The Green Mountain Film Festival will return to the Savoy Theater March 20–25, affording Central Vermonters the chance to see a wide variety of films over the course of six days.
The festival kicks off at 5:30 pm Friday, March 20, with a screening of 2018’s The Keeper, a German/British co-production that tells the true story of a German POW turned football (soccer) star. Festival board member Lambek described the film as, “very moving.” He pointed to another German production, Crescendo (2019), as “very powerful and worth seeing.” In it, Israeli-German filmmaker Dror Zahavi examines the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through a musical lens, telling the fictional story of an Israeli Palestinian youth orchestra.
Both The Keeper and Crescendo are representative of the international focus at this year’s GMFF, which will screen 19 full-length feature films from 11 different countries. The 17 shorts, split into narrative and documentary packages, also feature a number of international entries.
Bolstering the festival’s diversity, many of the shorts were submitted through FilmFreeway, which Lambek described as a tool for lesser-known filmmakers to showcase their work in festivals around the world.
While much of the format for this year’s festival mirrors that of years past, one significant change is that all full-length features will be screened twice to allow viewers more opportunities to see them.
Of course, no film festival is complete without a little controversy, and this year’s most contentious entry is How About Adolf? (2018).
McCracken described German director Sönke Wortmann’s comedy about a couple deciding what to name their baby as “edgy,” and said that “at least one person really didn’t like it.” While the film’s premise may invoke another recent film shown at the Savoy, Jojo Rabbit (2019), McCracken said the two films aren’t alike, despite their comedic takes on a traditionally somber topic. “Really not a comparison between the two. [Jojo] was set in the period of WWII, this one is modern.”
Despite its controversial nature, the film will premiere in the Saturday night primetime slot in the Savoy’s upstairs theater at 7:40 pm.
Three screenings will be followed by talks with local film authorities, starting with Filibus, an Italian silent film from 1915, which debuts upstairs on Saturday morning at 10 am. The post-film discussion will be led by central Vermont’s Rob Mermin who is a classically trained mime, the founder of Circus Smirkus, and the 2008 recipient of the Governor’s Award for Excellence; Vermont’s highest honor in the arts.
Sunday’s programming will begin upstairs at 9:45 am with Salt of the Earth (1954), a film that was suppressed upon release because it was written by two blacklisted screenwriters and directed by a blacklisted member of the “Hollywood Ten.” The film is based on the true story of a successful strike by New Mexico zinc miners who in many cases play themselves on screen. The decades-old but still-relevant feature will be followed by a discussion with film historian Rick Winston, one of the founders of the Green Mountain Film Festival and former owner of the Savoy Theater.
Also being screened Sunday morning is Memory: Origins of Alien (2019), a documentary that presents the original story behind Ridley Scott’s Alien series. James O’Hanlon, current owner of the Savoy, will lead the discussion following the film’s GMFF debut at 10 am downstairs.
While the focus of the Festival is bringing lesser-known works to central Vermont, one exception will be opening night’s primetime feature, The Big Lebowski (1998). Citing the film’s “dedicated following, great filmmakers and performers,” and that “a lot of folks have never seen it in a theater,” McCracken offered another reason for its inclusion in this year’s lineup. “We started with the idea of showing a film that is the same age as the festival, and we ended up with The Big Lebowski!” Folks can wish a happy 23rd birthday to “The Dude” and the Green Mountain Film Festival on Friday night, upstairs, at 7:40 pm.
Community members are invited to visit gmffestival.org to see a complete list and descriptions of this year’s films, view a comprehensive schedule, and purchase tickets online. Tickets are also available at the Savoy Theater box office.