18th ANNUAL MARTHA’S VINEYARD FILM FESTIVAL
MARCH 15-18, 2018
Discussion to follow (via Skype) with director Steve James
Only one bank was indicted in the wake of the 2008 mortgage crisis. Was it one you’ve heard of? No. This is the incredible saga of the Abacus Federal Savings Bank in New York, owned by the Chinese immigrant Sung family. Accused of mortgage fraud, they are forced to defend themselves, and their reputation in the Chinatown community, in a five-year legal battle. Academy Award-nominated director Steve James (Hoop Dreams) gives a voice to the people whose family business almost got ruined by our government—while the big players skated.
Following the film, Brock Callen, Sr. and Brock Callen, Jr. will moderate a panel discussion with fishermen Wes Brighton and Alec Gale, state representative Dylan Fernandes, MV Fisherman's Preservation Trust executive director Shelley Edmundson, WHOI Marine Policy Center director Andrew Solow, and others
By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. This film takes us around the world—to Indonesia, Australia, and even the remote Lord Howe Island in the South Pacific—to see the rapid changes happening beneath the water’s surface, and to meet people who are working to combat marine pollution and save species. These Ocean Guardians have each signed up for one cause and collectively are protecting shorelines and reefs as they fight for sharks, birds, turtles—and us. Their actions speak volumes: the ocean has given to us all, and now it is our turn to be its guardians.
Discussion to follow with director John Curran, actor Jason Clarke, and screenwriters Andrew Logan and Taylor Allen
We believe we know what happened that night. We’ve read the newspaper articles, watched the t.v. reports, or, as most Island stories travel, heard it through the grapevine. Jason Clarke (Mudbound, Zero Dark Thirty) masterfully takes on the role of Senator Ted Kennedy in the days surrounding the infamous car crash in the summer of 1969. He is supported by a stellar cast including Kate Mara, Ed Helms, Jim Gaffigan, and Bruce Dern. This suspenseful historical drama goes beyond the accident on Chappaquiddick, to explore the relationship between the senator and his father in the wake of the assassinations of his brothers John and Robert.
Discussion to follow with film subject Edwin Raymond
Meet the NYPD12: a group of whistleblower officers who risk everything to expose racially discriminatory policing practices and smash the blue wall of silence. Quota-driven arrests have been outlawed, but these officers have proof to the contrary. To capture it, Emmy-nominated director Stephen Maing equips each brave officer with a hidden camera. Stunning cinematography, emotional testimony, and intimate access lay bare the institutional bias that taints officer morale and erodes public trust.
Discussion to follow with director Kimberly Reed and film subject John S. Adams
Montana has spent more than a century trying to keep its politics clean. Back in 1912, after a copper magnate tried to bribe his way into the U.S. Senate, the state prohibited corporate campaign financing. But everything changed with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010; anonymous “dark money” flooded elections nationwide. We follow investigative journalist John Adams as he stops at nothing to get the truth out—even if it means living out of his truck—while the citizens of Big Sky Country fight against the dismantling of democracy.
Join snowboarders Travis Rice, Bryan Fox, Robin Van Gyn, and Austen Sweetin on an expedition into the vast wilderness of British Columbia, where perfectly iced treetops sway in the freezing winds, and jagged mountain peaks both beckon and terrify from afar. Watch as they weave through ancient cedar groves thousands of years old, jump off absurdly steep rock faces, slide off snow pillows, and explore some of the best backcountry, the furthest temperate inland rainforest on the planet. Of course, this foray includes the occasional breakneck-speed tumble, but even that looks graceful when Kishi Bashi is serenading you through the speakers.
Discussion to follow with film subject Bucky Bailey
Unraveling one of the biggest environmental scandals of our time, a group of citizens in West Virginia take on the DuPont corporation after they discover it has knowingly been dumping C8—a toxic chemical now found in the blood of 99.7% of Americans—in the drinking water supply. Directors Stephanie Soechtig (Fed Up, MVFF 2015) and Jeremy Seifert (GMO OMG) weave gripping personal stories into an alarming portrayal of what can happen when powerful corporations go unchecked.
Frustrated that her husband forbids her to take a part-time job, and astonished that he legally can do so, Nora, a seemingly unremarkable housewife, begins rallying the women in her quaint Swiss village. In the lead-up to the 1971 national vote on whether to also allow women the right, she and the other budding suffragettes go on strike. This heartening and redemptive film is surprisingly suspenseful and funny.
