Lights, camera, action

Gearing up for a season of festivals with the MV Film Society.


Richard Paradise, founder and executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society, is planning three enticing festivals in the next few months. 

For Paradise, festivals are special — a film, plus an experience. Here you get a chance to interact with and listen to filmmakers, experts, or the movie subjects themselves. There’s an opportunity to gather and celebrate at a reception. Paradise believes a festival brings energy, and is a convergence of a lot of creative people. He also feels that film festivals, even presented over a short weekend, are able to address a broader range of ideas than just going to see one film on a Saturday night.

The first festival will take place over the Mother’s Day weekend from May 6 to 8. The three-day event, “Spectrum,” will present a wide range of films focused on LGBTQ+ stories, people, and issues. In addition to guest speakers and discussions, there will be a special event for LGBTQ+ youth. 

Paradise explains the festival’s origins six years ago: “It was always dear to my former colleague, Bob Dutton, who was its instigator. He was very committed to and passionate about the community. Over the years, he would seek out the films, get the speakers, and work with collaborating organizations. I’m trying my best to follow through on that legacy.” 

The docket is not finalized, but Paradise is trying to be both true to and supportive of LGBTQ+ storytelling, while also having films that are accessible to a straight audience. Some films he’s considering are “Summer of 85,” a French nostalgic, gay romantic love story as well as “Nellie and Nadine,” about two women who met in a concentration camp where they fell in love and their continuing relationship afterward. Two others are about transgender individuals, “Little Girl” and potentially “Family in Transition,” although the lineup is still being finalized.

The Pride Week Cape Cod organization will help promote the festival. In fact, all three festivals will be promoted to a wider audience with a grant from the Massachusetts Travel and Tourism Recovery Program (TTR) that is earmarked specifically to market to individuals who are 50 miles away or more. “We’re looking to broaden the appeal and the attendance, including Cape Cod, the greater Boston area, maybe Connecticut, and Providence to bring people to the Vineyard to help local businesses during the shoulder season,” he said.

Next up will be the 8th annual MV Environmental Film Festival on Memorial Day weekend, from May 26 to 29, in collaboration with the Vineyard Conservation Society. Here, nature is the inspiration. It came about when Jesse Ausubel, an environmentalist, came to Paradise with the idea. He notes that the Film Society is able to feature most of the more prominent films in this genre, which has exploded in recent years.

“It’s always been well-received by the community because people in Martha’s Vineyard are nothing if not sensitive to environmental issues,” Paradise shares. He’s working and nurturing a list of films, but intends to screen “The Last of the Right Whales” with a speaker from either the Woodwell Climate Research Center, the Marine Biological Lab, or the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to talk about the preservation of the species. There will also be a film in collaboration with the Martha’s Vineyard Garden Club about gardens and their impact on the environment. 

From June 23 to 26, you’ll find feature films and musical performances that celebrate the convergence of music, culture, and film in the 10th annual FILMUSIC Festival. Here, the origins began with Paradise thinking about what might bring a different audience to the Film Center. “Ten years ago, I was looking for something that would be appealing to our Island community, and we have always been music-centric. We’ve had musical personalities that have lived and performed here, iconic concerts, and so forth,” he said. “Music and film go hand-in-hand. Of course, most films have a musical soundtrack but more than that, music is a cultural part of our community and nation, and we can celebrate that music and the talent that makes it via film.” 

Paradise explains about organizing film festivals, “This programming takes a little bit more effort — advanced work and research. I want to be able to play eight or nine good films that all could stand on their own.” Deciding which movies to feature takes months, and it’s not just deciding on and securing the films, but organizing guest speakers and all the endless arrangements for them.

“The last two years, most of the festivals were virtual. There weren’t a lot of people attending in person, but this year we’re hoping that, with people feeling more comfortable coming back to the theater, that things will rebound,” Paradise said. “We’re looking forward to getting back to doing what was so prominent before the pandemic.” 

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