Discussion to follow with series host, MVFF board member, and professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Join us for a one-of-a-kind evening with author and scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. as he takes us behind the scenes on his newest project, a documentary series examining the last five decades of African-American history. With interviews of Oprah Winfrey, Cornel West, and over 20 other prominent black Americans, Gates integrates his commentaries about pivotal events and cultural trends that have shaped black history in the last 50 years. He delves into the significance of the Watts riots of 1965, the evolution of hip-hop, Rodney King, Michael Jackson, Hurricane Katrina, and Black Lives Matter, to name a few.


In an affecting and charismatic performance, Viggo Mortensen plays a father who is devoted to raising his six kids off the grid and with a rigorous physical and intellectual education. They hunt and farm all of their own food, sing around the campfire, speak five languages, and celebrate Noam Chomsky’s birthday like it’s Christmas. When they are forced to leave his paradise and the kids experience the “real” world for the first time, it challenges his idea of what it means to be a parent. This alternately comedic and heart-lifting drama questions what values are most important in a family and how far a person has to go to stand up for what they believe in.


Discussion to follow with director James Lapine

Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning director/writer James Lapine (Into the Woods, Six by Sondheim) brings out incredible performances from a powerhouse cast including Viola Davis and Tony Shalhoub. A young single mother of two suddenly finds herself embroiled in a custody battle when her son’s teacher reports a suspicious injury. As the web of judges and attorneys expands, a new layer of depth exposes broken systems and haunting personal memories. This searing drama dances between the individuals and the institutions we rely on to do the right thing.


Consumers love—and live on—their smartphones, tablets, and laptops. A cascade of new devices pours endlessly into the market, promising to be smaller, faster, and more powerful than ever before. But this global revolution presents a fast-approaching tipping point between consumerism and sustainability. This investigative documentary exposes the under-reported environmental degradation and illnesses linked to an industry that relies on planned obsolescence. What emerges is an in-depth look at the lack of accountability prevalent in the technology industry today, and the need for drastic change in manufacturing practices.


Discussion to follow with director Amy Berg; a tribute concert will kick things off before the screening

One of the most revered and iconic rock ‘n’ roll singers of all time, Janis Joplin thrilled millions of listeners and blazed new creative trails before her death at age 27. Through a series of letters written to her parents, Joplin's own words, voiced by Cat Power, tell much of the complicated, driven, and often beleaguered artist’s story. This portrait by Oscar-nominated director Amy Berg (Prophet’s Prey, MVFF 2015) goes far beyond its sizzling soundtrack and concert footage to offer a new understanding of a star who changed music forever.


Discussion to follow with director Roger Ross Williams

When Owen Suskind stopped talking and was diagnosed with autism at age three, his parents thought they had lost him forever. Over the next four years, the only stimuli that engaged Owen were Disney films. He learned about empathy, love, loss, and brotherhood with the help of Jafar, Simba, and Ariel. Life, Animated is the incredible true story of how Owen was able to find a pathway to language and a framework for making sense of the world by connecting with the Disney characters on his TV screen.


Discussion to follow with directors Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack

Called “a redwood tree, with deep, deep roots in American culture,” Maya Angelou was an icon who gave people the freedom to think about their history in a way they never had before. As a singer, dancer, activist, poet, and writer she inspired generations with lyrical, modern African-American thought that pushed boundaries. This film reveals the private side of her exuberant life and reflects the indomitable spirit of a woman who was determined to fight for, and live in accordance with, her philosophies.


Discussion to follow with director Spike Lee

In order to tell the story of Michael Jackson's seminal album, this film, directed by Spike Lee, starts with a glimpse into Michael's evolution, seeing how this young talent soaked up everything around him and how those influences enabled the transition from member of the Jackson Five to the creative independence and control of his first solo album. Lee explores the album track by track, contextualizing the cultural significance of the album and the impact it continues to have today. What emerges is a profile of an earnest and passionate boy who becomes the “King of Pop."


