The 5th annual MV International Film Festival went off like a finely tuned Swiss watch. Everything took place in Vineyard Haven and was within walking distance, from the sunset welcoming reception on the rooftop of the Mansion House to the to the closing reception at the Vineyard Haven Marina. No rain (thank you God) for any of the four days. Thirty-five events ran simultaneously.
The opening night’s film was BeijingTaxi, presented by writer/director Miao Wang, a tale of three cabdrivers against the backdrop of the 2008 Olympics is an uncensored documentary about the morphing bumpy ride to the change and development that has been taking place in China. It got rave reviews and was the only film to have an encore screening.
Friday night was the Reel Food MV dinner party at the Saltwater Restaurant on Beach Road. This third annual dinner celebrates local farmers and our Island grown produce which turns into the most delectable and sumptuous meals. Following dinner the International Shorts were screened. The winner of the Best Short Film competition is Luke Matheny of New York’s Tisch School of the Arts who won with his film The God of Love which he wrote, directed and starred in. It’s a funny sweet story (albeit short) of unrequited love.
Afterwards the party continued at Richard Lee’s Gallery. Both Friday and Saturday night’s post-screening parties were held at the gallery. Richard’s exquisite unique artwork surrounds and embraces; it’s on the walls, on glass, gorgeous hand painted cabinets, a gold painted ram’s skull with horns adorns a tabletop next to a chandelier with flickering candles. His creativity is boundless, everything he touches turns into something else. He’s an Island treasure. The theme Friday was Buenos Aires Tango with Argentinean hors d’oeuvres.
One of the most popular movies was Bébés, shown on a sunny Saturday afternoon matinee. One hundred sixty movie aficionados showed up and were still talking about it the next day. Four babies, from birth until they walked were filmed in Japan/Mongolia/Namibia/USA. It shows the varying attitudes of child-raising, from jumping for a book when your baby hiccups (USA) to a yak drinking from the tub the baby is sitting in (Mongolia). Endearing and visually beautiful, it’s a joy’s to behold.
The extraordinary footage brought to light from these films was spellbinding. Afghan Star, shot in Afghanistan follows the competition of four contestants as they risk everything to become the nation’s favorite singer. Millions watch and vote by mobile phone. For some it is their first taste of democracy. Afghan Star won the 2009 Sundance World Cinema Audience Award for Documentary and is the UK’s submission for the 2010 Oscars.
Matthew Modine became the first recipient of the MVIFF Global Citizen award for his excellence as an actor and environmentalist. One can’t help but wonder – Hollywood? Environmentalist? Another Bono (saving Africa via China?) But no fear. When Richard introduced Matthew he said “I knew I made the right choice when I saw Matthew sitting in the lobby of the Mansion House barefoot.” And sure enough his program Bicycle For A Day is real and he’s involved in a lot of programs to benefit the planet. He walks the walk. Or bikes the bike. He’s sweet and laid-back.
He introduced his wife of thirty years to everyone as he accepted his hand-crafted award from Island sculptor Barney Zeitz and Richard Paradise. Barney sculpted a Tree Angel – a wing extending out from a tree. It was engraved on the base, but on the bottom, Barney wrote a little personal note which I’ll leave between them. Matthew’s new movie The Trial, based on the best selling book by Robert Whitlow and directed by Gary Wheeler was being screened and tickets completely sold out with a long line of people waiting, hoping to get in.
After the movie was the post-screening party at the gallery of the inimitable Richard Lee. It was Haitian theme night with the special drink of the evening Phuket Sunset and outstanding Thai hors d’oeuvres. Matthew and Cari graciously accommodated those wanting to talk and interview them despite their early ferry the next morning.
Some films were hard to watch in the absence of nothing but harsh reality like Le Jour Avant Le Lendemain (Before Tomorrow) – shot in Puvirnituq, Nunavik (northern Quebec) it’s the story of an Inuit tribe who have just had a celebration with a visiting tribe who brought a knife of a new material, as well as needles. It was steel instead of bone. The price for one needle was to sleep with a woman, two needles, two women. Life on the edge of the Arctic circle has heat only from the sun, fires, furs and hides. Grandmother Ninioq (Madeline Ivalu) faces the ultimate challenge of survival with her grandson Maniq (Paul-Dylan Ivalu).
