Opening Night Program begins at 7 p.m. at the Chilmark Community Center
7 p.m. Life. Support. Music. (Documentary 79 minutes U.S.A. 2009 directed by Eric Daniel Metzgar)
In 2004, guitarist Jason Crigler suffered a brain hemorrhage during a concert in Manhattan. The doctor’s prognosis was dire: if he survives, he’ll be a vegetable. His pregnant wife and the rest of his family rallied around him in force, refusing to accept the news. Using footage shot by the family and hospital staff, the film tracks Jason as he breaks through his vegetative state, gradually creates a new life, and tries to remember who he was and who he is — a husband, a musician, and now a new father.
Discussion with special guest following the film.
Thomas Bena: “One of those films that makes me realize how much, most days, I take for granted. It also reminded me that even so-called ‘experts’ have their limitations and that the power of love can’t be measured or quantified.”
Brad Westcott: “We’re very pleased to be opening our festival with this uplifting documentary about perseverance, faith, and the power of music. The special guest accompanying our presentation of the film makes this a must-see event.”
9:15 p.m. A Complete History of My Sexual Failures (Documentary 90 minutes U.K. 2008 directed by Chris Waitt, contains adult content and brief nudity)
Chris Waitt has been dumped by every girl he’s ever been out with, and now he’s decided to find out why. Equipped with a camera and microphone, he sets out to interview all his ex-girlfriends and ask them the all-important question: “What’s wrong with me?” He also visits a doctor, a shrink, a dominatrix, and takes an entire pack of Viagra. In this hilarious feature film debut, we see a man bare all (quite literally, in some instances) in an attempt to learn more about himself and the women who got away.
Thomas Bena: “Over the top — I’m totally nervous that our sponsors are going to be angry about screening this film but at the same time know that our audience will appreciate laughing out loud together — and that can’t be bad — can it?”
Brad Westcott: “A deadpan documentary take on High Fidelity from the UK. Irresistibly hilarious, this film lives up to, and surpasses, the provocation suggested in its title.”
11 p.m. Let the Right One In (Narrative Feature 114 minutes Sweden 2008 directed by Tomas Alfredson Rated R)
Twelve-year-old Oskar is regularly bullied by his classmates but never strikes back. The lonely boy’s wish for a friend seems to come true when he meets a girl named Eli, also 12, who moves in next door. Shortly after Eli’s arrival there is a series of inexplicable disappearances and murders. One man is found tied to a tree, another frozen in the lake, a woman is bitten in the neck. In this beautifully unconventional film, friendship, rejection, and loyalty are woven into a disturbing and darkly atmospheric, yet poetic and unexpectedly tender, tableau of adolescence. Twilight? Far from it; come see why.
Brad Westcott: “This completely fresh reinvention of the vampire myth, from Sweden, transcends the usual characterizations of the ‘horror film.’ Dark, visually exhilarating, and slyly funny, the film is a unique exploration of childhood, friendship, and a warning to would-be bullies.”
10:30 a.m. Special Event: Food, Inc. (Documentary 93 minutes U.S.A. 2009 directed by Robert Kenner)
How much do we know about the food we buy at our local supermarkets and serve to our families? In Food, Inc., Robert Kenner lifts the veil on the U.S. food industry — an industry that has often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihoods of American farmers, the safety of workers, and our own environment. Featuring interviews with Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma), and others in the food industry, this film reveals surprising truths about what we eat, how it’s produced, who we have become as a nation, and where we are going from here.
Thomas Bena: “Brad and I were eating really bad take out Chinese food when we watched this — Kung Pao chicken will never be the same. This film is a must-see and the discussion that follows will illustrate just how many options we have.”
Following the film, Ali Berlow and Noli Hoye of the Island Grown Initiative will speak about Island Grown Schools, and chef Jan Buhrman will speak about the Vineyard’s slow food movement.
1 p.m. International Shorts Program
Brad Westcott: “Yet another roundup of the best short films from the world over from Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival graphic designer and filmmaker Jeremy Mayhew. Featuring Drop, by local filmmaker Janis Vogel, who will be in attendance to answer your questions.”
3 p.m. Must Read After My Death (Documentary 73 minutes U.S.A. 2007 directed by Morgan Dews)
Discussion with director following the film
Filmmaker Morgan Dews was very close to his grandmother, Allis, but it wasn’t until after her death in 2001 that he became aware of an astounding archive she’d amassed throughout the 1960s. Filled with startlingly intimate and candid audio recordings detailing the increasingly turbulent lives of Allis, her husband Charley, and their four children, the collection also contained hundreds of silent home movies, photographs, and written journals. Using only these found materials, Dews has fashioned a searing family portrait that affords fly-on-the-wall access to one family’s struggles in an America on the verge of dramatic transformation.
