Move over Cannes. Sundance, save your films for a rainy day. The second annual Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival was in town this weekend and the roster combined the best of festival award winners, local documentaries and Academy Award nominees.
“It was excellent,” co-director Navette Previd said. “The attendance was fantastic, the audiences were excited about the film selections and the parties were a smash success.”
The festival, which screened 30 films and spanned four days, kicked off on Thursday evening with a rooftop party at the Mansion House in Vineyard Haven.
“We couldn’t have asked for better weather, the beverages were flowing and people were really excited to be there,” co-director Richard Paradise said.
After watching the sunset and grooving to the tunes of local musician Phil daRosa, the crowds wound their way to the Capawock theatre for a sold-out screening of the Vietnamese film, the Owl and the Sparrow. Director Stephane Gauger was on hand to answer questions after the screening.
“It was a great way to kick off the festival,” Mr. Paradise said. “People were really jazzed.”
Into the Wild, the adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s acclaimed bestselling book of the same name, was the Friday afternoon hit, screening to another sellout crowd.
Set in Alaska and directed by Sean Penn, Into the Wild was the only all-American film to show all weekend. “The films that we program have that universal language and view of the world that anyone can enjoy,” Mr. Paradise said.
Throughout the weekend, more than 30 films graced the big screens at the Capawock, the Katharine Cornell Theatre and the Vineyard Playhouse. Films hailed from Cuba, France, Australia and Romania, among other nations. At least 10 filmmakers attended the festival where they joined audiences for screenings and answered questions.
Despite its international bent, the festival also took on a local flavor. Island comedian Marty Nadler, local singer and songwriter Kate Taylor and Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Geraldine Brooks all presented films.
On Saturday, local filmmakers had a chance to screen their own shorts and works in progress at a forum called Think Globally, Shoot Locally. Following the forum was a screening of A Home For Us All, a documentary by local filmmakers Liz Witham and Ken Wentworth about the affordable housing crunch on the Island.
“We want to keep local Islanders involved,” Mr. Paradise said. “Even though we’re a small Island community for most of the year, the filmmakers can see the connections throughout the rest of the world.”
On Saturday, the rain and cooler weather put people in the movie-going mood. On Saturday night, Deep Water, voted best documentary at the 2006 Rome International Film Festival, screened to the third sold-out audience of the weekend. Director Louise Osmond appeared to talk about the film, which tells the story of an amateur sailor who set out in the 1960s to circumnavigate the globe. The offerings on Saturday also included Manda Bala, winner of the Sundance Festival Grand Jury Prize for best documentary and best cinematography, and a free animation workshop with Cannes Film Festival award winning animator Bill Plympton.
Movies were not the only thing bringing people out on the town during the festival. Each night, organizers hosted a party complete with drinks and dancing. On Friday night, Che’s Lounge in Vineyard Haven transformed into a setting for a true soiree. DJ Di spun tunes while the Italian classic La Dolce Vita screened on a back wall.
On Saturday, festival goers headed for the Oyster Bar in Oak Bluffs for a sold-out dance party. West African rhythm guitarist and drummer Mamadou Diop kept the party going until midnight. And on Sunday, after the screenings wrapped up, the festival thanked audiences with a beach party in front of the Black Dog restaurant. Rick Bausman and the Beetlebung Steel Drum Band played and the tall ship Alabama lowered the plank for tours.
With one year of experience under his belt, Mr. Paradise said the festival was, in many ways, a big step up from the year before. The newly renovated Capawock theatre was added to the screening locations, almost doubling the seating capacity from last year.
“The volunteers were all fantastic, the vibe was a lot stronger and there was stronger involvement from our sponsors,” Mr. Paradise said on Monday morning.
After a weekend of movies, parties and more movies, he and Ms. Previd caught their breath, but not for long. “We want to continue to have people here who are interested in the world around them,” Mr. Paradise said. Ms. Previd echoed him. “We hope to be even bigger and better next year,” she said.