Year in Review: Film

The newly renovated Capawock shines bright on Main Street in Vineyard Haven. — Photo by Heidi Vick

In the biggest news for Martha’s Vineyard film, independent film venues doubled in 2015. Both Vineyard Haven’s Capawock and the Strand in Oak Bluffs reopened in June. With four summer film series, along with the year-round Martha’s Vineyard Film Center and the more Hollywood-oriented Edgartown Cinemas, Martha’s Vineyard is fortunate to have so many movie sources and events for its size. The largest Island theatre is now the Capawock, at 240 seats; the Strand has 197 seats, and the Film Center 177.

“With three theaters now being operated by the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society, we greatly expanded our reach and diversity of films and audiences,” founder and executive director Richard Paradise said.

The Martha’s Vineyard Museum and the Vineyard Gazette collaborated to launch five brief introductions to Island history at the Capawock and Strand. The Film Center also added a new trailer by Chilmark filmmaker Jeremy Mayhew at its International Film Festival. “He is a longtime supporter and a wonderful animator and graphic artist,” Mr. Paradise said.

The M.V. Film Society saw a record 50,000 people attend 200 movies and events at its three theatres. The most popular film at the Capawock and Strand was the animated “Inside Out,” although “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is likely to outpace that film, if its run into January is counted. Topping Film Center attendance were the Oscars viewing and the Oscar-nominated shorts.

The Film Center showcased two new series in 2015. Co-sponsored by the Vineyard Conservation and Film societies, the “Nature as Inspiration” series opened in May. Documentary week in August sold out four of its five screenings. Now in its third year, the June Filmusic Festival featured musicians from the Berklee College of Music accompanying the sold-out silent film “Phantom of the Opera.” Always popular was September’s Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, in its 10th year.

The Film Society continues to collaborate with Island nonprofits — more than two dozen this year. It teamed up with the Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative for free showings of “Selma” and “He Named Me Malala,” and with the League of Women Voters for “Suffragette.” Its two dozen guest filmmakers included Island summer visitor Julie Taymor, who a led discussion of her film “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

The Chilmark-based Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, the Island’s premier summer series (which also runs in March), upgraded this year to digital projection. Programming and managing director Brian Ditchfield said one of the most memorable discussions followed the screening of “The Hunting Ground.” This documentary addresses the issue of rape and the institutional coverups of it at U.S. colleges. The festival hosted two of the film’s subjects and victims, Annie E. Clark and Andrea Pino. Thanks to TMVFF, several hundred dollars were raised to support the women, and they received a donor’s check enabling them to pay off student loans and rent a Washington, D.C., apartment.

“There were so many other memorable moments in 2015, especially the world-renowned guests who came to share their world,” said Mr. Ditchfield. TMVFF’s hallmark is the number of directors and principals it brings to its summer series and March festival. Matt Heinemann spoke after the screening of his Mexican drug story, “Cartel Land,” in March, as did Matt Rutherford after his film, “Red Dot on the Ocean,” about circumnavigating the Americas. Kathleen Cleaver and summer resident Henry Louis Gates Jr. led a discussion of Stanley Nelson’s “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution,” and Caroll Spinney, a.k.a. “Sesame Street’s” Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, joined children in a puppetry workshop in conjunction with “I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story.”

The festival continued to expand beyond its Chilmark home to screen films outdoors, as well as at other Island locations like the Oak Bluffs Tabernacle and Vineyard Haven’s Owen Park. Vineyard summer visitor and Hollywood star Jake Gyllenhaal presented his film “Southpaw.” “In My Father’s House,” by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg, received a standing ovation at Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs. Some of the bravos went to hip-hop artist Che “Rhymefest” Smith, who performed after the screening. Pianist Seymour Bernstein taught a piano class and discussed Ethan Hawke’s documentary about him, “Seymour: An Introduction.”

In addition to its summer and March events, the Film Festival screened Laurie David’s “Fed Up” at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in November. Mr. Ditchfield called it “one of our most moving moments. We learned how many students and faculty were not willing to eat the food that is served to them each day.”

Showing 40 films, the 13th Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival in August highlighted notable documentaries such as “Althea,” about tennis champion Althea Gibson, and “Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band.” The Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center’s Summer Institute screened six popular films, including “Belle and Sebastian,” and “Gett: The Trial of Vivane Amsalem.” Edgartown Cinemas saw “Minions” as its biggest summer film and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was most popular in the off-season. “It was a great year,” Deborah Belisle, V. P. of Operations for Edgartown Cinemas said. “With well-rounded films for adults and kids, cartoons and sci fi.”

All in all, it was a banner year for film on Martha’s Vineyard.