Enjoy a few giggles and outright belly laughs, a welcomed break from some of the, shall we say, intense films in this year’s lineup. Whether a fake public television painting show or a lesson in retaining one’s dignity when changing into a bathing suit on a beach, the wacky situations in these award-winning films will put a smile on your face.
Jane Goodall’s chimpanzee research challenged the male-dominated field of primatology and revolutionized our understanding of the natural world. In the 1960s, National Geographic sent a cameraman to film her work in Tanzania, resulting in over 140 hours of footage that remained in storage for decades—until now. Academy Award-nominated director Brett Morgen weaves together a stunning portrait of the trailblazer who defied the odds to become one of the world’s most admired conservationists.
This romantic comedy, inspired by the lead actor's life, follows an upper-class charmer struggling to hide his high-functioning autism. Forced to attend a support group for people with disabilities, he falls in love with Sarah, a sheltered young autistic woman who challenges his desire to maintain a “normal” identity. This funny and sweet film stands out not only because of its honest and touching performances, but because the actors themselves have the disabilities portrayed.
Discussion to follow with screenwriter Daniel Pearle
Loving New York City parents (Claire Danes and Jim Parsons) are applying to a private kindergarten for their 4-year-old, Jake. Competing in this ridiculously cutthroat environment means focusing on what is most unique about a child, forcing them to consider Jake’s love of dresses, fairytales, and princesses. None of that seemed unusual before, but now they find themselves at odds. This affectionate and thoughtful story dances between humor and heartache as they try to find a way to support Jake’s identity without losing each other in the process.
Forty years after the death of Elvis Presley, Emmy-winning director Eugene Jarecki takes the King’s 1963 Rolls-Royce on a cross-country road trip, from the deep south to New York, Las Vegas, and beyond. A luminous tapestry of Americans, including Chuck D, James Carville, Emmylou Harris, Ethan Hawke, and Ashton Kutcher, join the journey in word and song. This is a portrait of a nation in crisis—at once dire, humorous, insightful, perhaps prophetic. The metaphoric connection between Elvis and America can’t be overstated. A country boy became a king, his country became an empire. One died on the toilet…
Seventeen years ago, Thomas Riedelsheimer met Andy Goldsworthy for the first time and created the documentary Rivers and Tides. Following the film’s release in 2001, Andy and Thomas barely kept in touch, but Thomas never lost his interest in the quirky and awe-inspiring British sculptor and environmentalist. He seamlessly dives back into Andy’s world and finds that the artist is still using his natural surroundings to create works around the world. From urban Edinburgh and Glasgow in his beloved homeland, to the South of France and New England, each environment he encounters becomes a kaleidoscopic canvas for his art.
Discussion to follow with film subject Keire Johnson
Welcome to Rockford, Illinois, the heart of the post-industrial rust belt of America. More importantly, welcome to the work of Bing Liu, an electrifying new voice in documentary filmmaking. At 24, he returns home, camera in hand, and reconnects with his friends Zack and Keire. The three have been skateboarding together since childhood, but unexpected revelations threaten to crash their long friendship. What emerges is an insider’s story that defies preconceptions of the skateboarder as mindless slacker, and of modern-day masculinity.
Discussion to follow with film subject Dwayne Booth, a.k.a. Mr. Fish
Mr. Fish, a successful and outrageous editorial cartoonist, finds that his profession is dying—and of course draws a witty and painfully truthful cartoon about it. Determined to maintain his unique, defiant voice while publishers pull their support, he struggles to stay true to himself and tirelessly continues to push his cartoons to the political edge. In a world where consumerism is king, will Mr. Fish be able to find a way to sell his art, or be forced to sell himself out?
It all began with a visit to a mummy’s tomb in 1997. Ever since, Hillary Clinton has been plagued by fainting spells, drug use, and even allegations of murder. At least that’s what the reporters at Vesti and NTV, two of the most watched state-run Russian news networks, want you to believe. And they’re broadcasting to millions of viewers worldwide every night. As more details of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election emerge, the producers of the Oscar-nominated Icarus (MVFF 2017) team up with director Maxim Pozdorovkin (Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, MVFF 2013) to peel back the layers of fake news and tactics of modern-day information warfare.
Native Hawaiian prisoners are shipped 3,000 miles across the ocean to a for-profit prison in the Arizona desert. For the first time, two of them learn about their indigenous traditions, from a fellow inmate who is serving a life sentence. In this unfamiliar and often hostile setting, they discover the fierce dances of their ancestors, connecting them to their homeland and people. Upon release they return to Hawaii, hoping for a fresh start, eager to prove that this experience has changed them. But like many formerly incarcerated men, they are forced to ask, can you ever really go home again?
