What’s playing

Spend the summer with the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society.


When is a film society more than a film center? When it’s a place for the performing arts as well. We’re in for a treat this summer with a plethora of choices, including a lot of live events at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society. 

Founder and executive director Richard Paradise explains that the focus of this season is live performance. He speaks about the breadth of the offerings in addition to the movies: “I thought, given the last two years of not having live events for the most part because of COVID restrictions, this summer we could really expand our non-film programming to include a lot of really fun ones. The main thing is to try to make memorable experiences for people coming to the Film Center, which is not just a great place to watch a film but is a great performing space … a great place to see a show.”

There is indeed an emphasis on enjoyable and multigenerational live performances, with standup comics Nancy Norton on July 7, the Nadlers on July 16, and Tom Brisco on August 27. Hypnotist Peter Gross is performing on August 13, and Bryson Lang and Evan Northrip will present an evening of magic, illusion, and mind-blowing juggling on August 18. Master mentalist Jon Stetson comes to the Film Center on Sept. 16, and on Oct. 16 he will be doing his ladies-only psychic party. Paradise assures that all the performers are delightfully slanted to the humorous side. “And you’re getting a window into the world of these crafts,” Paradise says. “They all tailor their program to the audience. I hope these performances will be memorable, and become a tradition for years to come.” 

There will be in-person offerings in connection with the 2022 FilMusic Festival, a long weekend of feature films and musical performances that celebrate the convergence of music, culture, and film, from June 23 to 26.

There is plenty else to see on the screen, too. In recognition of documentaries’ rising importance to public dialogue, the Film Society is producing its seventh annual Documentary Week from August 1 to 5. The form has become the conscience of the nation, providing a deeper study of contemporary, and often unnoticed, social issues.

Rest assured, the treasured tradition of the society’s outdoor screenings at the Featherstone Center for the Arts will be back. You can bring your own beach chairs, blankets, pillows, picnic, and bug spray for a different film each Wednesday night from July 6 to August 10 (weather permitting). Paradise says, “We’re going to have one of the films we played last summer, which was one of our biggest hits: ‘Summer of Soul,’ which was selling out at the Film Center last June and July. I’m also thinking about bringing the 1972 Elaine May classic called ‘The Heartbreak Kid.’ With the outdoor movies, I try to program films that have something to do with summer, going on vacation, getting out of your element; and, of course, trying to make it light. We’re not going to show any heavy, dramatic films under the stars.” 

The culminating highlight of the Island’s culture-packed summer season will be the 2022 Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival from Sept. 6 to 11, with the best new films from dozens of countries that provide a path to bridging cultural differences and exploring universal human experiences. Paradise is excited as well that after a two-year COVID hiatus, there will be an opening night party with a tent on the water outside the Tisbury Marketplace, with live music.

In between the festivities, Paradise assures us, “We’ll be having our first-run movies. I have a great film starting July 1 that won the audience award at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, ‘Cha Cha Real Smooth,’ starring Dakota Johnson, this young actress who’s really hot right now. She appears opposite the writer and director Cooper Raiff. It’s a comedy about this really nice person who falls into the job of a party starter, getting people up to dance, being the MC, etc. He meets Dakota Johnson’s character, who is the mother of a girl who is autistic. They form a bond, and it’s really a sweet comedy movie.” 

Paradise says, “I hope with the excitement of the programming and all these special guests and attractions, that people will be driven to come to the theater again.” As he says, “You can’t get that experience at home watching it on your TV.”

The Martha’s Vineyard Film Center is at 79 Beach Road, Tisbury Marketplace, Vineyard Haven. Visit mvfilmsociety.com to find out more.