Getting a passport is no easy task. It takes two photo graphs, proof of United States citizenship, a valid form of photo identification, a $100 processing fee and then said passport will not arrive for up to four weeks.
But next week, Islanders will have at their hands a passport which requires no proof of citizenship, no photographs and costs only ten dollars (seven for members of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society). The third annual Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival begins Thursday with 30 films from around the globe, over 15 filmmakers and world music, food and drink to groove on. The festival promises to be tour de force of people, places and ideas — no passport necessary.
“We combed through film festivals from around the world — Cannes, Berlin, Sundance — to try to present the best of the festivals,” said festival co-director Nevette Previd. “We found documentaries, fun French comedies, travelogues, short films,” she continued. “It presents an opportunity to look at other cultures through the movies because movies are a way, without a passport, for people to travel.”
The journey kicks off Thursday with an opening night rooftop party at the Mansion House in Vineyard Haven. “You get 360-degree views of downtown and the harbor and the opportunity to meet people and filmmakers from across the country and around the Island,” said co-director Richard Paradise. From the roof, festivalgoers will make their way down Main street to the Capawock Theatre for a screening of Flow, a documentary which is sweeping film festivals and the political scene.
The film includes interviews with people from around the world, with well-known Americans including T. Boone Pickens and Penn and Teller, and with well-known Vineyard author William E. Marks (The Holy Order of Water, Water Voices from Around the World). Both Mr. Marks and director Irena Salina will attend the screening. Flow was nominated for the Sundance Film Festival grand jury award and won best documentary at the Vail Film Festival. In the past weeks, it has screened at both the Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention.
“It looks at conservation, pollution, how we use water and how other cultures use it,” Mr. Paradise said. “It looks at water from a cultural standpoint and, in that sense, is a travelogue. Attendees will get to see different people in the world and how their relationship with water exists.” Mr. Paradise is anticipating a large turnout, so he has scheduled a second screening at noon on Sunday. “It will sell out no doubt and we will sell out the encore. People here are sensitive to green, eco-friendly thoughts and suggestions, and this film combines with that the international aspect as well,” he said.
“I’m a big believer that you can learn a lot about other cultures and other people and their situations in life by watching great films,” Mr. Paradise continued. That is part of why, five years ago, the film fanatic began the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to screening independent and international movies, classics and documentaries to Island audiences. He began showing films off-season at the Katharine Cornell Theatre and in the summer at the Oak Bluffs Tabernacle.
In 2006, Mr. Paradise and Ms. Previd established the film festival to continue the society’s mission and to put foreign film back into the cultural spotlight. “These types of films do not get shown anymore. In the 1970s, there was a great tradition of showing films and a lot of that has gone by the wayside,” Mr. Paradise said.
The festival has grown each year. Last year, attendance doubled and 25 per cent of the screenings (at several different venues) sold out. The September date allows visitors and residents to breathe a collective sigh of relief after the buzz of summer fades. “Summer is very hectic with so many people running around,” Ms. Previd said. “We’re trying to build an event to continue to bring tourists and money to the Island, and also for Islanders who’ve been working their butts off all summer to have a four-day movie and party extravaganza.”
This year’s festival continues next Friday with afternoon screenings from China, Mexico, Germany and Serbia. The Listening Project, a documentary from American filmmakers Joel Weber and Dominic Howes, will screen at the Vineyard Playhouse at 7 p.m. The film follows four Americans as they travel to 14 countries asking, What do you think of America?
“Americans don’t travel,” said Mr. Paradise. “Only 21 per cent of American adults have passports. As a country, as a nation, that is very low. As a developed country, as a wealthy country, that is extremely low. We don’t get to listen to what other people from other places think about us.” A discussion with Mr. Howes will follow the screening.
Also on Friday, four shorts from indigenous filmmakers will screen at 9 p.m. at the Katharine Cornell Theatre. Woody Vanderhoop of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) will introduce the shorts, selections from the National Geographic All Roads Film Project. The project provides indigenous and minority-culture storytellers with the equipment and the forum to bring their lives, experiences and cultures to new audiences. The films will take Island viewers through an ancient New Zealand forest and to a community radio station run by the Attikameks people of Canada. Audiences will see inside a Miss Navajo competition and will meet two estranged brothers of the Dunghutti tribe of Australia.
An intimate fundraising dinner will take place Friday night at Saltwater Restaurant. The evening will feature local food and a VIP screening of international short films. A limited number of tickets to the event — called Reel Food MV — are available for $100. The money raised will go towards bringing filmmakers to the festival. “It’s such a huge part of it for people to go and see the movies, meet the filmmakers and hear how and why they made their films,” Ms. Previd said. For a less expensive way to mingle with the film buffs, head over to Che’s Lounge after 9 p.m. Friday for a Bollywood Nights party. A $20 ticket is all you need for an evening of world beats from Deejay Di, sweets from the Scottish Bakehouse and an open bar.
Saturday brings opportunities to meet filmmakers over morning coffee at the Belushi-Pisano Art Gallery and to talk with director Ellen Kuras at the Louisa Gould Gallery at 5 p.m. Her film, The Betrayal, took over 20 years to make and provides an intimate look at Laos following the Viet Nam War. It screens at 7 p.m. at the Capawock Theatre.
At 4:30 p.m. Saturday, audiences will join local filmmakers as they screen and discuss their works-in-progress and finished films. Industry professionals John Anderson of the Washington Post and Variety, distribution and financing consultant Erica Motley, and Ms. Previd, a film marketing consultant, will share their experiences. “This year the event will be more of a roundtable discussion of the challenges and rewards of being here on Martha’s Vineyard,” said Ms. Previd. “This is a way to start a dialogue, to meet people you’ve never met or have never had the opportunity to have a professional discussion with.”
Saturday night — after a French comedic romance, a selection of animated short films with animator Bill Plympton and documentaries which take place on Mount Everest and in Rome’s historic Apollo Theatre — the festival will host a party at the Oyster Bar in Oak Bluffs featuring the world music of Santa Mamba.
The trip concludes Sunday with, among other selections, a slew of international short films, an Australian documentary about dance, an Israeli drama featuring the lives of three women and a documentary following three former American soldiers as they travel the world delivering life-saving humanitarian aid to civilians and doctors.
A closing night party at the Vineyard Haven Marina with music from the Ballywho, pizza from around the world and wine, beer and water will bid this year’s festival farewell until next September when Island travelers young and old can again journey across the world simply by sitting back and staring up at the big, silver screen.
A full festival program will appear in Tuesday’s Gazette. Individual tickets to films and parties as well as all-access passes are for sale online at ticketsmv.com until midnight Sept. 9. Box office opens at the Mansion House Sept. 11.