Woods Hole Film Festival Gears Up for 23rd Year

- "The Winding Stream" by Braintree native Beth Harrington is a comprehensive documentary ever about performers Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash and their respective families. "The Winding Stream" will be shown as part of the 2014 Woods Hole Film Festival on July 26 at 6 PM at WHOI's Redfield auditorium on Water Street.

The Woods Hole Film Festival, the oldest film festival on Cape Cod and the Islands, has announced the line-up for its 23rd festival, which runs for eight days from Saturday, July 26, through Saturday, August 2.

With two distinguished filmmakers-in-residence, more than 30 narrative and documentary feature-length films, 10 shorts programs including nearly 70 narrative, documentary and animated short films, several workshops, master classes, and panel discussions, and parties featuring top notch live music, the festival offers a stimulating blend of activities for filmmakers and film lovers set in a seaside setting. There is even something for children during Kids Day on Sunday, July 27: a sneak preview of “The Boxcar Children,” an animated film based on the best-selling children’s book, followed by a Q&A with the film’s directors.

The festival showcases and promotes independent, emerging filmmakers, especially ones from or with connections to New England and Cape Cod whenever possible. “We’ve stayed true to the vision of supporting emerging independent filmmakers,” said festival founder Judy Laster. “For this reason I think filmmakers find the festival a very attractive place, with many first-time filmmakers returning to the festival with subsequent films or as filmmakers-in-residence.” 

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Films with connections to Cape Cod and the islands are numerous this year. Festival co-founder Kate Davis and her producing partner and husband David Heilbroner, who spend summers on Martha’s Vineyard, are returning to the festival with their eighth film, the Massachusetts premiere of “The Newburgh Sting,” a shocking, suspenseful documentary that uses extensive FBI undercover footage to tell the entrapment story of the Newburgh Four. Cape Cod summer resident and Massachusetts filmmaker John Stimpson’s “The Off Season,” a thriller shot on Cape Cod that premiered in Woods Hole in May, will play again during the festival. “Lies I Told My Little Sister,” also shot entirely on Cape Cod, features an eclectic cast, including Lucy Walters, Donovan Patton, and Ellen Foley.

Other films with New England connections include the East Coast premiere of “The God Question” and “Art and Craft.” “The God Question” is a narrative feature set in the not too distant future at UMass Amherst and MIT, where a startling breakthrough in artificial intelligence produces the first super-intelligent computer capable of thinking independently. Boston-based director Douglas Gordon leads a crew that includes writer Stan Freeman from Northampton and Berklee College of Music graduate Duane Sharman as composer. “Art and Craft” is by Brown University graduate Sam Cullman (director of Oscar nominee “If a Tree Falls”); it follows prolific art forger Mark Landis at the very moment his 30-year ruse is exposed.

In addition to films with local connections, the festival consistently attracts exciting new international filmmakers. “Loveless Zoritsa” from Serbian director Radoslav Pavkovic is a hilarious fairy tale with a bit of a “Shaun of the Dead” and “Young Frankenstein” sensibility. “Copenhagen,” by Canadian Mark Raso is a beautifully shot tribute to the Danish city. It follows a 28 year-old man through Europe to Copenhagen in search of his grandfather.

Music always plays a big role in the festival. Besides top notch live music at parties, such as NRBQ founder Joey Spampinato and his brother Johnny, music lovers can choose from films representing several different musical genres. Opening night features Boston native Beth Harrington’s documentary “The Winding Stream,” a definitive account of America’s royal roots music dynasty—the Carters and the Cashes. Musician and prolific music writer Elijah Wald will lead a discussion after the film, and the roots band Wayworn Travelers will perform both traditional and modern renditions of Carter family songs. For fans of the television show “The Voice,” audience members can see popular singer Xenia in “Live Inside Out,” a narrative film about a woman who finds a way to connect with her troubled teenage son when she picks up the music career she began in her youth.

The documentary “Opus 139: To Hear the Music,” directed by Dennis Lanson, tracks the progress of the design and construction of a new pipe organ for Harvard University’s Memorial Church.

In a nod to Woods Hole’s scientific heritage, science also plays a role at the festival. As part of the “Bringing Science to the Screen,” series, funded in part by grants from the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod and the Falmouth Fund of the Cape Cod Foundation, the festival presents the world premiere of “Antarctica Beyond the Ice” in conjunction with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The compelling science story follows researchers at the National Science Foundation’s Long Term Ecological Research project at Palmer Station in the West Antarctic Peninsula in their quest to understand the impact of climate change on the region. “The Perfect 46” bills itself as a “science factual” film, a dystopian drama in which a geneticist creates a website that uses the power of the information stored in the entirety of our DNA to pair individuals with their ideal genetic partner for producing genetically flawless children. The scientifically accurate film even created a convincingly real looking website for the fictitious company to demonstrate just how close the concept is to present-day circumstances. 

The Filmmaker-in-Residence program enables filmmakers and film enthusiasts to meet with established filmmakers at workshops and master classes, as well as engage with them at screenings and parties. This year’s include Jay Craven of Vermont, who has had four films play at the festival, and Brian Storkel, an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose films center largely on religious topics. Mr. Craven will screen “Where The Rivers Flow North” (with Rip Torn, Tantoo Cardinal and Michael J. Fox) and “Disappearances” (with Kris Kristofferson and Genevieve Bujold) as part of his residency. Mr. Storkel’s first feature-length film, “Holy Rollers,” focused on a group of pastors who ran the largest organized gambling team in the country, taking millions away from casinos. His most recent feature, “Fight Church,” which will be screened at the festival, explores the confluence of Christianity and mixed martial arts.

Screenings and events are held at a variety of venues in Woods Hole—including the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Redfield auditorium and the Woods Hole Community Hall. Special festival parking is available after 5 PM.

Admission to screenings, panels and parties are $12, special events $25; ticket packages and full festival passes also available. Tickets are for sale online through the festival’s website at www.woodsholefilmfestival.org or in person at the festival box office at the Old Woods Hole Fire Station during the festival.

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