Middlebury FilmFest’s Inaugural Event

The Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival has set its full lineup of films that will be screened at this summer’s inaugural event this August 27-30. The official 2015 Festival Schedule is now available online at middfilmfest.org/program. We are just two weeks out from launching our very first event, and have been delighted with the high caliber of films submitted and the local support from Middlebury residents and beyond.

With more than 320 films submitted—three times the number originally expected—the selection process was energizing but challenging. Under the guidance of the Festival’s Artistic Director Jay Craven, the Festival accepted 96 films from 15 countries, including Brazil, Peru, the UK, Turkey, Nepal, Iran, Pakistan, and Canada.  

The films range from three-minute shorts to feature documentaries with laurels from Tribeca, Cannes, and Sundance Film Festivals. Genres include romantic comedy, taut dramas, innovative documentaries, family-friendly fare, animation, and more. Festivalgoers will be presented with a broad scope of material, including a beautiful animated short from Iran (Junk Girl), to a feature documentary that traces the infiltration of a jihadi school in Pakistan (Among the Believers), to films about Vermont (Thaw), and Middlebury itself (Building Trails, Building Communities).

Amidst the broad array of films, the MNFF’s core dedication to emerging voices in independent cinema remains constant: the films presented at the Festival showcases the dynamic efforts of first or second-time filmmakers.

“I am amazed by the stature and quality of the films we’ve been able to program,” said Jay Craven, MNFF’s Artistic Director.  “And what is even more impressive is the fact that these are all first and second films by filmmakers who show such penetrating vision and astonishing maturity.  The future of independent cinema appears to alive and well—and will be on display in Middlebury.”

The Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival is pleased and delighted to share these films—many of them world premieres—at its inaugural event this August 27-30.

Among the many outstanding selections at MNFF, we are pleased to highlight the following films that will screen at this year’s Festival:

Approaching the Elephant (The Opening Night film, The New Yorker described this feature documentary by Amanda Rose Wilder as “a tour de force.” The film examines the inaugural year at the Teddy McArdle Free School in New Jersey. The film will be part of an onstage event to open the Festival.)

The Wolfpack (Directed by Crystal Moselle. Grand Jury Selection at Sundance)

Sabra (Directed by Bill Phillips. A documentary about local Vermont artist Sabra Field)

Western (Documentary by Bill and Turner Ross. Winner of Special Jury Prize at Sundance)

The Incredible Adventures of Jojo and His Annoying Little Sister, Avila (A rip-roaring, nail-biting feature film about two young children finding their way home – sure to be a Festival favorite.)

Project: Ice (Feature documentary exploring the effects of global warming on the Great Lakes. Winner of “Excellence in Filmmaking” at Canada International Film Festival.)

Romeo Is Bleeding (Winner, Best Documentary Feature, at San Francisco International Film Festival)

Pretend We’re Kissing (Starring Zoe Kravitz, a feature film written and directed by Matt Sadowski.)

The Sound and the Shadow (This narrative feature follows nosy neighbor Harold and his new roommate Ally as they find themselves tangled in a missing-persons case. A cleanly directed, superbly acted film.)

The Dinkytown Uprising (Directed by 92 year old Al Milgrom and set during the peak of the Vietnam anti-war movement, this feature documentary shows activists mobilizing against the opening of a local fast food hamburger joint.)

Among the Believers (Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, this feature documentary offers a chilling look inside the Red Mosque, a school for jihad in Pakistan.)

Landfill Harmonic (Profiled by Time Magazine and the BBC, amongst others, this feature documentary takes viewers to the poorest slums in South America, where the Paraguayan Recycled Orchestra of Catuera has turned trash into musical instruments.)

Men Go to Battle (Grand Prize Winner at Tribeca)

John the Baptist (A stunning short shot in Brazil. The filmmaker will make his maiden voyage to America this August to represent and speak about the film.)

Shaun the Sheep (This film is sure to please young and old film-lovers alike!)

(T)error ( This film follows investigative journalists on the first ever recorded infiltration of an FBI counterterrorism sting operation. The feature documentary premiered at Sundance this past January.)

Blunderbus (A hilarious short involving yurts, ice cream sabotage, and a road trip.)

        

Perhaps one of the most controversial films of the 2015 independent film festival circuit, (T)error will screen at 1pm on Sunday, August 30 at Middlebury Marquis. This will be a rare opportunity to view the film – shot and produced without the FBI’s knowledge or consent, the crew is currently raising funds to support any future legal battles for the rights to exhibit the film. The film may be pulled from the festival circuit in under a month. You can find their Kickstarter campaign at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/terrordoc/terror-support-journalistic-freedom.

Several of these films will be presented as major On-Stage events at the Festival, during which the filmmakers will engage in an extended conversation with moderators as well as the audience. These events are all described online at middfilmfest.org/program.

