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Woods Hole Film Festival Celebrates Its Silver Anniversary

Woods Hole Film Festival
- Woods Hole Film Festival

Woods Hole is always a lively atmosphere during the summer, but this week will be even more so thanks to the 25th anniversary of the village’s film festival which started off small and has grown in size and exposure since its humble beginnings.

The oldest film festival on Cape Cod and the Islands kicks off today at Redfield Auditorium, marking 25 years of supporting emerging filmmakers and placing a spotlight on local ones. This year’s program shows just how far the Woods Hole Film Festival has come as it will showcase films from more than 30 different countries and a number of movies (more than a third) made by women.

To commemorate its silver anniversary, the festival partnered with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), recently upgrading the screening capability at Redfield Auditorium with a new digital cinema projector and a 7:1 surround sound system. The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) also did the same in its Lillie Auditorium and venue partner Falmouth Academy recently broke ground on a new performing arts center which will be completed next year.  These improvements are just one example of how the Woods Hole Film Festival is making an investment on the experience for both filmmakers and audiences.

The festival’s founder and director Judy Laster spoke about the accomplishments of the festival, all with an eye towards the future. “The 25th anniversary is a good time to look back at what we’ve accomplished as we make plans for the future,” she said. “Working hand in hand with our community partners on these upgrades ensures the festival’s continuing existence during the 8-day summer festival while enabling us to expand and enhance our year-round film series programming.”

Founded in 1991 with an hour’s worth of five short films curated by Judy Laster and award-winning filmmaker Kate Davis, the festival now shows more than 130 films as well as a series of workshops, master classes and panel discussions led by established filmmakers who participate in the Filmmaker-in-Residence program which is celebrating its 10th year. Past participants have included Les Blank, Barbara Kopple and Sebastian Junger.

An Intimate Festival

Despite its growth, the festival remains purposefully small, mirroring the village in which it is set. This allows audiences to connect with directors, actors and producers screening their films. “With five screening venues, most of which are within walking distance of one another, we have created an environment that is both intimate and thought-provoking,” said Laster. “It enables both filmmakers and audiences from around the world to have real conversations with one another in an inspiring setting.”

Attending this year’s festival is Suzanne Mitchell as its filmmaker-in-residence. Mitchell has created a number documentaries focusing on social issues with previous filmmaker-in-residence Barbara Kopple. Mitchell will be screening her newest documentary, “Borderline” about a woman with a personality disorder as well as her 2012 film, “Running Wild: The Life and Times of Dayton O. Hyde.”

The festival kicks off tonight at 7 pm with the screening of Rachel Grady’s documentary on the legendary screenwriter and producer Norman Lear whose credits include “All in the Family”, “The Jeffersons” and “Maude.”

As in past years, the festival will have a distinct Cape Cod flavor to it thanks to screenings of pieces made by local filmmakers. Falmouth’s Beth Murphy will show her recent documentary “What Tomorrow Brings” which investigates the first all-girls school in a remote Afghan village. The screening, which takes place tomorrow night at 6 at Redfield Auditorium will be preceded by a performance by Afghan musician Quais Essar.

Falmouth’s Daniel Cojanu and Elise Hugus add to the Cape contingent thanks to their short ‘Sustaining Sea Scallops” (Wednesday, August 3 at the Old Woods Hole Fire Station, 6 pm) which documents the remarkable renaissance of the Atlantic’s sea scallop industry following its near collapse in 1999.

Beyond the Cape

The Boston-based duo of Bestor Cram (“Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison”) and Jenny Phillips (“Dhamma Brothers”) have teamed up on “Beyond the Wall”, a movie that will be shown on Wednesday night at 7 at Falmouth Academy. The film details an innovative treatment program for prisoners reentering society in Massachusetts.

Oscar-winning actor and Massachusetts resident Chris Cooper makes a return to the festival thanks to his appearance in “Coming Through the Rye” about a 16-year-old boy who travels to New Hampshire in search of J.D. Salinger.

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Among those making a first-time appearance at the festival is Barry Frechette who directed “Paper Lanterns” which follows Shigeaki Mori’s lifelong calling to tell the story of both the victims of the American bombing of Hiroshima and the relatives of the 12 U.S. airmen lost there.

This year’s festival will have a strong focus on music. Sam Bush, the “father of Newgrass”, during tonight’s screening of “Revival: The Sam Bush Story at Redfield Auditorium. The movie features interviews with Alison Krauss, John Oates and Emmylou Harris who herald the talents of the music legend. There will be a second screening of the film this Wednesday at Lillie Auditorium at 7 pm.

The festival also welcomes two additional musical guests: composer, arranger, saxophonist and conductor John Altman (“Titanic”, “GoldenEye”) who will discuss his work at Lillie Auditorium on Thursday at 7 pm. Joining him at the festival is writer, composer, musician, performer and director Rinde Eckert, who will perform musical excerpts from “And God Created Whales”, his critically acclaimed off-Broadway show about a piano tuner and composer who attempts to finish an opera based on Herman Melville’s Moby Dick before his memory fails.

For a list of all movies and events taking place over the next week, visit www.woodsholefilmfestival.org. Tickets can be purchased online or at the festival box office at the Old Woods Hole Fire Station at 72 Water Street.