Now in its 12th year, the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival will screen more than 40 films from 24 countries during the week after Labor Day. The films are drawn from the top international film festivals, including Sundance, Tribeca, Berlin, and Cannes.
The action (see schedule here) starts on Tuesday, Sept. 5, with a Canadian film, “The Lears,” a comic adaptation of Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” It stars Bruce Dern as a prominent architect who gathers his children for the weekend to announce he’ll marry his personal assistant, Diana. Ivy Matheson, who plays Diana’s daughter Delia, and producer Irwin Olian will attend for a postscreening Q and A. “Aquarius” follows on Wednesday. This Brazilian film stars Sonia Braga as Clara, the last holdout in an apartment building developers want to take over.
Thursday, Sept. 7, marks the official opening date for the festival, with an outdoor reception across from the Film Center in the Tisbury Marketplace. This year features a Spanish theme, with tapas, wine, and beer served. The Eric Johnson trio will play music with a Spanish motif. A screening of the British film “The Trip to Spain” follows. Starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, it is the third in a series of the twosome’s comic culinary adventures. The two trade celebrity impersonations, including Michael Caine, Roger Moore, and Anthony Hopkins.
“After the Storm,” a charming and mellow Japanese film, plays on Friday, Sept. 8. Hiroshi Abe stars as a writer fallen on hard times. He is working as a two-bit private detective, but still doesn’t pay child support for his son. New York Times reviewer Glenn Kenny says, “It’s a film that sticks with you.”
A new event, “European Shorts,” screens films from Kosovo, Norway, Spain, China, and Germany on Friday afternoon. Also on Friday, viewers can take their pick between the comedy “Lost in Paris,” playing at the Capawock, and the road movie “Pop Aye,” playing simultaneously at the Film Center. The married couple Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon direct and star in the comedy, “Lost in Paris.” Playing a klutzy Canadian librarian, Gordon heads to Paris to visit her Aunt Martha, but discovers she has disappeared. Meanwhile, Abel shows up as a bum who filches Gordon’s money and clothes. Romance ensues, but not without lots of goofy pratfalls.
Pop Aye, in the movie of the same name, is an elephant. His real name is Popeye, but Pop Aye is the Thai pronunciation. Pop Aye travels with his childhood owner, an architect by the name of Thana, whose life is on the skids. He and Pop Aye are traveling to Thana’s childhood home, and along the way they meet a motley assortment of other travelers. It’s a strange but ultimately moving story of animal-and-human connection.
Danny Glover and Joslyn Barnes will be honored on Saturday with the Film Society’s annual Global Citizen Award. This annual tribute recognizes members of the film industry who make contributions on a global level. Glover and Barnes’ co-produced film, “White Sun,” follows the presentation. “White Sun” involves Chandra, a Nepalese Maoist, who returns disillusioned by the violent conflict between the Maoists and Royalists, only to find his father has died and he must arrange for the funeral.
Another film playing at the Capawock on Friday is the comedy “Holy Air.” A Christian Arab Israeli, Adam decides to market the holy air of the title to tourists, then switches to inspirational toilet paper.
From Switzerland comes “The Divine Order,” about the movement for women’s suffrage in that country. Nora, played by Marie Leuenberger, evolves into a leader campaigning for more rights for women despite resistance even from her husband. Echoes of the Greek play “Lysistrata” are evident as the film proceeds.
Six movies or events will screen on Saturday. One of the highlights of the festival is the “Animation Shorts Showcase,” once again curated by Bill Plympton. Attending with him will be filmmakers Wendy Zhao and William Hartland. Also screening is the popular International Short Films Juried Competition. A $1,000 prize will go to one of the 11 entries, chosen from more than 300 entries from 25 countries. Four of the filmmakers will attend the screenings of their films. They are directors Greg Condon (“disillusion of 10 point font”), Romina Schwedler (“The Visit”) and Linda Kuriloff (“Elevator Lesson”), as well as writer Hannah Salt (“Rabbit Punch”).
From China comes “Maineland,” playing on Saturday. It’s a documentary about two Chinese teenagers who attend Fryeburg Academy in Maine. This private school needs to boost its enrollment, and the students from China hope to improve their English and their chances to get into American universities. Director Miao Wang and producer Damon Smith will attend the screening. Another Saturday entry is “The Departure.” This documentary profiles a Japanese Buddhist priest and former punk rocker who counsels people contemplating suicide. His mission is complicated by thoughts of his own mortality. Brazilian-directed “The Ornithologist” follows a birdwatcher in Portugal who struggles to return to civilization after a kayaking accident.
New to the festival this year is a children’s concert with Mister G, the Grammy Award-nominated Latin children’s musician. The event launches the offerings on Sunday. Then Catherine Deneuve stars in the French drama “The Midwife.” This film narrates the fraught relationship between Beatrice (Deneuve) and the midwife Claire (Catherine Frot). Beatrice is the former lover of Claire’s father.
“The Fencer,” a Finnish and Estonian film, adapts the story of the Estonian fencer and coach Edel Nelis. Set in the 1950s, this film shows Nelis starting a sports club for his students, emphasizing fencing. But the school principal disapproves. In the Israeli film “The Wedding Plan,” a religious woman must decide if she should marry her dead sister’s husband. She is determined to marry, but the right groom doesn’t show up right away.
The festival will end on Sunday with a 4:30 pm showing of “Like Crazy,” where two women, Beatrice (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) and Donatella (Micaela Ramazzotti), patients at a progressive but secure psychiatric clinic, develop an unpredictable friendship as they flee the institution in search of love and happiness in the outside world. Following the film, a closing-night party will take place at La Soffitta on Main Street in Vineyard Haven.
For information and tickets, see mvinternationalfilmfestival.com.