In the projection room of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center in Vineyard Haven there is one Mac computer on a desk and two small flatscreen Toshiba monitors mounted on a tall unit that controls film projection. On the floor and on a nearby table are several small crates, some orange and some muddy silver, all marked with return FedEx labels. Ship To: BURBANK, CA.
Next weekend the spotlight shines on the eighth Annual Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, hosted by the MVFS and held Sept. 5 to Sept. 8. By then the room will be filled with these crates. Each contains a movie in the form of data on a hard drive. Each has its own encryption key, and each displays hi-resolution footage to the tune of 2,000 pixels per square inch. A Blu-Ray format disc, for comparison, displays 1,200 pixels per inch.
It’s a long way from the stacks of film reels and the projector system that Martha’s Vineyard Film Society president Richard Paradise used to cart around the Island for his weekly screenings, hosted mostly at the Katharine Cornell Theatre, but apt to be held anywhere from the Grange Hall to the Union Chapel. The Film Society didn’t have a permanent home until one year ago. After a flurry of planning, fundraising and construction, the Film Center opened just in time for the start of last year’s International Film Festival. Attendance at the Festival increased 45 per cent over 2011 numbers, largely because of the added capacity of the new center. In addition to the digital projection system, the center features 185 plush stadium-style seats and a spacious lobby.
The Film Center showed movies throughout the winter this past year, opening even when the pipes froze in January. It moved to a seven-day-per-week schedule in June. It has also hosted concerts, comedians, benefits, an Academy Awards’ party, a New Year’s Eve party, poetry readings, forums and filmmakers-in-residence programs — often focusing on collaboration with other Island nonprofit groups. From the start, Mr. Paradise said, the goal was for the Film Center to become a community center.
“Film is one form of cultural activity, but if you can blend in other forms it just adds to the whole mix,” he said.
Somewhere in the midst of the mix, Mr. Paradise managed to produce and curate this year’s International Film Festival. With the added responsibility of running the Film Center full-time, planning was more of a challenge this year. Mr. Paradise worked with “tech guy” and show manager Steve Zablotny and summer interns Ben Mankoff, Kinsman Maynard and Garri Saganenko. The festival also has a team of more than 40 volunteers working to “make the festival an enjoyable, joyous and fun experience.”
“I hate to use a cliché, but it’s like a big orchestra. You’ve got different players and different sections of an orchestra, and they all have to come together and have harmony,” Mr. Paradise said.
This year, “there wasn’t a lot of time to practice,” he added. “I think we’re going more on instinct this year.”
There are three venues for the festival. In addition to the Film Center, the Capawock Theatre and the Katharine Cornell Theatre also show films — 26 programs between them. No film plays more than once during the festival, although popular movies will get theatrical runs through October.
Mr. Paradise spends much of the year looking for movies to make the cut, relying on his own trips to festivals and word-of-mouth to choose the lineup. The International Film Festival opens with the indie romantic comedy In A World..., written and directed by Lake Bell, who also plays the heroine. Mr. Paradise first saw the movie at Sundance nine months ago, deemed it hilarious, and added it to the lineup. The film delves into the “cutthroat world” of movie trailer voiceovers. Ms. Bell’s character, hoping to break into the all-male voiceover world, soon comes up against fierce competition: her father.
“It’s got this movie connection, it’s a movie within a movie,” Mr. Paradise said.
Closing night spotlights a different genre, showing an “engrossing drama love story,” as Mr. Paradise described it. The Canadian film, Still Mine, is based on true events and tells the story of an elderly man who sets out to build his ailing wife a new home, the ultimate in comfort, and who must overcome obstacles ranging from the building inspector to the town’s ageist attitude.
The juried shorts program, which had 300 submissions this year (it was narrowed down to nine), takes place on Sept. 6., and the Bill Plympton animated shorts showcase takes place Sept. 7. Local filmmakers Dan and Greg Martino host the short film forum Think Globally, Shoot Locally on Sept. 8. Director George Tillman, Jr., will take part in a question-and-answer session following his film The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete, an “urban Stand by Me,” on Sept. 7. Mr. Paradise hopes to confirm a few more filmmaker talks before the festival kickoff.
Of the feature films, he recommended Haute Cuisine, the tale of the first woman to work as the French president’s executive chef, and Museum Hours, an Austrian film partly told in German, partly told in English. In keeping with the “International” motif, 17 films are foreign movies, representing Bonaire to Belguim, Ireland to Italy, Kenya to Chile.
“You normally would not see [these] in other theaters,” Mr. Paradise said. “There are certain films that only work at film festivals, because maybe they’re a little more exploratory or maybe a little more personal, more narrow in focus. They’re not going to appeal to a very general audience, and because of that I think that people who go to film festivals . . . are very curious and they’re very open to these personal films.”
Films that are successful on the festival circuit often have poor box office showings in wide release, he said, because “you don’t have that festival adventureness that’s taking place.”
“The festival is always a highlight for me, it’s our flagship event,” Mr. Paradise said. “It’s the one that people really stand up and notice and see. There’s so much compacted in that three-and-a-half day period that it’s hard to miss.”
For a complete list of movies and showtimes, visit mvfilmsociety.com/festival/2013-marthas-vineyard-international-film-festival.