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Nantucket Film Festival Celebrates its 20th Anniversary

Noah Baumbach's
Courtesy of Nantucket Film Festival - Noah Baumbach's "Mistress America" is one of more than 40 films and events that will be part of this week's Nantucket Film Festival.

Today at 1 pm, a group of movie enthusiasts will gather at Nantucket’s historic Dreamland Theater to catch a showing of “Inside Out,” Disney’s animated feature that follows a young girl and her five emotions. 

That 94-minute screening will kick off the Nantucket Film Festival which runs through next Monday. It’s an appropriate start for the fest which is celebrating its 20th anniversary on an island known for its charm, history and unique style. Only in this case, the emotions of event organizers – nostalgia, excitement, pride and ambition – will differ from those depicted in the opening film. 

“I can say that this started with a great idea in a great location,” said the event’s executive director Mystelle Brabbèe. 

That great idea, said festival producer Bill Curran, was to focus on screenwriting and storytelling. “That sets us apart from not only a lot of regional festivals, but those throughout the country and even around the world,” he said. 

Throw in the setting and the festival provides moviegoers with a one-of-a-kind venue to experience the joy of watching films on the big screen. “Nantucket is a special place. You have to either fly or take a boat to get here,” Curran said. “We’ve done a lot of work to make sure our festival reflects an intimate, special experience. All the venues are within walking distance of downtown. It’s not this big sprawling festival with hundreds of films. It’s a great compact program featuring a stellar lineup of films.” 

Admittedly, Brabbèe said, the festival’s beginnings were humble with roughly 500 people in attendance its first year. This week, she anticipated crowds would be in the thousands to commemorate the festival’s two decades of existence. “It is really fun for us to look back at the last 20 years,” she said. “But I also think we’re really primed to be able to ask where we’re going in the next five, 10 or 20 years. The one thing that will always stay the same is the event’s mission. It is something that drives us year in and year out.” 

For those who have never been, this year is an ideal one to check out the festival which will pay tribute to longtime supporter Anne Meara, who died at the end of last month, with a few short pieces that will showcase her connection to the island as well as her contributions to the film fest and the world of comedy. 

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The festival will honor Academy Award-winner Robert Towne (“Chinatown”; “The Last Detail”, “Shampoo”) on Saturday night, presenting the acclaimed screenwriter with this year’s Screenwriters Tribute. 

Other event highlights include the always popular live staged reading. This year’s takes place on Thursday at 6:30 pm at the Dreamland and will feature Spencer Sloan’s original TV pilot, “Bob Fisher’s My Roommate,” with actors Dave Foley (“Kids in the Hall”), Tom Cavanagh (“The Flash”) and Kevin Bigley (“Sirens”) lending their talents to the reading. 

And one of the most beloved programs of the festival, Late Night Storytelling, takes place on Friday evening at the ‘Sconset Casino. Hosted by comedian Ophira Eisenberg, this year’s theme is fact versus fiction and will feature true tales told by Dave Foley, Robert Towne, actress Sue Costello (“The Fighter”), actor Fisher Stevens (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”) and writer and producer Rob Cullen (“Cop Out”). 

With a lineup of more than 40 films, there is more than enough to satiate even the most hard core movie fans. As to where one should start, Curran and Brabbèe offered these recommendations to those making the trek to the island: 

THE END OF THE TOUR (THURSDAY, 7:30 PM AT NANTUCKET HIGH SCHOOL) 

Jesse Eisenberg (“The Social Network”) plays Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky as he interviews acclaimed novelist David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) over the course of five days at the end of Wallace’s 1996 book tour. 

WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE? (THURSDAY, 4 PM AT DREAMLAND THEATER; SATURDAY, 3:30 PM AT NANTUCKET HIGH SCHOOL) 

The festival’s centerpiece film pays tribute to musical talent Nina Simone, dubbed the “high priestess of soul,” who became a leader in the civil rights movement all while battling her own personal demons off stage. 

MISTRESS AMERICA (SUNDAY, 3:30 PM AT NANTUCKET HIGH SCHOOL)

Filmmaker Noah Baumbach’s (“The Squid and the Whale”) screwball comedy received plenty of buzz when it premiered at Sundance earlier this year. “Mistress America” follows college freshman Tracy, played by Lola Kirk (“Gone Girl”), as she looks for life guidance from her future stepsister Brooke (Greta Gerwig), a renaissance woman whose career aspirations include everything from SoulCycle instructor to restaurateur. 

THE STANFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT (FRIDAY, 10 PM AT DREAMLAND; SATURDAY, 7 PM AT NANTUCKET HIGH SCHOOL)

Based on a true story, this feature takes a dramatic look at the 1971 controversial, landmark experiment at Stanford University in which professor Philip Zimbardo (Billy Crudup) embarks on a study of imprisonment, assigning 24 of his male undergrads as either guards or prisoners in a mock jail. 

THE BRONZE (SATURDAY, 9:30 PM AT DREAMLAND; SUNDAY, 3:45 PM AT DREAMLAND)

While history only remembers those who win the gold, “The Bronze” takes aim at fictitious 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Hope Anne Greggory (Melissa Rauch). Over a decade after her medal-winning performance, Hope clings tightly to her moment of glory in this satirical comedy.

The entire slate of films and events at this year's Nantucket Film Festival can be found on its website