Community Center. Oriented toward documentary films, TMVFF brought a number of filmmakers and principals connected with the films being screened for discussions. Many films, including Stanley Nelson’s Freedom Summer, Compared to What: The Improbable Journey of Barney Frank with an appearance by Mr. Frank, Fed Up attended by producers Katie Couric and Laurie David, and Divide in Concord with plastic-bottle-ban advocate Jean Hill, earned standing ovations. TMVFF brought a number of free events to its members, such as Frozen, Mission Blue, E.T. the Extraterrestrial, and The Wizard of Oz.

Also free for the first time this year was TMVFF’s signature children’s program, Cinema Circus, which expanded from Chilmark to include events in West Tisbury and Oak Bluffs. In addition to screening children’s films, Cinema Circus offered circus events and classes in filmmaking for kids. Managing Director Brian Ditchfield and Education Coordinator Hilary Dreyer will lead new education programs in 2015 at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and the West Tisbury School. TMVFF will also expand its outdoor film series in 2015.

MV Film Center

The MV Film Center screened 165 feature-length movies this year, as well as 60 to 70 shorts, and stayed open every week for at least five nights. The center’s most popular films were Boyhood, Chef, Whiplash, Gone Girl, Le Chef,Ida, Land Ho, Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, The Past, and Philomena. Guest appearances featured the late Mike Nichols with The Graduate,  Rory Kennedy with Last Days of Vietnam, and Kate Davis with Newburgh Sting.

Special events at the Film Center included the MV Hebrew Center’s Summer Jewish Film Series, a program of Oscar-nominated shorts, The Manhattan Shorts series, Wednesday-night classic films, Green on Screen films with the Vineyard Conservation Society, the The Charles W. Morgan with Sail MV, the NY Film Critics series, a New Year’s Eve party, and the annual Oscars party.

Two new events will join the MV Film Center roster in 2015: a documentary week, and a Memorial Day weekend mini-festival on the environment, with cooperation from the Vineyard Conservation Society.