The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival is about to unveil its new home at Grange Hall in West Tisbury, where the 22nd annual festival opens May 18.

Though the town and venue have changed, longtime festival-goers will find much that’s familiar in the new surroundings. With a proscenium stage, tall windows, couches for seating and a top capacity of 70 people, the second-floor Grange auditorium resembles a scaled-down version of the festival’s former home at the Chilmark Community Center.

“We really want it to feel like a community living room … a place where everybody’s welcome,” said Brian Ditchfield, executive director of the film festival and of its recently-formed parent nonprofit, Circuit Arts.

“After watching films at our homes for the past two years, we don’t want to take away that comfort. We want to add to it,” Mr. Ditchfield said Monday. However, as Covid numbers on the Vineyard have risen, the festival subsequently added an indoor mask requirement.  

While films screen upstairs — as well as at the nearby First Congregational Church of West Tisbury and the former town library on Music street — the main hall of the Grange will serve as the festival’s café with a rotating cast of Vineyard musicians.

“The downstairs will be filled with music and food,” Mr. Ditchfield said. There also will be picnic tables outside.

Mama Bears screens opening day, May 18, at 7:45 p.m., and again on Thursday at 7:45 p.m.

Along with soups, salads and curries prepared by chef Nicole Cabot in the Grange’s second-floor kitchen, the festival will be serving its own gourmet popcorn blends and other Island treats, Mr. Ditchfield said.

The past two years, during which the film festival and YMCA of MV pioneered the popular drive-in theatre in Oak Bluffs, has also seen a change in leadership and focus for the annual festival.

Mr. Ditchfield moved into the top management position in the spring of 2021, after founder Thomas Bena and executive director Hilary Dreyer both departed for new careers. Under Mr. Ditchfield, the festival staff is both more numerous and more diverse in age and background, reflecting an emphasis on inclusiveness that extends to the movies selected for the series.

“In the past, our programming team was really pretty small,” Mr. Ditchfield told the Gazette. “I wanted as executive director to expand the team and allow for more voices on the team.”

For his former role as head of film programming, Mr. Ditchfield hired Minah Oh, who joined the festival in February.

“As a programmer, I have the potential to learn and work together in a collaborative environment where I feel supported as a minority woman,” Ms. Oh told the Gazette.

The three opening-night screenings on Wednesday are an example of the festival’s big-tent, issues-oriented approach. Based on true events, 892 stars John Boyega and the late Michael K. Williams in a gripping drama about a desperate Iraq War veteran.

Sinead O'Connor documentary screens on Friday and Sunday.

The documentary Mama Bears explores the lives of two Christian, conservative mothers whose love for their children has made them staunch LGBTQ+ allies.

And the acclaimed comedy Everything Everywhere All At Once, starring Michelle Yeoh, follows an Asian-American cast into the adventurous realms of science fiction.

“That is an Asian descent background story, and for little girls like my daughter, they don’t get that opportunity too often on Martha’s Vineyard,” Ms. Oh said.

Other films in the festival include documentaries on Native American and Brazilian cultures, Russian dissident Alexei Navalny and Kentucky senatorial candidate Charles Booker, and a program of short films by African Americans.

As in pre-pandemic years, the festival is presenting children’s movies and short films for all ages, as well as special appearances by directors and stars following several of its feature presentations. On Thursday afternoon, a work-in-progress screening of documentary Black Voters Matter will include a discussion with director Daresha Kyi.

Also Thursday, members of the Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah will take part in a conversation following a showcase of documentary and narrative work by Native American filmmakers.

Mashpee Wampanoag performance artist Siobhan Growing Elm, one of two artists in residence this week through a partnership between the festival and Slough Farm in Edgartown, will appear with her work in progress as part of Saturday’s program.

Brian Ditchfield moved up to the executive director position last year. — Ray Ewing

Dance — both onscreen and live — is the theme of the festival’s closing night on May 22. Island dancer-choreographers Abby Bender and Jesse Keller Jason will present nine short films about dance, performing on stage in between. Following the program, a dance party in the main hall will cap off the festival’s debut in its new headquarters.

The film festival has moved to the Grange under a long-term agreement with the Vineyard Preservation Trust, which owns the building and is collaborating with Circuit Arts on renovations.

“They’ve been an incredible partner throughout the process,” said Mr. Ditchfield, who also expressed appreciation for West Tisbury building inspector Joe Tierney’s assistance while a new elevator and other accessibility measures were added.

Circuit Arts and the preservation trust will continue to work together, with the long-term goal of winterizing the 1859 hall and bringing it up to modern environmental standards, Mr. Ditchfield added.

“We’re fundraising with them so that we can make the Grange a home for the community for the next 160 years,” he said.