The Festival is further pleased to announce that more than 35 filmmakers have confirmed that they will be in attendance at the event, with more likely to follow. Several will be traveling from afar, including from Brazil and Canada. These filmmakers will answer questions following screenings of their work and will attend Pop-Up events and parties throughout town during the festivities. Many of them will stay with members of the community throughout the Festival.

ATTENDING VIPS

Bill and Turner Ross

The MNFF is thrilled to present its first Excellence in Filmmaking Award for Cinematic Vision and Imagination to Bill and Turner Ross at the Festivities Festival this August. More colloquially known as the Ross Bros, this dynamic filmic duo directed the breakout documentaries Western, which screened at Sundance; Tchoupitoulas, which won Best Documentary at Ashland International Film Festival; and 45365, winner of SXSW Best Documentary. The Ross Bros’ films will be screened for audiences to enjoy, and the MNFF will present their latest film, Western, in an Onstage Event on Saturday afternoon of the Festival.

Katie McCullough – Festival Formula

The MNFF is further pleased to announce that Katie McCullough, founder and director of Festival Formula, will speak at the Festival regarding crowd-funding and festival strategy. Ms. McCullough, who is travelling to Middlebury from the UK, boasts more than decade of experience in assisting emerging filmmakers as they manage film festivals and create a social media presence. She also helps new filmmakers navigate the ins and outs of funding projects. MNFF is pleased to welcome Ms. McCullough to the United States for the first time.

IN-TOWN CONVERSATIONS

In keeping with its dedication to emerging voices in cinema, the MNFF will host a series of Conversations that we hope will be informative and interesting to attending filmmakers and festivalgoers alike. Our hope is that these events will enrich and encourage discussions about film during – and beyond—the festival.  

We are pleased to present the scheduled Conversations below.

Friday, Aug 28: 2:15pm, Middlebury Chocolates.

“What do producers look for in a screenplay?”

This free-wheeling session will ask a cross-section of producers, directors, and screenwriters what makes a script compelling enough to get traction and move into production.  Participants include producer and former Oscilloscope distribution executive David Laub; screenwriter, Sarah Lawrence film professor, and former Texas Film Commissioner, Fred Strype; Sarah Lawrence professor and former development executive; and others, TBA.  Moderator: MNFF Artistic Director, Jay Craven.

Friday, Aug 28: 6pm, Carol’s Hungry Mind Cafe.

“Film Criticism in the Age of the iPhone”

How has the role and impact of film criticism changed in the face of declining print media and legacy publications?  And in this age of smartphones, what about the influence of social media and aggregating websites like Rotten Tomatoes? Explore the evolution of this longstanding companion to filmmaking with our distinguished panel:  Gerald Peary, well-known Boston film critic, member of the National Society of Film Critics, and filmmaker; Leger Grindon, writer and Walter J. Cerf Distinguished Professor at Middlebury College; and Ioana Uricaru, director, screenwriter and Assistant Professor of Film and Media Culture at Middlebury College. Moderator: Jay Parini, poet, novelist, screenwriter, critic and Axinn Professor of English at Middlebury College. Location: Carol’s Hungry Mind Cafe, 24 Merchants Row.

Saturday, Aug 29: 9:15, Middlebury Chocolates.

“Early Morning Conversation: What’s the near future for indie filmmaking?”

The film industry seems to re-invent itself every six months, with recent moves including a shift away from traditional theaters and toward streaming, cell phone media, the web series, and more.  This dialogue will explore questions of what new and continuing opportunities exist for independent filmmakers in the 21st century.  Participants include David Laub, producer and former distribution executive at Oscilloscope; MNFF artistic director, Jay Craven; and visiting filmmakers, who are charting their next steps. How are they doing it?  Moderator: Jay Craven, MNFF artistic director and independent filmmaker.

Saturday, Aug 29: 12:30, Middlebury Community Music Center.

“Crowd funding and other new ways to finance your films”

Participants include Katie McCullough, director of Festival Formula, a consulting agency focused on film festival strategizing, crowd funding, and social media outreach. She will be joined by filmmakers who have used crowd funding platforms like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo to finance their projects.  Festival Artistic Director Jay Craven will moderate the session.

Saturday, Aug 29: 3:15, Otter Creek Kitchen Ware and Electronics

“Early Morning Conversation: What’s the near future for indie filmmaking?”

From the early days of motion pictures, women were making movies. Recent scholarship and the launch of the Women Film Pioneers Project website [https://wfpp.cdrs.columbia.edu] are transforming our traditional understanding of early cinema. Join Kate Hearst, Professor of Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence College, for an entertaining presentation and discussion of this fascinating subject. Location: Otter Creek Kitchenware and Electronics, 16 Merchants Row.

Please note: You can find other Festival events, such as filmmakers-only gatherings and Happy Hours around town, on our Festival Schedule at middfilmfest.org/program.

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