Thomas Bena: “When I sat down to watch this film, thinking that it could be exploring material too similar to some of our past films, I was ready to not like it, but within 10 minutes I was completely engrossed and I stayed that way until the film spat me out 90 minutes later with tears in my eyes.”
5 p.m. Bustin’ Down the Door (Documentary 95 minutes U.S.A. 2008 directed by Jeremy Gosch)
In the winter of 1975, a group of young surfers from Australia and South Africa arrived on the North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii, determined to prove themselves. Competitive and cultural clashes ensued. Framed around the emerging careers of World Champions-to-be Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew, Shaun Tomson, and Mark Richards, and featuring amazing surf footage from the period as well as an exhilarating sound track, this film is the dramatic story of how the courage and vision of these young men sparked a cultural revolution that led to the birth of professional surfing, today a billion-dollar industry. Narrated by Edward Norton.
Thomas Bena: “A lot of surfing films do just that — focus on surfing. This film goes way beyond and describes an epoch that most people (surfers included) don’t know much about. The beautiful surfing imagery was shot on film and this combined with simple, clear storytelling, make this film one of my favorites.
Brad Westcott: “What happens when a rogue band of Australian and South African surfers collide with the traditional Hawaiian surfing culture in the mid seventies? Sparks fly, and a sport is transformed. A fun ride guided by Edward Norton.”
7 p.m. Stranded: I’ve Come From a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains (Documentary 126 minutes France 2008 directed by Gonzalo Arijón)
It is one of the most inspiring survival tales of all time. In October 1972, a young rugby team from Uruguay was aboard a plane that crashed in the Andes. Sixteen of the 45 passengers miraculously survived. Previously documented in the bestselling book Alive (and dramatized in a Hollywood film of the same name starring Ethan Hawke), this shocking true story finally gets the cinematic treatment it deserves as, 35 years later, the survivors return to the crash site to recount their harrowing experience. Crafted with a masterful combination of on-location interviews, archival footage, and reenactments, Stranded is visually breathtaking, haunting, and moving.
Thomas Bena: “Maybe you read the book [Alive] or saw the 1993 Hollywood movie version, but to see the actual survivors and to hear the story from their mouths is something entirely different. Their wisdom and friendships, forged through their unbelievable life experiences, are a gift to behold.
Brad Westcott: “Completely absorbing. What documentary does best.”
9:15 p.m. Wendy and Lucy (Narrative Feature 80 minutes U.S.A. 2008 directed by Kelly Reichardt)
Wendy Carroll (Michelle Williams) is driving to Alaska, in hopes of finding work at a fish cannery. When her car breaks down in Oregon, however, the thin fabric of her financial situation comes apart, and she confronts a series of increasingly dire economic decisions with far-ranging repercussions for herself and her only companion, her dog Lucy. Proving why she is one of the most highly regarded auteurs of current cinema, Kelly Reichardt’s subtle storytelling technique uses formal minimalism to weave together a uniquely emotional and political road film. Based on the short story Train Choir by Jon Raymond.
Brad Westcott: “One settles into watching Wendy and Lucy for a very in-the-moment experience. Touching and real without over-sentimentalizing, with a stellar performance by Michelle Williams.”
10:30 a.m. The Archive (8 minutes U.S.A. 2009 directed by Sean Dunne)
The holy grail of music exists in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pa. In the basement beneath a nondescript strip mall off U.S. Route 19 is the world’s largest record collection: 1 million LPs, 1.5 million 45s, 300,000 CDs. Its owner is Paul Mawhinney, the last of a dying breed. This is his story.
Herb & Dorothy (Documentary 91 minutes U.S.A. 2009 directed by Megumi Sasaki)
While there are countless films that feature artists, there are few about art collectors. This is not your average art film. This is the extraordinary story of a postal clerk and a librarian, a couple of modest means who managed to build one of the most important contemporary art collections in history — proving that you don’t have to be a Medici or a Rockefeller to collect art. In today’s world, where art is treated as another commodity and a work’s investment value takes precedence over its artistic value, Herb and Dorothy offers us an important question: what is it to appreciate and collect art?
Thomas Bena: “I often wonder what makes art, art? After watching this film I’m really not any closer to articulating that answer — but the question — and the characters in this film, have remained with me. The payoff at the end of this story couldn’t have been written better if it were fiction.”