Academy award-winning filmmaker Ross Kauffman will lead the post-screening discussion with producer Maria Cuomo Cole, director Kim A. Snyder, and film subject Abbey Clements

This compassionate account lends an ear to a traumatized community fractured by grief and driven toward a sense of purpose. Each person, be they a parent, school nurse, or state police officer, tries in their own way to make sense of their loss. Together they form an intimate story of community resilience. They speak candidly about their grief, anger, and disbelief over what occurred and confront our nation’s inability to quell gun violence in even the most peaceful of communities.


Trophy homes threaten the unique character of Martha’s Vineyard. Ten, fifteen, even twenty-thousand-square-foot houses are going up around the Island. Not only do these mansions stand in stark contrast to traditional cottages, most sit empty for ten months a year yet are heated year round. When he feels complicit in wrecking the place he calls home, carpenter and MVFF founder Thomas Bena takes off his tool belt and picks up a camera. Bumping up against tired clichés, angry homeowners, and builders who would rather look the other way, he works with his community and attempts to create a new bylaw that would limit house size.


Discussion to follow with scholar and political activist Noam Chomsky

Widely regarded as one of the most important intellectuals alive, Noam Chomsky delivers the definitive discourse on the deliberate concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a select few. He unpacks the principles that have brought us to the crossroads of historically unprecedented inequality, while also looking back on his own life of activism and political participation. His insight into what may well be the lasting legacy of our time—the death of the middle class, the swan song of functioning democracy—is riveting. This provocative film is required viewing for all who maintain hope in a shared stake in the future.


Discussion to follow with directions Laura Bialis and Sara Greenberg

Once known for its prolific rock ‘n’ roll scene that revolutionized Israeli music, the war-torn city of Sderot has been for thirteen years the target of ongoing rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. Searching for a story about music, filmmaker Laura Bialis encounters a creative community that captivates her, leads her to love, and changes the course of her life. The film is not only a celebration of music’s capacity to help people process pain and suffering, but also an inspiring portrait of unity and love. It reminds us that sometimes in the least expected places we find magic. Preceded by Sara Greenberg's short film B-2247: A Granddaughter's Understanding.


Discussion to follow with the filmmakers and Rick Karney, shellfish biologist and director of the martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group

Cape Cod and the Islands are famous for pristine beaches and estuaries which provide pleasure and sustenance to all who live and visit here. The waters are in danger, however. Ken Wentworth and Liz Witham educate us about the Vineyard’s largest and most elusive fishery, the conch. Cape Cod filmmaker Elise Hugus investigates the harmful impact of excess nitrogen from septic systems. On Nantucket, John Stanton observes the last commercially viable bay scallop fishery on the East Coast. Fishermen, scientists, and environmental activists work together to explore the causes of the decline of local seafare, and provide insight into what we can do about it.


Discussion to follow with film subject Dr. Willie Parker, president of the national institute for reproductive health Andrea Miller, and director and MVFF board member Dawn Porter

Thirty percent of American women will have an abortion in their lifetimes, but this country’s abortion clinics are in trouble. Since 2010, legislators have been introducing bills known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or "TRAP" laws. Millions of women are caught in the middle of this political posturing. Award-winning filmmaker Dawn Porter takes viewers to the frontlines of the fight for reproductive rights by following two Southern clinics that struggle to provide care in an increasingly hostile legal and political climate.


Discussion to follow with directors Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker

Renowned filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus follow determined animal rights activist and lawyer Steven Wise into the courtroom as he argues against ineffective animal welfare laws. The unusual plaintiffs—chimpanzees Tommy and Kiko, once famed showbiz stars—are now living in filth and struggling to survive. Wise and his team file the first lawsuits that seek to extend limited personhood rights and ensuing legal protections to them. Heartwarming and challenging, this powerfully crafted story breaks down the science, legalities, and psychology behind a battle that has the potential to transform our legal system.