by Ashley Witzenberger
MONTPELIER — It’s that time of year again — downtown Montpelier welcomes the Green Mountain Film Festival March 18 to 27. As described on its website, the festival is presented by Focus on Film, a 31-year-old Central Vermont organization whose purpose is “to provide public film showings of cultural, social and historic interest; to sponsor discussions of such films; and to provide an opportunity for independent filmmakers to exhibit their works.”
‘The World Comes to You’ continues as the annual theme for the festival. This year’s festival features 55 feature length films, 48 shorts and one film slam. Thirty countries are represented this year, including Australia, Colombia, Paraguay and Hong Kong, as well as films from locations you may not even know were engaged in film production, like “The Heavenly Nomadic” from Kyrgyzstan, a country in Central Asia.
This year’s short film categories include a new category, animated, a result of all of the great submissions the festival received this year, and all are appropriate for children and families. Additional shorts categories are professional, student, Vermont and women’s. The Vermont shorts include films either shot in Vermont or made by Vermont filmmakers. The women’s shorts are being curated by native Vermonter Kristina Lear, now a resident of Los Angeles.
“We are looking forward to sharing the best in international cinema to our audience. We were so pleased with how many well-crafted animated short films we received from all over the world; we knew an animated shorts program would be a welcome addition to our lineup,” says Rachelle Murphy, executive director of the Green Mountain Film Festival.
According to Murphy, this year’s highlights include “In Jackson Heights,” a prolific documentary and political look into a dynamic New York neighborhood by Frederick Wiseman. After the screening, Fredrick Wiseman will Skype in from France for a discussion about this project.
The opening night of the festival will feature award-winning film, “Krisha,” a small-budget drama that premiered at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival and won the Grand Jury prize and the Audience Award for narrative feature. “Krisha” is the directorial debut of Trey Edward Shults and the movie shines a light on a family struggling with the addiction of the main character, Krisha. This subject is personal to Shults and based on experiences in his own family. The movie is a true family affair with Shults’ aunt, Krisha Fairchild, playing the lead role, and his mother and 90 year-old grandmother also acting in his first feature-film.
Krisha is very timely considering the addiction issues many of our Vermont families face every day. The lead actress will also call in after the movie via Skype to discuss the movie and what it was like to play a character with addiction.
You won’t want to miss this year’s 48-Hour Film Slam March 20, a favorite happening. The Film Slam is an event where teams of filmmakers come together to write, edit, produce and premiere a 7-minute short movie over the course of a weekend. The talent is amazing, and the films feature scenes throughout picturesque Montpelier.
If you’re interested in the behind-the-scenes of the festival, stop into North Branch Café, on State Street in Montpelier, Saturday, March 19 at 10 a.m., for Coffee Talk. Enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and a Q&A with Eric Reynolds, programming coordinator, and Rachelle Murphy, executive director of the festival as they talk about how the event was programmed and other interesting facts about the longest running festival in Montpelier.
Reflecting on the ambitious scope of the Green Mountain Film Festival, Coleen Kearon who is president of the non-profit organization Focus on Film that sponsors the annual March event said, “From the beginning of my involvement with Focus on Film/the Green Mountain Film Festival — over 11 years ago now — I have enjoyed being part of such a highly-regarded film festival. For such a small town, it is an impressive film showcase and number of films, comparable to festivals in much larger cities.” Talking about the festival’s community-wide impacts, Kearon said, “Our audiences, likewise, seem to genuinely appreciate the amount of care and effort that goes into such an undertaking, and enjoy the caliber and variety of films we are able to bring to Central Vermont. The Green Mountain Film Festival also brings a tremendous amount of foot traffic to Montpelier at a time of year not known for its bustle. The downtown businesses, in turn, have been a great partner to us: promoting ticket stub deals, acting as film sponsors and donors to the festival, and creating wonderful window displays,” says Coleen Kearon, Focus on Film president.
The Green Mountain Film Festival ticket office is now open at 54 Main Street in Montpelier, next to Pho Thai Express, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Enjoy a free cup of coffee, courtesy of Capitol Grounds. And don’t forget the Ticket Stub program; bring your ticket stub to a participating store and get deals in downtown Montpelier stores and restaurants. Sarah Jarvis, president of the Montpelier Alive Board of Directors, observes that “the Green Mountain Film Festival provides a welcome diversion to mud season in Central Vermont. It provides a much needed infusion of culture into the community. It also enhances the economic activity of the downtown since many attendees of the festival also visit Montpelier’s great restaurants and stores.”
You can find out more information about the Ticket Stub program, movie times and locations, purchase movie tickets and more on the Green Mountain Film Festival website, http://www.gmffestival.org. See you in downtown Montpelier!
The writer is the executive director of Montpelier Alive.