The 16th Nantucket Film Festival took place on Nantucket Island June 22-26.
I am a Nantucket Film Festival ninja.Â A 16-yr veteran.Â I strategize as to how to fit in the utmost and fill in every hour of every day, from morning til midnight each year.Â I pore over the festival program and pencil in my film selections for the week.Â That list may then be tweaked based on Artistic Director Mystelle Brabee’s picks, and yet, it will evolve daily, based on what I hear at “Morning Coffee” and ‘the Buzz of the Fest’–Nevermind the demands of my store!
This year, I knew that my film time would be short, so I concentrated on the events and programs that simply could not be replicated after the Festival, such as live events, short films, and screenings with a Q & A.Â As much as I hate to miss anything, there is at least the possibility of catching the missed films on TV or in NYC or from Netflix or screeners, however Late-Night Storytelling only happens once.
“Morning Coffee With…” is a series I love–a one hour opportunity to begin each day eavesdropping on an honest discussion between writers (and filmmakers/producers) about how their films came to be and where they’re going.Â Each day is a different moderator (Will Conroy, John Shea, Jonathan Burkhart) and a different panel.Â There is no doubt that that the highlight (and biggest celebrity) was Kevin Clash and his puppet, Elmo–or should I say Elmo and his puppeteer, Kevin Clash–there wasn’t a person in the room that did not completely melt at the first words out of his furry red mouth.Â This was an instance in which I quickly updated my schedule, via the new Nantucket Film Festival app on my i-phone, to include BEING ELMO–one of the star documentaries of the fest.
Another see-it-here-or-not-at-all program is “In Their Shoes”–a live conversation between two people you really want to hear from.Â This year featured Vera Farmiga, interviewed by Richard Corliss of TIME Magazine on Thursday,Â and screenwriter Paul Haggis, interviewed by Hard Ball’s Chris Matthews on Friday.Â Â Farmiga was lovingly presented with the NFF Compass Rose Acting Award by Joshua Leonard (Blair witch Project ), her co-star in the new film Higher Ground (in which she starred and directed).Â The montage of her many roles demonstrated why TIMEOUT NY called her “This generation’s Streep”.Â Listening to Paul Haggis discuss the emotions and dynamics of his conflicted characters in CRASH is exactly why I move heaven and earth to attend the NFF.Â Haggis was also honored on Saturday night with the NFF Screenwriters Award and a tribute by Brian Williams, who, by the way, is funnier than all the funny people in the world combined…and so very handsome.
Speaking of funny, the most coveted ticket this year, by far, was the All Star Comedy Roundtable–JERRY SEINFELD, BEN STILLER, SETH MEYERS, COLIN QUINN & AZIZ ANSARI–wonder why?!Â And they did not disappoint.Â Somehow, I landed in the second row–so close, it was like being in Jerry Seinfeld’s living room.Â Seth Meyers opened by saying what an honor it was to play the Nantucket High School auditorium on a Sunday afternoon.Â “For a musician, it’s Carnegie Hall.Â for a comedian, it’s the Nantucket High School auditorium in the daytime.”
I managed to squeeze in these and a few others…
Opening Film:Â Â BUCK
The beautifully filmed and shared story of the real-life Horse Whisperer, Buck Brannaman, who has the rare ability to teach all horses–and people– he encounters.Â This was definitely the buzz of the fest.Â Astonishingly, it is made by first-time filmmaker Cindy Meehl.
Closing Film:Â HIGHER GROUND
The story of an overwhelmed young mother who turns to a fundamentalist community for answers, but after years of unfulfilling dogma, must find the courage to reclaim her life.Â They intent was to to show a multi-dimensional religious character, which I feel they achieved, however the portrait of religion in general, was still one note.Â I loved its attempt at theÂ complicated portrayal of religious choices and for the fact that it features 3 Broadway stars–Donna Murphy, Norbert Leo Butz and Dagmara Dominczyk!Â Vera Farmiga stars and directs;Â Produced by Nantucket Film Festival co-founder, Jonathan Burkhart.
Yet another mind-blowing tale of hubris…Marc Dreier’s $700 million Ponzi scheme was front page news–until the Madoff story broke 5 days later.Â Marc Simon, a filmmaker and attorney in Mar Dreier’s firm seemed destined to film the story of his mentor.
Documentary:Â BEING ELMO:Â A PUPPETEER’S JOURNEY
The heartwarmingÂ story of a dream come true against the odds.Â I smiled and cried through the whole thing.
OVERHEARD…the verbal highlights of the NFF
“I said “altruistic” because I know in Nantucket you people know what that means.Â If I was in Revere, I would say, ‘Yous good people’.”–Comedian Colin Quinn at All-Star Comedy roundtable
“As many shake shingles as there are on Nantucket, that’s how much I thank you.”–Vera Farmiga, on receiving the Nantucket Film Festival Compass Rose award.
“We all have a compelling story that needs to be heard…and so we do what we do.”–Amy Sultan, documentary filmmaker, TO BE HEARD (NFF Audience Award Winner)
“The last big gamble that took place here was when the architect said to the Nantucket High School wood shop class, ‘Surprise Me’.”–Brian Williams, re the oddly named Sconset Casino
“Tommy Lee Jones has a face that will hold a gallon of water–and with Paul Haggis’ writing, two gallons.”–Chris Mathews??Â Not sure if he or Brian Williams or Ben Queen or John Shea said this!
“Having a writer in the family is like having an assassin in the family.”–Ben Queen, screenwriter of CARS2 at “Morning Coffee”
“If you ever write a memoir, you could sell the shit out of it.”–A Professor to Carolyn Briggs, whose autobiography later became the Vera Farmiga film Higher Ground
â€œPeople say you need to have balance in your life and a broad perspective. Iâ€™m against all these things.Â I advocate for narrow and unbalanced. And that is the only possible route to becoming a comedian.â€â€”Jerry Seinfeld, as told to the Track Gals, Boston Herald
“And if thereâ€™s a prize for festival-sponsored libations, Nantucket took it with Scholium Project white wine and homemade strawberry-basil lime rickeys.”–IndieWire, referring to wine donated by wine sponsor, currentVintage
“Elmo gets the rock star treatment in Nantucket”–Headline in the Boston Herald