Discussion to follow with film subjects Lynne & Allen Whiting
Though he is known more for his plein-air paintings of Island landscapes, Allen Whiting is a farmer who lives off the land, as his family has for twelve generations. Nowhere does he seem more at peace than when he is outside, farming or painting. A father of three, this humble, quiet, and funny man provides insight into the soul of his beloved Martha’s Vineyard. His creative expressions of the beauty that surrounds him instruct, and reflect a deep sense of stewardship. His wife Lynne, children, and friends complete this homage to an undersung Island character.
Allow us to introduce you to the one, the only, Killa P, Patti Cake$, a.k.a Patricia Dombrowski. In between working dead-end jobs and tending bar in a seedy dive, the aspiring emcee from suburban New Jersey writes rhymes, spits battle raps in gas station parking lots, and freestyles at her own determined reflection in the bathroom mirror. In her quest for stardom, the young wannabe rapper gathers the Garden State’s least likely hip hop supergroup: a pharmacist turned hype man, a mysterious musician who doesn’t play any instruments, and Patti’s cranky, wheelchair-bound grandma. We promise you will not be able to get this character’s spunk, or her songs, out of your head.
Discussion to follow (via Skype) with director Julie Cohen
As the United States Supreme Court leans increasingly to the right, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s vigorous dissenting opinions and ferocious 20-push-up workouts have earned this tiny 84-year-old intellectual giant the status of rock star and the title of “Notorious RBG.” What many don’t know is Ginsburg’s strategic, trailblazing role in defining gender discrimination law. Still inspired, she refuses to relinquish her passionate duty, steadfastly fighting for equal rights for all citizens.
Discussion to follow with film subject Dr. Serena McCalla
An affectionate and supremely entertaining celebration of nerds everywhere. Follow one inspiring mentor and nine dedicated students as they compete against more than 1,700 other students from 75 countries in the annual Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). The prize? Bragging rights, international recognition—oh, and $75,000 dollars. At a time when politicians deny climate change and mock science, meet the new generation of scientists eager to make a difference and become the heroes most likely to carry us forward.
Discussion to follow with director Jim Cricchi
These two short documentaries explore some of the most pressing political issues.
Aloha Aina Warrior highlights the stirring story of Dustin Barca, a surfer and MMA fighter who turns to politics to protect the island of Kauai from invasion by agrochemical companies.
Los Lecheros delves into the complex story of Wisconsin’s dairy industry, its farmers who vote against their own interests, and their undocumented immigrant workers grappling with fears of ICE raids and deportation.
Imagine showing up on your first day of college and feeling like you’ve entered an alternate universe. Everyone recognizes you but is calling you another name. Separated at birth, adopted, and raised by three different families, identical triplets Bobby Shafran, Eddy Galland, and David Kellman stumble upon each other at age 19. Their fairytale reunion sets off a chain of events that ultimately unearths an extraordinary secret. This gripping conspiracy thriller becomes more electrifying at every turn.
Discussions to follow both screenings with film subject Maria Toorpakai
In Taliban-controlled Waziristan, called one of the most dangerous places on earth, Maria Toorpakai disguises herself as a boy for the first sixteen years of her life so that she can play sports—an illegal act for women there. Going by the name of Genghis Khan, she has a drastically different day-to-day life than any other girl her age in the area. But when she becomes a rising star squash player, her true identity is revealed, bringing death threats to her and her family. Undeterred, they continue to fight for their freedom.
Discussion to follow with Megan Dickerson, who will then lead a free 45-minute workshop on the topic of design for play
What is it? A world within a world, with its own language and mythology... This film follows the creation of a large-scale, village-like art installation at the New Children’s Museum in San Diego. Exhibit developer Megan Dickerson and artist Wes Sam-Bruce guide us through a complicated process that balances community expectations and barriers with our innate desire for playful creativity. Filmmaker Brian Bangerter captures this, and the power of children’s self-directed play in a space designed to support it.
Discussion to follow with the directors and writers
Celebrate Vineyard filmmakers! Explore local waters with director Jamie Howard and anglers Jaimie Boyle and Dave Skok. Get serenaded by Lexie Roth as she drives around Aquinnah. The Gay Head Lighthouse also makes a debut in Liz Witham’s film. Ken Wentworth takes us to a completely different island, in Micronesia. Sara Nesson draws back the curtain on Hollywood's women who create musical scores. (You may even recognize some soundtracks from films the MVFF has played!) Sean George will make you laugh with a comedic household routine. Meanwhile, David Henry Gerson transports us to a theater troupe in the past.