At this year’s Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, the glue binding together many of its 28 films is the Vineyard and the creativity of the Island community.

“Almost every film has, in some way, shape or form, a connection to the Island,” said Minah Oh, director of programming for the 23rd annual festival, which runs from March 22 to 26.

For Ms. Oh, who was named director of film programming last year, the selection process meant balancing new and seasoned filmmakers, and building a platform for historically underrepresented film subjects. She credited executive director Brian Ditchfield and senior programmer Anne Evasick for their essential guidance.

“They’re pretty much my mentors,” said Ms. Oh. “[They have] cultivated such a positive but merit-based selection process and I think that it’s really beautiful.”

The festival’s opener is Waiting to Continue: The Venezuelan Asylum Seekers on Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday at 6 p.m. The film documents the three days the migrants were on the Vineyard in early September and features interviews with the migrants and Islanders who turned out to help. It is directed by Ollie Becker, director of Circuit Films, Tom Ellis and Tim Persinko.

Vineyard connections can be found all five days of screenings, with Judy Blume Forever, a documentary about Ms. Blume; The Lady Bird Diaries, a documentary directed by Dawn Porter about the former first lady; Flamin’ Hot, a biopic of the claimed inventor of spicy Cheetos starring Tony Shalhoub, and Deep Roots, about the Vineyard’s agricultural community directed by Matt Taylor, to name a few.

The festival is also partnering with Firelight Media, a documentary production group for filmmakers of color founded by seasonal Islanders Marcia Smith and Stanley Nelson. The festival will screen four incomplete short films by Firelight creators titled Works in Progress.

“Almost every film has, in some way, shape or form, a connection to the Island,” said Minah Oh, festival's director of programming, pictured here with executive director Brian Ditchfield. — Ray Ewing

Providing a space for conversations has always been a hallmark of the festival and many Vineyarders will lead the way, including Iya Labunka, a Ukrainian-American filmmaker, who will moderate a discussion following the screening of Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom.

Post-screening talks with filmmakers and screening films in various stages of production helps give audience members a peak inside the movie making experience, Ms. Oh said. “Our year-round community can now finally get a glimpse into the filmmaking process and the blood sweat and tears.”

The festival team also wanted to create a cozy viewing experience and have transformed West Tisbury’s Grange Hall into a cinema complete with pillows and couches. The goal, explained Mr. Ditchfield, is to ease people’s post-pandemic nerves by making the space feel like their own living room.

The first floor will be reserved for socializing and serving meals prepared by West Tisbury chef Nicole Cabot.

Films will also be shown across the street at the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury, and in Vineyard Haven at the Capawock Theatre, a first-time venue for the festival.

But the most exciting change this year, Mr. Ditchfield said, is the festival’s new pay-what-you-can ticket policy.

“It feels like we’re really embracing our accessible and welcoming values that we always reiterate to ourselves but are now reiterating to the community,” he said.

In the future, Mr. Ditchfield hopes to make the festival’s dining option donation-based as well.

“That way when you come no one is excluded from anything,” added Ms. Oh.

Ms. Oh and Mr. Ditchfield both agreed that providing a space for year-round Island residents to watch and discuss important issues as a community is the most rewarding part about putting the festival together.

“It’s a quiet time on the Vineyard and we’re all really excited to gather,” said Mr. Ditchfield.

For a full list of films and ticket information, visit