The Woods Hole Film Festival turns 20 years old this year, running July 30-August 6, 2011. Beyond films, the fest boasts panels, parties and other insanity done Woods Hole-style. From the official press release:
From Saturday, July 30, through Saturday, August 6, the Woods Hole Film Festival observes its 20th anniversary with a celebration befitting the oldest film festival on Cape Cod and the islands. Dedicated to showcasing and promoting the work of independent, emerging filmmakers, particularly in New England, it will screen nearly 20 narrative features and feature documentaries, many of which are world and US premieres, and 60 short films (narrative, documentary, animation and experimental) in competition, as well as hold a number of special screenings, parties, panel discussions, and workshops by this year’s Filmmaker-in-Residence—all at the water’s edge in the quaint village of Woods Hole.
The Festival kicks off on Saturday, July 30, with Animals Distract Me, Isabella Rossellini’s new short feature co-authored by and made with Science Magazine correspondent John Bohannon, who will attend the screening. The film follows the animal-obsessed Rossellini as she visits with Mario Batali, Andre Leon Talley, Charles Darwin and a host of urban creatures in New York City (Bohannon’s study of people’s inability to distinguish pet food from paté once caused Stephen Colbert to eat cat food on television).
Many of this year’s films have a Massachusetts connection, including two films that are US premieres: Girlfriend, a narrative feature by Justin Lerner shot in Wayland, MA, and Jimmy Tingle’s American Dream by the Cambridge-based comedian. Girlfriend stars Jackson Rathbone (Twilight), Shannon Woodward, Amanda Plummer, and newcomer Evan Sneider as a young man with Down Syndrome who lives with his mother in a poor, working-class town hit hard by the recession. When Evan unexpectedly comes into a large amount of money, he decides to use it by pursuing a girl from town who he has been in love with since high school. Jimmy Tingle’s American Dream features comedy, commentary and conversation with some of America’s most iconic personalities and social critics, such as Howard Zinn, Robert Altman, Mort Sahl, Janeane Garafalo, Sean Hannity, Lewis Black, Margery Eagan, Jim Braude, Bobcat Goldthwaite, Sister Lena Divey, Al Franken, Robert Reich, Colin Quinn, and Barry Crimmins, as well as family, friends and total strangers and more. Willy Nelson, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Neighborhoods, and Jimmy Tingle on harmonica provide the soundtrack.
Other films with an area connection include We Still Live Here, a remarkable story of cultural revival by the Wampanoag of Southeastern Massachusetts, and Losing Control by Harvard grad Valerie Weiss, a quirky romantic comedy about a female Harvard graduate science student who wants proof that her boyfriend is “the one.”
Selected from among many submissions from around the world is the timely narrative feature As If I’m Not There, a film by first-time Irish director Juanita Wilson about a young woman from Sarajevo whose life is shattered when a young soldier walks uninvited into her apartment and tells her to pack her things. It not only documents the horrors endured by citizens enslaved in concentration camps during the Bosnian-Serbian war, but also shows the female perspective and what women had to do in order to survive.
Two documentaries focus on the lives of very different performing artists: the Northeast premiere of the feature documentary A Good Man, which follows acclaimed director/choreographer Bill T. Jones as he and his company create their most ambitious work—an original dance-theater piece in honor of Abraham Lincoln’s Bicentennial that provides a window into the creative process and the creative crisis of one of our nation’s most enduring, provocative artists as he explores what it means to be a good man, to be a free man, to be a citizen; and Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone, Chris Metzler and Lev Anderson’s feature documentary about the band Fishbone, California’s legendary Black punk musical pioneers, that is narrated by Laurence Fishburne.
One of the festival’s hallmarks is its annual Filmmaker-in-Residence program. Heidi Ewing, co-director along with Rachel Grady of 12 & Delaware (about the national abortion battle), the award-winning Jesus Camp (a candid look at Pentecostal children in America), and the upcoming Detroit Hustles Harder, an arresting exploration of Detroit City and its struggle to transform itself into a new and innovative place (in pre-production), will hold a master class workshop on documentary film production and participate in the Meet the Producers panel on Tuesday, August 2. The festival also screens two of her films, as well as excerpts from Freakonomics, of which she was part of a team of filmmakers who adapted the bestselling book.
The festival is also known for its panel discussions. On Friday, August 5, Charles Sennott, a former foreign correspondent for The Boston Globe who now oversees news at Global Post, will moderate “Filmmaking & War” featuring Sebastian Junger, the best-selling author of The Perfect Storm and A Death in Belmont, as well as co-director with the late photojournalist Tim Hetherington of this year’s Oscar-nominated documentary Restrepo (which will screen at the festival); documentary producer, director, author, professor, and Principle Pictures founder Beth Murphy (Beyond Belief); and filmmaker Michael Sheridan, founder of Community Supported Film, which is dedicated to strengthening documentary storytelling in countries where the dissemination of objective and accurate information is essential to stabilization and development.
The popular Kid’s Day returns for its third year on Sunday, July 30, featuring narrative, documentary, and animated short films from around the world, plus other treats for kids and their parents. In conjunction with the event, the festival is screening Circus Dreams, the feature documentary about Circus Smirkus, the traveling circus that stars children from age 10-18. Members of the circus will make an appearance at the festival in conjunction with their performance in Sandwich.
There’s more to the festival than watching films and attending workshops and panel discussions. The nightly parties at various restaurants within walking distance of the screenings feature “schmoozing” with filmmakers and fans alike, food, and top-notch musical entertainment (up and coming musician Ilo Ferriera, who tours regularly with Jimmy Buffett, will perform at Phusion Restaurant on Thursday, August 4, and the Jason Spooner Trio will perform at the 20th anniversary celebration and awards ceremony on Saturday, August 6, at the Landfall Restaurant).