Cinematic portraits of five legendary figures in the arts will screen at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center starting Monday, August 1, and continuing through Friday, August 5. Each film in the second annual Documentary Week focuses on an artist from a different discipline, beginning on August 1 with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, who often shocked with his stunning nude images of men. Director Randy Barbato, who employs newly rediscovered interviews, will answer questions after the film.
Playing on Tuesday, August 2, “Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You” captures the life and accomplishments of the most influential producer in TV history. The film won an Emmy and an Editing Award at Sundance. Now 93 years old, Mr. Lear introduced an unprecedented realism to the medium’s fantasy world with series like “All in the Family,” “Maude,” and “The Jeffersons.” At one point, six of the top 10 programs on the air were Lear productions. The chair of “All in the Family’s” lovable bigot Archie Bunker, played by Carroll O’Connor, is on display at the Smithsonian. The producer earned a place on then-President Richard Nixon’s enemies list for his outspoken views. He reads poignant extracts from his memoir, “Even This I Get to Experience,” describing a difficult childhood in which he bounced from one relative to another. His con artist father, who spent time in jail, became the model for Archie Bunker.
“I never lost my childlike view of the world,” Mr. Lear confesses. Extracts from the “Maude” episode where the matriarch, played by Bea Arthur, decides to have an abortion illustrate the progressive bent of Mr. Lear’s programs, and his refusal to let network pressure keep him from addressing key social issues of the times. In the latter part of his life, Mr. Lear retired from TV to become an activist for social causes. Co-director Rachel Grady will participate in a post-screening Q and A session.
On deck for Wednesday, August 3, is “Becoming Mike Nichols,” which explores the life and achievements of the comedian and director through his 2014 conversations with colleague Jack O’Brien. A longtime Vineyard summer visitor, Mr. Nichols began his theatrical career as half of a comedy team with Elaine May. He went on to direct prizewinning theatrical productions of “Barefoot in the Park” and “The Odd Couple,” and a series of landmark films including “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and “The Graduate.” Awardwinning director Douglas McGrath will answer questions via Skype, and Vineyarder Rose Styron and director James Lapine will discuss Mr. Nichols’ career and attachment to the Vineyard.
Renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma is the subject of the Thursday, August 4, documentary. “The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble” returns to the Film Center by popular demand after its June screening for the Filmusic Festival. The much-respected musician formed the Silk Road Ensemble in 1998. A nonprofit collective, it joins musical artists and institutions to promote multicultural goals. Directed by Morgan Neville, who will conduct a post-screening Q and A session, the documentary combines performance footage, interviews, and archival film to follow the work of Silk Road Ensemble musicians. The director won an Oscar for his film “20 Feet from Stardom” in 2014.
The documentary festival will conclude on Friday, August 5, with a screening of “City of Gold.” Its subject, Jonathan Gold, is the Los Angeles food critic and Pulitzer prizewinner who has taken an unconventional and often humorous approach to reviewing restaurants. Mr. Gold will attend, and answer questions after the film.
For more information and tickets, visit mvfilmsociety.com.