Woods Hole Film Festival
July 27 - August 3, 2013
This year’s Woods Hole Film Festival, the oldest on Cape Cod and the islands, features five filmmakers-in-residence, a record 33 narrative and documentary feature-length films, and nearly 70 narrative, documentary, and animated films. Besides film screenings and discussions with the filmmakers, the festival features workshops and master classes with the filmmakers-in-residence, filmmaker retrospectives, panel discussions, nightly parties at the water’s edge, and concerts, including a kick-off benefit concert featuring the John Jorgenson Quintet on Friday, July 26, at Redfield Auditorium. Recently chosen to portray Django Reinhardt in the film HEAD IN THE CLOUDS, Jorgenson played guitar with Elton John’s band for six years and plays with such artists such as Barbra Streisand, Bonnie Raitt and Earl Scruggs.
The festival also continues its tradition of showcasing and promoting the work of independent, emerging filmmakers, particularly those from or with connections to New England and Cape Cod. Many first-time filmmakers are also returning to the festival with subsequent films or as filmmakers-in-residence.
For example, Jay Craven (WHERE THE RIVERS FLOW NORTH) returns with his latest feature, NORTHERN BORDERS, based on the novel by Howard Frank Mosher and which stars Bruce Dern and Genevieve Bujold as a quarreling couple who take in their 10 year-old grandson with humorous and sometimes startling results (August 2). Boston-based Allan Piper (STARVING ARTISTS) returns with his award-wining documentary MARRIED AND COUNTING about a gay couple who celebrate their 25th year together by getting married in every state where gay marriage is legalized (July 30). Festival favorite Bill Plympton returns with his latest animation, DRUNKER THAN A SKUNK, an adaptation of Walt Curtis's poem about a cowboy town that torments the local drunk (July 30).
Several filmmakers-in-residence also return to the festival after either presenting their films or attending as filmmakers-in-residence in previous years. Director James Mottern, who brought Trucker, his first film starring Michele Monahan, to Woods Hole in 2010, returns to the festival to conduct one workshop on breaking into the film business and another on directing actors. He recently finished a Boston shoot of God Only Knows, his second feature film starring Ben Barnes, Leighton Meester, and Harvey Keitel and is currently prepping another thriller set in New England. Documentary filmmaker Heidi Ewing (DETROPIA, JESUS CAMP), filmmaker-in-residence in 2011, and her co-director and co-producer Rachel Grady will conduct a workshop on DIY (do-it-yourself) film distribution, based on their experience self-distributing DETROPIA after they received less than satisfactory offers from distributors when the film premiered at Sundance in 2012.
Two additional filmmakers-in-residence are making their first appearance at the festival: Chicken and Egg Pictures and Working Films founder Judith Helfand, whose BLUE VINYL won the best cinematography award at Sundance in 2002, and Megan Sanchez-Warner, currently executive producer and show runner for “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” who will hold a workshop on storytelling in film and television.
A significant trend this year is films created by, within, and about communities. Oscar winner Ernest Thompson (ON GOLDEN POND), who works out of New Hampshire with a regular community of writers, actors, and producers, brings his group’s most recent effort, HEAVENLY ANGLE, to the festival on August 1, with Thompson and a number of the folks involved with the production in attendance. Set in a small town in New Hampshire, the film is about a down on his luck Hollywood film director who shows up to con the town’s mayor and residents into putting money into a movie he has no intention of making. NORTHERN BORDER’s Jay Craven, mentioned earlier, creates films that celebrate regional character and culture, most often that of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Similarly, Australian director Philip Crawford’s RITES OF PASSAGE was filmed over the course of three years in New South Wales, Australia and features the trues stories of six individuals from the region in their struggle to grow up amidst a variety of problems, including homelessness and addiction (August 2). Each of these films enlisted their communities to participate in the filmmaking process. Stephen Silha, co-director and producer of the documentary BIG JOY: THE ADVENTURES OF JAMES BROUGHTON and formerly a reporter at The Christian Science Monitor in Boston, also communicates in his films about what makes communities and relationships work. BIG JOY illustrates the power of art and poetry to change lives, using the life and work of pansexual poet and filmmaker James Broughton as a lens (August 2).
Besides the previously mentioned filmmakers with New England—such as Ernest Thompson, Jay Craven, Andrew Mudge, Allan Piper, Stephen Silha, and Maria Agui Carter—regional filmmakers, especially those with a Cape Cod connection, are represented in large numbers this year. For example, Ryan Scafuro, cinematographer and producer for the documentary feature BENDING STEEL, an intimate journey exploring the lost art of the old-time strongman and one man's struggle to overcome the limitations of body and mind that premiered at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, is an Emerson College graduate and former New England Cable News videographer. Greg Cahill, director of the festival entry TWO SHADOWS (and assistant director on the upcoming animated film HELL AND BACK, starring Mila Kunis and Susan Sarandon) Although her short film is set in Ireland, LAMBING SEASON writer and director Jeannie Donohoe was raised in Massachusetts and attended Dartmouth College; many of her producers and crew members either live near Woods Hole or are from New England.
Films made on the Cape or by Cape Cod filmmakers include: Cape born and bred Isaak James’s BY WAY OF HOME, a narrative feature shot in Brewster, Chatham and Provincetown about a woman who returns home to work in her family’s restaurant (July 29); Eastham-based Joseph Laraja’s THE GOLDEN SCALLOP, a narrative feature about three finalists in the Golden Scallop contest on Cape Cod (July 27); Kristin Alexander’s MY NAME IS AL, the true story of the man who started the Committee on Drug and Alcohol Dependency, a recovery program for doctors and dentists (July 28); Sky Sabin’s ART IS A VERB, a documentary short in which the filmmaker asks for advice from three of the most inspirational people she knows--Stephan Connor, luthier and owner of Connor Guitars on the Cape, Martin Keen, Keen Sandals founder and Focal Upright Furniture CEO, and Mike Fink, professor at RISD and an author (July 29); Natasha Kermani’s short documentary ATLANTIS EARTH, an artist’s interpretation of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute’s Atlantis voyage (July 29); and MASS DOLPHIN STRANDING, a short about 180 dolphins that were stranded on the Cape in the winter of 2012 (July 29).
Fans of George Romero won’t want to miss BIRTH OF THE LIVING DEAD, a documentary feature that demonstrates how Romero gathered an unlikely team of amateur actors from Pittsburgh—policemen, iron workers, teachers, ad-men, housewives and a roller-rink owner—to be part of his revolutionary, guerilla-style film NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. The film shows how the young Romero created a world-renowned horror film that also provided a profound insight into how our society really works (Saturday, July 27, and Friday, August 2). Romero also has a cameo at the end of Matt Birman’s and Sam Roberts’s A FISH STORY, which stars Eddie McClintock (NBC’s WAREHOUSE 13) as a fugitive on the run whose body becomes inhabited by the soul of a devoted father who was killed in a car accident (Saturday, July 27). Apparently Birman and Romero are also old friends, as Birman has worked as a second unit director and stunt coordinator on Romero’s films since 2004. Birman and McClintock are in discussion to make azombie movie under Romero’s aegis.
Screenings and events are held at a variety of venues—including the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute’s modern Redfield Auditorium and the folksy Woods Hole Community Hall—with most taking place within walking distance of one another in compact Woods Hole. Getting around is easy and specific festival parking is available.