Six documentaries are coming to the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, starting Monday, July 30, through Saturday, August 4. It’s the Film Center’s fourth annual Documentary Week, presented in recognition of the rising importance of documentaries that address cultural issues and generate public dialogue.
The series begins with “Love, Gilda,” a tribute to the celebrated and much-loved “Saturday Night Live” comedian Gilda Radner. A 6:30 opening reception precedes the Monday, July 30, screening, which begins at 7:30 pm. Her comic impersonations, including Roseanne Roseannadanna and Emily Litella, are legendary. The film relies on many of her audiotapes and diary entries. Radner was especially close to her father, whom she entertained daily as a little girl. His premature death had a lasting effect on her. In addition to “Saturday Night Live,” Radner performed with the Second City comedy troupe, and was cast as “the girl in the show” for “National Lampoon’s Lemmings.” Film director Lisa D’Apolito will attend and answer questions.
On Tuesday, July 31, the awardwinning “Bathtubs Over Broadway” will screen at 7:30 pm. It addresses what must be the most obscure form of a musical — industrial musicals. They were popular from the end of the ’50s through the ’60s, and their plots incorporated products like bathroom fixtures and were designed to motivate employees. They starred performers like Chita Rivera and Martin Short, and used music composed by the likes of Harnick & Bock and Kander & Ebb. “Late Night with David Letterman” writer Steve Young, who discusses his obsession with these often hilarious musicals in the film, will attend the screening, along with director Dava Whisenant.
On the schedule for Wednesday, August 1, at 7:30 pm, is “A Painter Who Farms: Allen Whiting — Painter and Farmer.” It is a benefit for the Film Center and the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. Directors David and Barbarella Fokos, as well as Whiting, will participate in a Q and A after the film. Whiting comes from 12 generations who have farmed the same property. A plein air painter as well as a farmer, he often goes to family property at Black Point to paint.
He chooses landscape as his subject. “It’s my comfort zone,” he said. “People buy my work because it reminds them of this place [the Vineyard].” Many Islanders admire his work, including singer Carly Simon and Granary Gallery co-owner Chris Morse, who calls him the most important Vineyard painter.
“Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland” is the gripping story of a black woman arrested in Texas for not signaling a lane change, who was accused of assaulting a police officer. She was found dead by hanging in her cell several days later. Oscar nominees and seasonal Vineyard residents Kate Davis and David Heilbroner have masterfully directed the HBO film, which Davis describes as a murder mystery. It will screen on Thursday, August 2, at 7:30 pm.
Bland’s story is particularly compelling because she was a Black Lives Matter activist with a website used to discuss racial issues. As a teenage cheerleader in an otherwise white squad, she learned how to get along with white people, and did not consider herself racist. “I knew my purpose. Helping wherever I can to stop police brutality,” she said. The questionable circumstances of her incarceration and death led her family to reject the authorities’ conclusion that this bright and accomplished young woman committed suicide. Her case gained national attention, with demonstrations in many cities. Davis and Heilbroner will join the audience, along with Bland’s sisters, Shante Needham and Sharon Cooper, and the family’s lead attorney, Cannon Lambert. Charlayne Hunter-Gault will moderate the Q and A.
Directors Elan and Jonathan Bogarin’s film,“306 Hollywood,” comes next on Friday, August 3, at 7:30 pm. It is a snapshot of 306 Hollywood Ave., N.J., where the Bogarins’ grandmother lived for 67 years. The late Anette Ontell was a dress designer whose house was a large part of her personality. The film follows the Bogarin siblings through the house, looking at the memories and accumulations of their grandmother’s belongings. A number of experts come and advise them how to proceed, including an archaeologist, a director of the Rockefeller Archive, and a fashion conservator. Other material comes from video interviews Elan made with his grandmother over 10 years. The result is a look at how a person’s possessions tell the story of their life.
Documentary Week concludes on Saturday, August 4, at 7:30 pm, with “Jane Fonda in Five Acts.” Awardwinning documentary filmmaker Susan Lacy uses 21 hours of interviews with the now 80-year-old Fonda, who won Oscars for “Klute” and “Coming Home.” Lacy uses Fonda’s relationships with men to divide her life into five parts, using archival footage. At times, Fonda became the girl next door, a sex symbol, a celebrity, a political activist, and a workout queen. Lacy and producer Jessica Levin will attend the screening.
Information and all-access passes for Documentary Week are available at mvfilmsociety.com. Information and tickets are also available for films playing at the Capawock and Strand theaters. Tickets for “A Painter Who Farms” are sold separately.