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March 11, 2011     Vineyard Gazette
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March 11, 2011
 

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TEN VINEYARD GA ZETTE,MARTHA'S VINEYARD, MASS. FRIDAY, MARCH 11, 2011 Pictures by Ray Ewing FESTIVAL FOUNDER AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR THOMAS BENA. Festival Programmers Bleary Eyed But Unbowed, 150 Films Later From Page One tributors we now have contacts with, like the Weinstein Company, Focus Features and IFC," Mr. Ditchfield added. Okay, on first glance the process of finding the films doesn't sound so dif- ficult. Traveling the country and talking to people about movies? Sign me up. The screening committee would be the first to agree that their jobs are, in some respects, difficult to categorize as work because they are all film fanatics, first and foremost. But consider what happens when all these fills from around the world begin arrivingat the office. This past year Mr. Bena and Mr: Ditchfield screened over 150 films. "Two years ago I watched 60 films in January," noted Ms. Robinson. And most often these are not easy films to watch. "To be honest, light comedies, if they are good, tend to get national distribu- tion," Mr. Ditchfied said. "It's hard finding great narrative comedies that no one has seen." So what type of movies does the screening committee usually see? "So many films about horrible atroci- ties and injustice. There is a lot of vio- lence on this planet, much of it against women," said Ms. Robinson. Hundreds of fills detailing the hor- rors people continue to inflict on each other around the world do not make for an easy experience. In Mr. Bena's case, it has grown more difficult these past few years. "Having a daughter, being a new dad, I can't watch the stuff I used to be able to watch, especially the ones about women," he said. "I think it affects my dreams more than my waking life," Mr. Ditchfield added. "It hasn't affected my world view yet, but I haven't been doing this for 11 years like Thomas." Ms. Robinson offered a different view. "I love the darkness. I seek it out in my spare time. I don't like happy endings or too much joy." It should be noted she was laughing at the time. But all agree that, although these films need to be made and seen, the festival cannot be comprised of just these types of films. "One of those films I'm fine with; it's when you do too many that something happens in the room," Mr. Bena said. A momentary pause is taken as the committee remembers the 2004 fes- tival, sometimes known as the death year. Films about euthanasia, home burial, the list went on. Mr. Bena reflected on his own evolu- tion as a film screener."I don't mind go- ing to the darkness, because we all have to deal with some darkness, but now I'm looking for the films that go through the darkness, ones that ultimately find ex- amples of bringing the light there. I think we have to be careful. There is enough darkness right now out in the world. I want to be part of the .change." Turning to this year's festival lineup it appears Mr. Bena and the screening committee have achieved their mission. The 13 full-length films do include a mix of difficult subjects but each one also allows for shades of light to enter the stories. The First Grader tells the story of an 84-year-old Kenyan man, once the tragic victim of his country's horrific past, whotakes advantage of the present-day Kenyan government's offer of free education. But he must start at the beginning, in first grade. Crime After Crime explores a very different world but follows a similar emotional trajectory. It is a piece of in- vestigative journalism involving two real estate lawyers who volunteer their time to free a wrongfully convicted woman. "This is an incredibly moving story," Mr. Ditchfield said of the movie. "And I got the privilege of meeting some of the people from the film at the festival [Sundance] and now the director is coming with the film. This is another huge benefit of the film festival. A lot of effort goes into bringing the creative forces behind the films to the Island to answer ques- tions and facilitate discussion.This year producers or directors from over half of the films will be in attendance. The lineup includes some lighter fare too. Boy, a sensation in Australia and New Zealand, tells the tale of two young boys retmited with their father who, it turns out, may be more of a child than his children. The documentary I Am follows hugely successful Hollywood fill direc- tor Tom Shadyac on his global search to discover what makes people happy. There will also be films devoted to local subjects. Windfall explores the myriad controversies surrounding wind power; and W.e Still Live Here tells the story of Islander and recent MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" winner Jes- sie Little-Doe Baird as she rediscovers her ancestral language. And opening the festival will be Charlotte, directed by Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte, Island sum- mer resident and recent Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee for produc- ing The Kids Are All Right. Charlotte is a documentary about the Gannon and Benjamin Marine Rail- way, in particular Nat Benjamin's quest to build a wooden boat for himself.Ac- cording to Mr. Kusama-Hinte, almost no one has seen the film yet "besides people who are directly related to me or who are on my payroll." This is not the first film Mr. Kusama- Hinte has brought to the festival. In fact, it is his fifth. But this is his most personal; he shot it himself with the help of cinematographer Brian Dowley over the course of four years. It is also his first movie filmed on the Vineyard. "In some sense the Martha's Vine- yard Film Festival is really the audience and the place for it," he said."I feel it is the best way for me to understand this film." Mr. Kusama-Hinte describes the film as a kind of meditation which explores "a sensibility that you can do things tangibly, creatively and productively with your life." Which brings us back to the festival as a whole. Eleven years ago Thomas Bena de- cided he wanted to watch more movies. Over the years his vision has grown. To borrow from Mr. Kusama-Hinte, his story is also one of someone do- ing something tangibly, creatively and productively with his life. Next weekend, the Island is once again the beneficiary of his journey. The Martha's Vineyard Film festival opens on Friday, March 18 at 7p.m. and continues through Sunday, March 20. For a complete list of film descriptions, schedules, prices and directions visit tmvff.org. A pullout guide to the festival will appear in next week's Gazette. MANAGING DIRECTOR BRIAN DITCHFIELD. II a chan your favorite shows onJine, udin Vour premium a[ cost to VOUo J laces your favorite movies and Enjoy XFtNtTY TV in more p ,, shows anywhere. And if you're an S17\RZ or SHO IME subscriber, you canwatch those too. How it works: 1. Go toxfinityTV.com/watch from your laptop. m Sign in with your Comcastonet email address (or Comcast ID} and your password. If you don t have a Comcast ID, create one at xfinity.com/ID. m Choose what you want to watch, then enjoy! www.xfinityTV.com