Circuit Arts and the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival presents a Mini Film Festival over Indigenous Peoples’ Day weekend and the weekend following at the Grange Hall. The festival will offer a number of intriguing viewing choices, including those that celebrate and honor native cultures.
“The inspiration for the Mini Film Festival weekends is part of our mission. While our big festival in March is the opening of the summer season, the Mini Fest is really for the year-round community, giving them access to top-notch films that we can’t normally see,” Minah Worley Oh, programming director for the film festival, says. “It’s our love letter, saying we care about you, you deserve culture and content.” They have, as she describes it, actively sought out films that inspire us and challenge the audience to think more deeply. Oh explains, “They all have a common thread of changing our point of view from the traditional lens in topics that we can all band around. We are delighted to bring the best to the table.”
The festival opens with a bang — the thriller from Senegal, “Saloum,” on Friday, Oct. 7. The film is a fast-paced genre-bender. It follows three mercenaries as they try to escape — with a wanted drug lord and a briefcase full of gold — during the 2003 Guinea-Bissau coup d’état. When their plane begins to leak on the way to Dakar, Senegal, they seek refuge in a holiday camp in the country’s coastal region, the Sine-Saloum Delta. Upon arriving, they encounter a police captain, a mysterious deaf and mute woman, and supernatural forces that threaten to expose the trio’s true identities and past secrets.
On Saturday, Oct. 8, is “Retrograde,” which chronicles the consequences of the U.S. government’s April 2021 decision to withdraw American troops from its 20-year “forever war” in Afghanistan. Embedded with a unit of U.S. Army Green Berets working with Afghan general Sami Sadat and his officers, director Matthew Heineman took risks few other filmmakers dare — capturing unfolding tragedy, as well as the day-to-day business of modern warfare. The film falls right in line with the honest, unflinching, boots-on-the-ground perspective for which Heineman’s work is known.
Sunday, Oct. 9, is the first feature-length documentary. “Joyce Carol Oates: A Body in the Service of the Mind,” centers on Oates, a bestselling author, and features readings by actor Laura Dern, who starred in a film based on an Oates short story. The documentary offers an unprecedented glimpse into the now 84-year-old writer’s solitude, and takes us back to her childhood and university years. It also touches on societal events that affected her deeply and are evident in her writing.
Rounding out the long weekend on Monday, Oct. 10, and in honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, is the U.S. premiere of “We Are Still Here,” an anthology about and made by people of First Nations in the South Pacific. Created in response to the semiquincentennial of Capt. James Cook’s second voyage, from 1772 to 1775, and his “discovery” of Australia, it contains eight stories by 10 Indigenous filmmakers from Australia and Aotearoa (New Zealand). Spanning 1,000 years, and ranging from historical drama and dystopian sci-fi to animation and romantic comedy, these narratives reclaim and amplify the voices of indigenous people, and attest to their creativity, brilliance, and the will to survive.“‘We Are Still Here’ provides us, and especially our Wampanoag community, a chance to see a story that was originated by native people. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking at moments, but it gives our community access to our roots, and I think that’s important,” Oh says.
Oh added that she is particularly excited to share “Saloum” and “We Are Still Here” with the Island community. “Both films are a showcase of high-end storytelling with a fresh perspective on narratives that are pervasive in our culturally shared histories,” she says.
On Thursday, Oct. 13, is a recent Cannes 2022 winner film, “Triangle of Sadness.” The narrative centers around celebrity model couple Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean) who are invited on a luxury cruise for the uber-rich, helmed by an unhinged boat captain (Woody Harrelson). What first appeared Instagrammable ends catastrophically, leaving the survivors stranded on a desert island and fighting for survival. “This is the crown jewel of films this year, and we are thrilled to bring it to our year-round community,” Oh says.
The second weekend starts off on Friday, Oct. 14, with “The Banshees of Inisherin.” This dark comedy-drama about the consequences of abruptly ending a lifelong friendship stars the electric combination of Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson.
On Saturday, Oct. 15, is “Women Talking,” the story of a group of Mennonite women forced to reconcile their reality with their faith after enduring years of sexual assault by the men in their cloistered community. Given the option of forgiving their attackers or risking excommunication, they gather in a hayloft to weigh the value of their safety against the possibility of being locked out of heaven. Based on the 2018 novel of the same name by Miriam Toews, it has an outstanding ensemble cast that includes Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, and Frances McDormand. The film is receiving early Oscar buzz ahead of its December release date.
Brian Ditchfield, artistic and executive director for the festival, said he is excited to continue utilizing the Grange Hall for continued, year-round programming: “When we renovated the second-floor theater at the Grange Hall in conjunction with the Vineyard Preservation Trust, part of that vision was to be able to provide content to our community year-round. This is the culmination of that.”
With comfy couches and an intimate environment, Ditchfield has brought his vision of creating a community living room to life, making the Grange’s second-floor theater a unique public venue on the Island. And through their pay-what-you-want admissions policy, the film festival is providing everyone a seat at the table.
Tickets can be purchased at tmvff.org/fallprogramming2022.