15th ANNUAL MARTHA’S VINEYARD FILM FESTIVAL
MARCH 17-20, 2015
Discussion to follow with director and Vineyard resident Matthew Heineman
In this heart-pounding documentary—a classic Western, set in the 21st century—vigilantes on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border are pitted against the vicious Mexican drug cartels. With unprecedented access, Vineyard resident and MVFF alum Matthew Heineman embeds himself among the rebels as each side vies to bring its own brand of justice to a society in which institutions have failed. This chilling journalistic achievement provokes deep questions about lawlessness, the breakdown of order, and whether it is just for citizens to fight violence with violence.
Where there is passion, there is often conflict. This historical-fiction film from acclaimed Russian director Aleksandr Mitta illuminates the intense friendship and then rivalry between the artists Marc Chagall and Kazimir Malevich. Their paintings are brought to life in this magical and folkloric tale of artistic triumph during the Russian Revolution. Chagall is inspired by his dreams of a bright and beautiful future, while Malevich, a pioneer of geometric abstract art, seems to desire only order and simplicity. Their tumult is compounded by the pressures of the new Soviet state—and the local Red commissioner’s love for Chagall’s wife.
Today, all across America, huge tracts of land are changing hands. New strategies are implemented. Young and old work together to do good, to make sure the next generation of farmers care for the land, the animals, and the people. These five films insightfully document oyster cultivation on Cape Cod, the seed library here on Martha’s Vineyard, urban farming in Detroit, an artisan butcher circumventing the industrialized food system, and a hopeful tale of young farmers in Maine.
Discussion to follow (via Skype) with director Alex Gibney
Directed by Oscar winner Alex Gibney, Going Clear profiles eight former members of the Church of Scientology and shines a light on how the Church cultivates true believers. The film highlights the Church’s origins, from its genesis in the mind of founder L. Ron Hubbard, to its rise in popularity in Hollywood and beyond. The heart of Going Clear is a series of shocking revelations by former insiders, including acclaimed screenwriter Paul Haggis (Crash), who describes the systematic history of abuse and betrayal by former and current Church officials. A provocative tale of ego, exploitation, and lust for power.
This lighthearted comedy, an enchanting combination of Amelie and Forrest Gump, can’t help but put a smile on your face. Henri maintains lamps and chandeliers at the convent where he has lived since his childhood. When he is forced to leave those protective walls, he is guided by his candid innocence and “follows the signs” that life presents. In his search for love and his missing father, Henri finds so much more—and you will, too.
Age is just a number, and the Hip Op-eration Crew, from a tranquil island off the coast of New Zealand, is proof of that. The members of this hip-hop dance crew range from 67 to 95 years old, making them the world’s oldest dance group—canes, wheelchairs, hip replacements, and all. The Crew go on the journey of a lifetime as they try to earn their place onstage at the World Hip Hop Dance Championships in Las Vegas, but will they make it there? And if they do, will they be able to hold their own against competition three times younger?
Discussion to follow with film subjects Annie Clark and Andrea Pino; moderated by Dawn Porter
Kirby Dick, MVFF alum and Oscar-nominated director of The Invisible War, brings us a startling exposé of rape incidence on U.S. college campuses, institutional coverups, and the devastating effects on students and their families. The film follows Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, two U.N.C. Chapel Hill students who were brushed aside by campus authorities after being sexually assaulted. In
response, they teamed up to start the organization End Rape on Campus (EROC) and are tackling this taboo topic, bringing voice and justice to victims nationwide and fighting for the right to safe education.
In 1968, 20-year-old Laura returns to Munich for her father’s funeral, another traumatic event in the long line of the family’s buried history: Laura’s parents are both Holocaust survivors who chose to start their new life in postwar Germany. That meant hiding their true identities from the world, and instilling their fear and suffering in their children. Based on Laura Waco's autobiographical novel, this finely crafted, nuanced drama beautifully portrays the complexity of German society and German-Jewish identity in the years immediately following World War II.
An adventurous Delhi student with cerebral palsy seizes her first opportunity for independence in this inspirational love story. Constantly seeking more freedom and new experiences, Laila is accepted at New York University and leaves her home in India to start a new life in Manhattan. While there, she falls for a fiery young activist who challenges her beliefs, sparks her creativity, and fuels an exhilarating journey of self-discovery.
At a staggering 21,000 feet, Mount Meru is one of the Himalayan peaks most tempting to climbers, and also one of the least attainable. Thought to be the center of the universe in Hindu cosmology, Meru has defeated many, making it even more desirable. Three of the elite who attempt to reach its summit—Jimmy Chin, Renan Ozturk, and Conrad Anker—must not only rely on their own abilities to haul 200 pounds of gear up an icy mountain, but also put complete, unwavering trust in one another. Their skill, wits, and friendship are tested as they leave behind their families, comfort, and safety in the pursuit of passion and ultimate fulfillment.
