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Film Buffs Descend on Martha's Vineyard

6th Martha's Vineyard Film Festival

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Last Saturday at this time I was hunkered down in my seat at the Capawock Theater with a bag of popcorn watching the gritty documentary “Circo Circo” by director and cinematographer Aaron Schock. He had gone to Mexico to film corn farmers, his goal to show the grueling existence in remote parts of Mexico. While there a traveling circus came to the village where he was staying, and like everyone else, he went. HIs focus shifted immediately to the circus. Schock spent the next twenty-one months documenting the peeling layers in the dramatic family dynamics of the Ponce family, a century-old traveling circus family; an existence compounded by extreme poverty, hostilities and illiteracy. The rural villages and mountainous terrain are reminiscent of National Geographic.

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The 6th MV International Festival, in the port town of Vineyard Haven, ran from Thursday, September 8 thru Sunday the 11th. Over twenty-two films were screened, ninety-percent foreign.The opening night party rocked the sounds of Afro Beat Project under the big white tent behind Saltwater’s Restaurant. Not only was it opening night, it was an opportunity for everyone to see the plans and model for the permanent home that will be the MV Film Society, parent to MVIFF, big news that was announced just before the Festival. The Tisbury Maketplace overlooking Lagoon Pond will soon be the new permanent home.

There were a plethora of directors, producers, cinematographers and writers here this year to talk about their movies. Ahmed Ahmed, ‘Just Like Us’; Alrick Brown, one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 new faces of independent film" brought his ‘Kinyawanda’, this year’s Sundance winner; Sally Rowe, director of ‘A Matter of Taste’; Shawn Hines’ of ‘High Maintenance’, the very well received juried short; and animator Bill Plympton, to name a few; plus the Think 'Globally, Shoot Locally' filmmakers

The fourth annual party/dinner/screening extravganza, REEL FOOD MV, was Friday night at Saltwater's, a three-course sit-down meal prepared by Chef Joe DaSilva using Island grown produce. Festival ‘notables’ mingled with one another and guests before the screening of the Juried Short Film Competition curated by Founder and Director Richard Paradise. Ten films are In competition whittled down from two hundred and a winner is chosen by the jury comprised of Diana Barrett of the Fledgling Fund; Tim Miller, Entertainment Editor of the Cape Cod Times; Luke Methany, last year’s winner (his ‘God of Love’ went on to win last year’s Oscar for short film); and Andrew Mer of SnagFlilms.

Right after the screening Diana Barrett announced that Sabia Riazi had won. Riazi’s film ‘A Wind Blows on My Street’ is a quiet subtle Iraqi piece. Sometimes Americans don’t do well with quiet and subtle; and in fact the short that got the most rousing response was by a young director named Shawn Hines. ‘High Maintenance’ is a hysterically laugh-out-loud bit about a couple trying to get pregnant when the mother-in-law unexpectedly comes to visit. Not as predictable or clichéd as it sounds, and the casting was great. Hines originally comes from Florida, and is attending Columbia in NYC. When he graduates this year it’s off to LA. to do feature comedies.

On Friday and Saturday nights there were after parties at the Festival Lounge on Pushcart Alley, off Main Street where DJ Di got her groove on spinning the tunes while everyone partied.

Sunday afternoon writer/director/producer Dan Martino of Martha’s Vineyard Productions hosted the ‘Think Globally, Shoot Locally’ forum at the Vineyard Playhouse, where a group of nine filmmakers got together to show and discuss their films and answer questions.

Dan and his brother Greg were first up showing their short film “Morning Copy”. Beautifully shot it gives a real slice of the visual aspect of the Island, the quaint colorful gingerbread houses and the stillness and quiet of the early morning. When it was finished came the realization there was no dialogue; feelings and words were expressed through the musical score. Although to be honest, the facial expressions of leads Don Lyons and Leslie Stark were priceless.

Thirty-something Taylor Toole, a native Islander born and bred in Oak Bluffs, showed his reel of five shorts, including part of “Mow Crew” which won the Woods Hole Int’l Festival in 2009, and Boston International Festival. His “Collaborative Tattooing” is shot in a Brooklyn tattoo parlor showing a young man’s back used as a canvas for his complete neck-to-butt tattoo with Thomas Hooper and Chris O’Donnell of Saved Tattoo collaborating on the tattoo in session one.

The Vineyard Playhouse is a cozy circular theater, making it an intimate ambiance for Sunday’s forum. Local Liz Witham of Chilmark showed her reel on the ‘Island Grown Schools,Planting a Seed for the Next Generation’. All seven town schools now have gardens because of this program and Witham charts it’s goals, progress and success from 2007 to present.

Sara Nesson of New York brought her Oscar-nod ‘Poster Girl’ about a former cheerleader coming back from Iraq with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She filmed it on Island while her subject was in the Paper Project therapy group on the Island. Filmmaker Marcia Rock’s film SERVICE: When Women Come Marching Home, also dealt with the military’s reluctance to deal with women’s post- service issues like harassment and rape.

Hilarious with an undercurrent of sadness, the last movie was “The Trip” starring edgy British comedian Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon on a restaurant- tour road trip. A clear case of male one-upmanship, they did imitations of Michael Caine, that if you had your eyes closed, would swear it was him.

Then to the Vineyard Haven Marina for live music by Ballyhoo, sliced raw tuna with ginger and fried calamari. In true form, out came the requisite pizza, which is as popular as the veggies and dips; becoming a ritual until more hors d’ouevres come out.

Kudos to Richard Paradise who managed to be at every film, dinner and party, shaking hands, answering questions, and always, always smiling.

Can’t wait ‘til next year!

See you at the movies!

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