Film fare

M.V. Film Festival springs into summer with films and more.

L to R: "Jiang Yongbo, Aoi Mizuhara, Chen Han, Tzi Ma, Awkwafina, Li Xiang, Lu Hong, Zhao Shuzhen." — Courtesy of Big Beach.

Look for an exciting roster of films, special guest commentaries, and new events from the Chilmark-based summer Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival. “It’s an incredible lineup with incredible guests,” said Brian Ditchfield, programming director, in an interview last week. With three or four events weekly, the MVFF is really reaching out to the Island, according to Hilary Dreyer, who was recently promoted to executive director of the organization. The schedule includes films and events in a variety of locales, as well as at the Chilmark Community Center. A new emphasis on music films is happening this summer.

A full weekend of films is planned for the July 4 holiday week. On Wednesday, July 3, “A Private War” will screen at the Community Center. Oscar nominee Rosamund Pike plays the late war correspondent Marie Colvin, an acclaimed journalist who lost an eye from a Sri Lankan grenade. Director Matthew Heineman, who appeared on-Island with his Oscar-nominated documentary “Cartel Land,” as well as “Escape Fire,” will appear with his film for the discussion. David Wolff will provide music beforehand, and Jan Buhrman of Kitchen Porch Catering will serve pulled pork and grilled chicken. Also screening July 3 is “The Farewell,” a comedy about a Chinese-American family wedding and reunion in mainland China. Comedian Awkwafina of “Crazy Rich Asians” fame stars, with a mix of English and Mandarin Chinese (subtitled).

“This Mountain Life,” a free outdoor screening in Vineyard Haven’s Owen Park, plays on Friday, July 5. The documentary narrates a mother-daughter’s remarkable trek through British Columbia’s treacherous Coast Mountains. It is part of Vineyard Haven’s First Friday, and filmgoers can claim a free ticket. Monday, July 8, brings “Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love,” with a free Leonard Cohen tribute musical event, and dinner by Chef Chris Kronner of KronnerBurger. 

Cinema Circus for kids, another free event, gets underway Wednesday, July 10, with its signature filmmaking, face painting, and costumes, film shorts, and educational activities. Continuing on July 17, 24, and 31, as well as August 14 and 21, at the Community Center, this year’s circus includes a trapeze artist. Later that day, July 10, brings the documentary “Running with Beto,” about presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. Director and summer visitor David Modigliani will lead a post-film discussion. Jan Buhrman will provide a catered dinner by Kitchen Porch service. On the menu are pulled chicken tacos and vegetarian fare. The site is the Community Center.

The new Inwards discussion series starts at 10 am on Thursday, July 11, at the Beach Plum Inn’s Hayloft. Coffee and tea are included. (Learn more about this innovative series in next week’s MV Times.) The Oak Bluffs Union Chapel provides the locale for “The Apollo” on Saturday, July 13. This documentary about the famous New York theater includes a pre-film musical tribute and post-film discussion with director Roger Ross Williams.

Vineyard summer resident Henry Louis Gates Jr. will present excerpts from his PBS documentary series about the post–Civil War Reconstruction era. Gates, writer and executive producer of the series, will host dinner and series selections at the Beach Plum Inn. The Film Festival returns to the Community Center on Wednesday, July 17, with “17 Blocks,” about 9-year-old Emmanuel Sanford. In 1999 he began documenting his Washington, D.C.,–based family and their hardships. Members of the Sanford family will participate by Skype. Dinner by Jan Buhrman, as well as live music, is available beforehand.

The powerful “After Parkland,” about the February 2018 Florida school shooting, comes outdoors to the Beach Plum Inn on Monday, July 22. Filmgoers can join directors Jake Lefferman and Emily Taguchi, and film subjects Brooke Harrison and David Hogg, for a prefilm dinner. It’s a Film Festival fundraiser, and a discussion with the four will follow the film.

Returning to the Community Center on Wednesday, July 24, MVFF will present “American Factory.” This documentary examines the friction developing between Chinese and American workers at a reopened Ohio factory making auto parts. Producer Jeff Reichert and former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank will lead a post-film discussion. A jambalaya dinner from Jan Buhrman will be available before the screening, as well as music by Jenny Treator. “Echo in the Canyon,” outlining the 1960s-’70s Laurel Canyon music scene, plays Monday, July 29, at the Beach Plum Inn. Dinner with Islander Kate Taylor will be available beforehand, and she will perform before the film with fellow Islanders Jessie Leaman and Rick O’Gorman. 

Data exploitation and the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook breach are the subject for the Wednesday, July 31, Community Center screening of the documentary “The Great Hack.” Oscar-nominated co-directors Jahane Noujaim and Karim Amer will lead the post-film discussion, along with executive producer Geralyn White Dreyfous and film subject David Carroll. Jan Buhrman offers a Persian menu, and Nanauwe Vanderhoop provides music. On Monday, August 5, “World at War” will screen outdoors at the Beach Plum Inn. It’s the ocean at peril and the loss of fish that inspire three teenagers to search for solutions. Director and Islander Robert Nixon and film subjects Vineyard visitor Max Kennedy, along with Islanders Buddy Vanderhoop and Jack Nixon, will lead the post-film discussion. A MVFF fundraising dinner with Kennedy starts off the evening, and supplies reserved seating at the film.

“Eating Up Easter” will screen outdoors at Aquinnah Circle on Thursday, August 8. This free documentary (Spanish with subtitles) explores the indigenous culture of Easter Island and the threat to its environment. On Monday, August 12, filmgoers can enjoy the charming documentary “The Biggest Little Farm” with an introduction by executive producer and summer Islander Laurie David. It describes the adventures of city dwellers Molly and John Chester in moving to and creating a 200-acre farm. MVFF plans another fundraising dinner beforehand at the Beach Plum Inn with David, and reserved seating at the outdoor screening. “Bedlam” plays Wednesday, August 14, at the Community Center. Inadequate care of the mentally ill is the subject, and director Kenneth Paul Rosenberg will join film subject and co-founder of Black Lives Matter Patrisse Cullors for a post-film discussion. Musician Sabrina Luening will provide music, and caterer Jan Buhrman will make Mexican fare available.

Using ingredients from the Island’s Grey Barn and other Island farms and fishermen, Chef Flynn McGarry will cook up a storm on Monday, August 19. The film accompanying this Dinner at the Grey Barn fundraiser is “Chef Flynn.” Ten-year-old McGarry is the film’s cooking phenom subject, and will lead a post-film discussion. On Wednesday, August 21, director Ric Burns will present his film, “Driving While Black,” at the Community Center. The Emmy awardwinner brings excerpts of his film about black travel during the Jim Crow era, using archival material, including from “The Negro Motorist Green Book.” Filmgoers may remember seeing “The Green Book” with Oscar winner Mahershala Ali. Lucy Mayhew will perform, and dinner by Jan Buhrman features an Israeli-themed menu. In “Maiden,” filmgoers will watch the all-female sailing team compete in the ’80s Whitbread Round the World Race on Wednesday, August 28, at the Community Center.

This year’s MVFF series will close with none-other-than “Ask Doctor Ruth.” The documentary’s subject, legendary sex therapist Ruth Westheimer, now 90 years old and going strong, will appear at the M.V. Performing Arts Center in Oak Bluffs on Saturday, August 31, to lead post-film discussion. Dinner with Dr. Westheimer is planned at a location to be announced. 

Information and tickets for MVFF films and events are available at