Discussion to follow with producer Ted Dintersmith
A college diploma once meant a guaranteed job, but now more than half of America’s recent graduates are unemployed. Premiering at Sundance this year, this compelling documentary is an overdue challenge to the educational system in the United States. The film expertly contrasts the century-old ideologies that continue to dominate American academics with the alternative approach taken by High Tech High, a project-based charter school that prioritizes student collaboration, critical thinking, and risk-taking—but which sort of educational environment is most likely to succeed in the 21st century?
Discussion to follow (via Skype) with Maziar Bahari, whose story inspired the film; Vineyard Gazette publisher Jane Seagrave will moderate
This gripping true story marks the screenwriting and directorial debut of Daily Show host Jon Stewart. In June 2009, Stewart interviewed BBC journalist Maziar Bahari,
an Iranian-born Canadian citizen. A few days later, when Bahari returned to his native country to interview the prime challenger to incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, protests erupted after Ahmadinejad’s declaration of victory. Bahari smuggled protest footage to the BBC and was soon arrested, interrogated, and tortured for 118 days. The Daily Show interview was used as evidence against him. Bahari’s courage is transcendent, Stewart’s filmmaking riveting.
Discussion to follow with directors and Vineyard residents Georgia and Len Morris
Vineyard filmmakers Georgia and Len Morris expose the appalling adversity that children in underdeveloped countries endure. Through interviews with international economists, moral leaders, and Kenyan community activists, they bring you face to face with the human rights issues that affect these children. Having spent a decade documenting global inequality, the filmmakers dare to devise a strategy to combat poverty and submit an unprecedented proposal that could place children’s welfare at the heart of the global financial system.
SEYMOUR: AN INTRODUCTION
Discussion and piano masterclass to follow with film subject Seymour Bernstein
In an entertainment culture in which superstardom is revered and the cultivation of self expression is often overlooked, artists find themselves asking, “why make art?” Seymour Bernstein is one artist who shows you why, with elegant clarity and profound self-awareness. At the age of 50, the world-renowned concert pianist traded his rising career for a quiet, modest life focused on his truer passions of composing and teaching. Director Ethan Hawke explores the life, lessons, and wisdom of the now 88-year-old musician, while sifting through his own struggles of perfecting his craft, and its conflicts with fame and fortune.
Discussion to follow with film subjects Nancy Miriam Hawley and Vilunya Diskin, co-founders of Our Bodies Ourselves; moderated by Dawn Porter
This illuminating documentary resurrects the buried history of the outrageous, often brilliant women who founded the modern women’s movement of 1966 to 1971. It takes us from the founding of NOW, and the emergence of more radical factions of women’s liberation, to activism of the present day. Artfully combining performance and archival imagery, the film recounts the stories of women who fought for their own rights, and in the process sparked a worldwide revolution.
A silent six-year-old and her older brother embark on a magical adventure to get back to their father and their lighthouse home by the sea. Along the way, they encounter fairies, spells, a witch, and a magical flute that unlocks a secret about their mother. This hand-drawn, Oscar-nominated film based on an Irish legend is as enthralling for adults as it is for children.
Stunning archival footage from renowned aerial cinematographer and BASE jumping pioneer Carl Boenish frames a narrative of love and obsession in this heart-racing documentary. Boenish, known as “the father of BASE jumping,” was considered insane by many when, in 1968, he gave up his career in electrical engineering to pursue his passion for foot-launched human flight. As an adrenaline junkie, Boenish pushed the possibilities to the absolute limit with breathtaking stunts and courageous athleticism.
Discussion to follow with director Diana Whitten; moderated by Dawn Porter
Enraged by anti-abortion laws enforced in multiple countries, Dr. Rebecca Gomperts decided to take action. She created Women on Waves, an organization which sails a ship bringing knowledge, medicine, and help to women who have no other legal options to end unwanted pregnancies. She and her determined network of empowered women confront governmental, religious, and military blockades as they bring support and the power of choice to women around the world. This award-winning and inspiring documentary follows one woman’s vision as it turns into a global movement.
Discussion to follow with the directors and writers
Five young Vineyard filmmakers tackle a wide variety of subjects in four short films. In Mara Ditchfield’s searing film set in the depths of winter on Martha’s Vineyard, a young mom addicted to heroin tries, on her final day of mandatory sobriety, to gain visitation rights to her daughter. Reese Robinson and Galen Mayhew juxtapose the beauty of the Vineyard with the sadness of their lead character. Justin Simpkins profiles young Island artist Forrest D’Olympia. Peter Stray pens and stars in Anthony Arkin’s film about an actor who is struggling to reconcile his experience on his last film while recording its DVD commentary.
Being a vampire is hard. It may have been easy in ancient Transylvania, but it’s a different story for three bloodsucking roommates in modern New Zealand. Consider trying to make new friends while having a constant thirst for blood, or keeping up on appearance without using a mirror, or catching up with thousands of years of dirty dishes. In this hysterical mockumentary MVFF alum Taika Waititi (Boy and Eagle vs. Shark) and Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) share writing, directing, and acting duties in a hilarious fashion that hasn’t been matched since Spinal Tap and Waiting for Guffman.