Brad Westcott: “The appeal of this couple and their story takes hold gradually at first, but soon becomes irresistible. A wonderful testament to the potential value of art, and maintaining the courage of one’s convictions.”
12:30 p.m. Reporter (Documentary 90 minutes U.S.A. 2008 directed by Eric Daniel Metzgar)
Nominated for the Grand Jury Prize, Sundance Film Festival, 2009
Nicholas Kristof, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the New York Times, is on a mission to make the world care. He almost singlehandedly did it for the crisis in Darfur. Wanting to do the same for the Congo, where 5.4 million have died in the last decade, he traveled there in 2007, in search of individuals whose stories would reflect the country’s desperation and mobilize readers worldwide. This film takes us on Kristof’s journey, revealing the man and his methods, and just how and why real reporting is vital to our democracy, our world awareness, and our capacity to be a force for good.
Thomas Bena: “Kristof is nuts — and totally a rock star! Who lives like this? At times he seemed the hero and at others disconnected and opportunistic. I wouldn’t want his job but I’m glad I got to see this film that sheds light on this incredible man, on a mission to help stir the fundamental spirit of compassion in all of us.”
Brad Westcott: “Extraordinary access to one of the most fearless and influential journalists of our time. Metzgar’s film deftly keeps Kristof himself as the film’s subject, resisting the urge to do Kristof’s work for him through excessive editorializing on the issues the reporter covers. Mesmerizing and illuminating.”
2:15 p.m. The Secret of the Grain (Narrative Feature 151 minutes France 2007 directed by Abdellatif Kechiche)
When Tunisian immigrant Slimane (Habib Boufares) is laid off after 35 years as a dockworker in the rustic port of Sète in southeastern France, he decides to open a restaurant with his ex-wife’s renowned mullet couscous as the specialty. For help, he looks to his loyal but divided family — the four children from his first marriage, his ex-wife, his current girlfriend, and her bright, outspoken daughter Rym (stunning newcomer Hafsia Herzi). The delicious result? A long-simmering and resoundingly humanistic drama about fate, food and family. This film will have you in suspense to the very end — but also laughing, and perhaps even salivating.
Thomas Bena: “Long films scare me. When I hear that a film has a running time of more than two hours I run in the other direction. Not because I don’t love film, but because in my humble opinion, most films (including my own) could be shorter. This film is different; it’s a slow simmering pot of soup and the flavor will stay with you.”
Brad Westcott: “Food. Family. Labor. Love. Culture. Laughter. Life — with a surprise ending.”
5 p.m. Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 (Documentary, 104 minutes U.S.A. 2008 directed by Kevin Rafferty)
Discussion with director following the film.
Harvard Stadium, Nov. 23, 1968. The Viet Nam War is raging, Nixon is in the White House, the times are a-changin’. Harvard and Yale meet for their final game of the season, both teams undefeated for the first time since 1909. Combining rare footage of the game with candid contemporary interviews with its players. Kevin Rafferty’s film is alternately suspenseful, hilarious, and poignant. More than just a film about football, it is a meditation on remembrance, coincidence, and fate.
Thomas Bena: I can’t stand watching football. If you told me that the film festival would be screening a film about football, I’d laugh. But here it is. And I don’t regret standing up for it at our programming meetings . . . because really, it’s not about football at all. I found it to be a compelling sociological and psychological study of aging, friendship, memory, higher education and personalities of all kinds.”
Brad Westcott: “Too much fun. Football fan or not, you’ll find yourself on the edge of your seat in the final seconds.”
7:15 p.m. Closing Night Film: The Pool (Narrative Feature 98 minutes U.S.A. 2007 directed by Chris Smith)
From his perch in a mango tree, Venkatesh, a room boy working at a hotel in Goa, gazes down upon a swimming pool in a luxuriant garden behind a wall. Attempting to gain access, he offers his services to the wealthy owner of the house beside it. His boldness and curiosity change the shape of his future. Remarkably filmed using nonprofessional actors speaking a language the director didn’t speak (Hindi), and based on an American short story, The Pool is a deceptively simple yet cogent and affecting film about friendship, and the gulf between the rich and the poor.
Thomas Bena: “I applaud director Chris Smith for having the courage and vision to direct a film in a language that he doesn’t speak, using amateur actors, all the while blending verite-style footage, with fiction, and literature!
Brad Westcott: “Ch ris Smith’s story is perfectly told through sumptuous, sun-drenched cinematography.”