Author Robert Putnam in his book Bowling Alone, published in 2000, examined trends in American society and concluded that the country was growing apart due to lack of community involvement. His thesis pointed to a disengaged populace that was more isolated and therefore less likely to be empathetic. The traditional outlets for bringing a community together were no longer thriving, he said, from bowling leagues to PTA meetings, and as a result the country as a whole was suffering.
Next weekend, moviegoers will gather at the Chilmark Community Center for the 13th Annual Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival. They will sit on bales of straw in the Hay Café and eat chef Chris Fischer’s home-cooked meals. But mostly, they will seat themselves in the cozy main room of the Chilmark Community Center, ready to get lost in the onscreen worlds of the 14 films in this year’s lineup.
Richard Paradise was named 2009’s best regional film festival director at last month’s International Film Festival Summit in Las Vegas. In an Oscar-speech moment with the Gazette, he shared his glory with Island filmgoers: “The success of the festival, the regional coverage, the volunteership, and the exploration of other cultures ... the Vineyard audience contributes.”
Did the Green Lantern, last week’s supposed Hollywood blockbuster, fail to light up your life? Don’t despair, there are others here on the Island who also hunger for something more fulfilling on screen. Indeed, the Vineyard in summer is a movie lover’s paradise with numerous festivals bringing narratives and documentaries from around the world just a stone’s throw from your front porch.
The story of the building of the schooner Charlotte is a true Vineyard tale. Tonight at 7 p.m. the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival will open the weekend’s festivities with a documentary about the building of this wooden boat.
The film is called Charlotte. But the title feels too narrow for it is far more than a story about one big sailboat or one beloved boatyard. It is the story of a people and a community with a love of the sea.
When speaking with Thomas Bena, the founder and creative director of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, there is no hesitation when he talks about his guiding principle. The films shown at the festival are always diverse in subject matter, a mixture of documentary and feature, and representative of many cultures. The common denominator is good storytelling.