Daring footage was shown in the movie The Red Chapel, introduced by comedian Marty Nadler. Two Korean-born Danish comics pretend to be a vaudeville act to gain access to the country. They plan to reveal to the West the evilness of the regime and the horrific conditions inside the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize.
The Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo unravels Japan’s fascination with insects. It goes far deeper though. Since the first century the Emperor dispatched hunting parties for singing insects. Poems would be composed and the crickets would be presented to the Empress. The Japanese believe in reincarnation and the possibility of coming back as a bug looms large. Children keep the beetles as pets, their little faces pressed up against the glass of the aquarium, their joy is palpable as they watch the little Saturday afternoon mini horror-film creatures crawling around. The beetle collector found other joys, his red Ferrari from beetles sold, and his sake with beetles in it raised the alcohol content from 14% to 50%.“It makes me warm, it gives me strength.”
A more serious topic was The Last Survivor, a documentary following the lives of four refugees of genocide from the Holocaust, Rwanda, Darfur and the Congo. trying to make sense of the atrocities and horrors by educating, motivating and promulgating a civic response. A reception was held at the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore in support of Mapendo.org, a refugee resettlement program. Special guest was Justin Semahoro Kimenyerwa, a member of the Banyamulenge tribe of South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Another favorite (weren’t they all?!) was Chef of the South Pole. This is the story of eight Japanese men living in Dome Fuji for an Antarctic Exploration, bringing up cylinders of ice from the earth’s core dating back 300,000 years, for climate and environmental research and recording the present data for future research. The conditions are harsh to say the least. The sun comes up and stays up for months and then goes down for the next six. There was no internet, radio, movies, just the few vhs tapes they’ve brought with them (pre-dvd). One was for their morning calisthenics, which kept them limber and was their only access to women.
Adam Brown who introduced this film, and had been to Antarctica, said that there was always one person who made things bearable in these extreme conditions, and –57 Celsius is extreme. In this case it was Chef Nishimura who kept things going with his sweet disposition and his innate ability to make the most tantalizing meals. Foie gras with fig puree, homemade ramen noodles (the Chief had to have his noodles) sushi, sashimi, fried lobster, crab, matsuzaka beef, all with the touch of a four-star chef. Their ravenous slurping and grunting in delight was his delight. He savored their appreciation. Chef Nishimura did two stints in Antarctica. He also wrote this movie.
Sunday afternoon at the Vineyard Playhouse was a forum with local filmmakers, Think Globally, Shoot Locally, introduced by Victoria Campbell, a local filmmaker who made House of Bones. This is a new and exciting event to celebrate established and budding Vineyard media artists. Shorts and bits and pieces were shown and a discussion followed.
There was an overriding theme of purity to all the films; vulnerability, survival and dignity at the core of them. They were selected by Richard Paradise, Executive Director of the MV Film Society and Founder and Director of the International Film Festival. He orchestrated thirty-five simultaneous events over a four-day period. The films were superb, and he was everywhere at once, always smiling, texting for more chairs, giving directions, introducing films. He’s done, and continues to do an amazing job..
Soul Kitchen, a German film about food and love was the closing film. It’s labeled a comedy, but had some dramatic overtones. It sometimes veered towards slapstick, but redeems itself with acts of love like forgiveness. Written by Faith Akin, (also the Director) and Adam Bousdoukas who starred in it and managed to carry it through to the end.
Then it was on to the Vineyard Haven Marina where blues band Ballyhoo was rocking the house. They started out at the Capawock and rocked on through at the Vineyard Haven Marina. Everyone was absolutely starving after watching the German folks eat in the Soul Kitchen. Hors d’oeuvres were waiting at the Marina and disappeared instantly. Pizzas were delivered and devoured. Delicious!
Mary Spencer organized the volunteers and Ellie O’Keefe got up early every morning to make sure all events had the San Pellegrino and Aqua Panna waters (sponsors) and that the San Pellegrino barrels were filled with ice and both waters. They were free and much appreciated.
I can’t wait until next year!
See you at the 6th annual MV International Film Festival! Thank you Richard Paradise!
For all the films:
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