The Martha's Vineyard Film Festival begins Thursday, March 13, with an opening night showing of Fading Gigolo starring Woody Allen and John Turturro. The movie will screen at the Edgartown Cinema at 4 and 7 p.m., the first time the March festival has branched out from its Chilmark Location.
Fading Gigolo was produced by Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte, a summer resident of West Tisbury, and the producer of The Kids Are All Right, an Oscar contender in 2010.
In an interview with the Gazette this week, Mr. Kusama-Hinte said he was drawn to the depth of the script and working with Mr. Turturro.
“It’s funny, intelligent and touching, and I think it has an element that creates a little bit of discussion of how these characters get into the situation they find themselves in,” Mr. Kusama-Hinte said. “There’s a delight and humorous angle to it and there’s definitely another dimension that’s much more soulful and thought-provoking.”
The festival runs through Sunday, March 16, with all the other films and activities taking place at the Chilmark Community Center, Chilmark Library and Chilmark School. During the weekend 20 films will be screened, including documentaries and features. There will also be free films for kids, and on Saturday a documentary filmmaking workshop for children. Food will be available, too.
Film festival program director Brian Ditchfield said he is enthusiastic about These Birds Walk, a documentary about a home in Pakistan for runaway children. The film documents the life of street children and the Samaritans who take them in.
“I was completely wrapped up in this s tory,” Mr. Ditchfield said. “It blew me away.”
Mr. Ditchfield will also moderate a discussion after the screening of Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger, a documentary about the notorious Boston gangster. Mr. Bulger’s defense attorney Hank Brennan will take part in the discussion as will Steve Davis, the brother of one of Mr. Bulger’s victims.
“It’s going to be very interesting,” Mr. Ditchfield said. “How do you have that conversation?”
And then there’s Burt, also known as Grandpa Bee in Taiwan.
Born I.G. Shavitz, Burt Shavitz is the bearded man on all of the Burt’s Bees products. He is also the founder of the company and now the subject of a documentary called Burt’s Buzz.
Film director Jody Shapiro followed the icon of the skincare products from his simple life in Maine to his screaming fans in Taiwan. What began as selling honey on the side of the road turned into a multibillion dollar company. The company is now owned by Clorox.
“Burt’s Bees revolutionized the beauty product industry with the organic nature of what they were doing,” Mr. Shapiro said. “But he didn’t really care about that stuff, it was never a goal for him. He was somebody who stayed true to himself and his beliefs and living the life he wanted to live.”
Burt Shavitz first introduced himself to Mr. Shapiro as “an evolutionary, not a revolutionary.”
“He never wanted to change the world, he just wanted to live in it day by day and we explore this in the film,” Mr. Shapiro said. “This is coming from someone who has had an impact on the world in a few different ways.”
Mr. Shavitz grew up in New York and eventually became a successful photographer, working for Time and Life magazines. Growing tired of city life, he moved to Maine and became a beekeeper. While he tended to the bees, a partner created the beeswax, and Burt’s Bees was born.
Mr. Shavitz sold off his portion of the business years ago but is still contracted for publicity events, sending him around the world as the iconic bearded face of the beauty products. They are especially popular in Taiwan, where much of the film takes place.
From the backwoods of Maine to a four-star hotel room in Taiwan, Mr. Shapiro was fascinated by this master of contrasts.
“What does it mean to be a logo versus Burt the man?” Mr. Shapiro said. “We go between two different worlds, from Beatlemania to Burt the guy at home on his farm who doesn’t want to see anybody.”
The film goes beyond the story of Burt’s Bees and takes a look at global consumerism, Mr. Shapiro added.
“It’s something I thought was very black and white — Burt the hippie and Burt the capitalist — but it turned out to be very gray,” he said. “Burt was all that stuff. He was living in the woods and didn’t want to own a TV, but also had no shame in promoting the product. It’s this really weird portrait of this guy and all of these different facets of his life.”
The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival runs from Thursday, March 13 through Sunday, March 16. Visit tmvff.org for a complete list of films, times and tickets.