With dozens of premieres, Woods Hole film fest’s focus on science, social justice, music + more arts news

Screenshot 2022-06-17 102133
Screenshot 2022-06-17 102133

CAPE COD TIMES – With polar scientists, musicians and California’s First Partner on hand, the Woods Hole Film Festival will enter its third decade with a hybrid in-person/online event from July 30-Aug. 6. On the schedule are 45 feature-length films and 72 shorts — nearly half of which were directed by women and dozens of which are premieres.

The roster, according to a recent announcement, will focus on films about science — a staple considering its location among top scientific institutions — music and social justice.

A July 28 pre-festival kickoff event will feature a screening of “Bonnie Blue: James Cotton’s Life in the Blues,” a portrait of a man who changed the sound of the blues and history. Director Bestor Cram and producers Judy Laster, the festival’s founder/director, and musician James Montgomery, frequently on Cape stages, will be part of a post-show Q&A.

The schedule will include nine world, two national and 50 New England premieres, with films screened in person at two Woods Hole locations, two locations at Falmouth Academy and at Cotuit Center for the Arts. Most films will also be available to stream on the festival’s virtual platform.

Beyond film viewings, there will be in-person Q&As with filmmakers, workshops and master classes with filmmaker-in-residence Tasha Van Zandt, panel discussions, daily morning filmmaker chats, music events and an awards ceremony.

Discussions on science, women’s issues

As part of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s “Dispatches from an Ocean Planet” series, the festival will host a panel discussion on “From Pole to Pole: Documenting Climate Change in Extreme Locations” that explores how to communicate climate change through documentary film.

Panelists will include Van Zandt, her “After Antarctica” film subject and longtime polar explorer Will Steger, WHOI polar scientists Sarah Das and Catherine Walker, and other festival filmmakers Holly Morris (“Exposure,” about 11 novice women explorers who take on a journey to the North Pole on the rapidly disappearing Arctic Sea ice), and Kathy Kasic (“The Lake at the Bottom of the World,” about an international team of scientists who discovered a subglacial lake buried 3,600 feet beneath the Antarctic ice).

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After screening her documentary feature “Fair Play” — inspired by Eve Rodsky’s bestselling book about the unfair work dynamic in her own home and society at large — director Jennifer Siebel Newsom (California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s First Partner) will lead a discussion about domestic inequity, making visible the invisible care work historically held by women.

Film choices

Besides Kasic’s film, other opening-day choices include the New England premiere of “The Big Bend,” Brett Wagner’s debut narrative about two families who meet in the remote Texas desert; Sara Dosa’s Sundance Film Festival winner “Fire of Love,” about a French couple who died in a volcanic explosion while studying it; and “Butterfly in the Sky,” a nostalgic look at the legacy of children’s TV show “Reading Rainbow,” hosted by LeVar Burton.

Music-related films will include feature documentaries “The Chisels Are Calling,” by Trevor Laurence, about guitar builder and designer to the stars John Monteleone; and “Omoiyari — A Song Film by Kishi Bashi,” co-directed by Justin Taylor Smith, that follows co-director (and violinist and songwriter) Kishi Bashi on a musical journey to understand WWII-era Japanese incarceration, assimilation and what it means to be a minority in America today.

The many New England-connected films include “Midnight Black, Midnight Blue,” co-directed by Daniel Talbott and Samantha Soule, a cinematic poem about a man grappling with his shifting memories of his ex-lover (cinematographer Piero Basso lives on the Cape part-time); and Chris Rucinski’s debut, “Northern Shade,” about a disenchanted Army vet who emerges from isolation when his younger brother is recruited by an extremist militia. Actor Brian McDonald lives in Hanover and his father works at the Captain Kidd in Woods Hole, the festival’s regular opening night party host.

More New England connections

Documentary features with New England connections include David Grubin’s “Free Renty: Lanier v. Harvard,” about how Tamara Lanier, an African-American woman from Connecticut, was determined to force Harvard University to cede possession of daguerreotypes made of her great-great-great grandfather — an enslaved man named Renty — that were commissioned in 1850 by a Harvard professor to “prove” the superiority of the white race.

Cambridge director Garrett Zevgetis’ “On These Grounds” (produced by festival alum and UMass Boston professor Chico Colvard), follows healer and activist Vivian Anderson, who uprooted her life in New York City after a video that went viral inspired her to support a Black teenager who was pulled from her school desk and thrown across the floor by a white police officer in South Carolina.

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Festival alum Lucia Small (“One Cut, One Life”) spent nearly seven years filming “Girl Talk,” about five girls on the diverse, top-ranked Newton South debate team, who find their voices despite being talked over, underrepresented and judged differently than their male counterparts.

Short films will include Grace McNally’s “Where Land Ends,” about Cuttyhunk; and “Dawnland with Bounty,” about the Phips Proclamation, one of many scalp-bounty proclamations used to exterminate Native people in order to take their land in what is now New England.

Passes for online screenings are $130 for an individual and $175 for a household; in-person ticket packages are $125 for 10 tickets and $80 for six tickets. Individual film, workshop, and panel discussion tickets range from $16-$20 and will be available starting July 1. Tickets and information: www.woodsholefilmfestival.org508-495-3456or info@woodsholefilmfestival.org.

Peace poetry contest winners published in print and video

A video presentation of the VFP Voices of Peace Poetry Contest 2022 has been completed and this year’s video and 32-page publication of winning works can be viewed on the Veterans For Peace Cape Cod website vfpcapecod.org.

This is the 27th year of the Voices of Peace Poetry Contest sponsored by Veterans For Peace (VFP), Cpl. Jeffrey M. Lucey Chapter 041 on Cape Cod. In an introduction to the booklet, organizers said: “Through this contest, Veterans For Peace links the art of poetry to problems of world peace, security, and human well-being. Particularly for our younger poets, poetry is one way of seeing things from a different perspective and provides them with the opportunity to honestly express their feelings toward building better relationships, for a better world.”

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There were 59 winning poems and five cover artists chosen from 346 submissions.

“These are still difficult times for finding peace and forgiveness, both at home and abroad,” the publication’s introduction says. “We start here by expressing our thoughts through poetry, to find peaceful solutions to conflict and war.”

Changes at local arts groups

Susan Shiplett Ashbaker, courtesy image

Ashbaker takes over at music festival

Susan Shiplett Ashbaker, a performing arts professional for more than four decades, has been appointed executive director of the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival, which is scheduled to hold its 43rd season in August.

Ashbaker takes over for Elaine Lipton, who retired in 2021 after a 15-year tenure, returning in April to aid the festival in its transition.

In announcing the change, board President David Farer said Ashbaker “has already brought fresh, inspiring and focused ideas to the table, at the same evincing a great respect and admiration for the festival’s traditions.”

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He praised her abilities and “deep experience,” which includes being active in the opera, vocal industry as an independent artistic advisor, consultant, master class presenter, lecturer, college professor, director and opera, vocal coach.

She worked previously as general and artistic director for Tri-Cities Opera; director of artistic and music administration for Opera Company of Philadelphia; on the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music; and assistant conductor, vocal coach with New York City Opera, European Center for Opera and Vocal Arts, Israeli Vocal Arts Institute, International Vocal Arts Institute in Montreal, Theater am Goetheplatz (Bremen, Germany) and Academy of Vocal Arts.

The music festival’s season will take place Aug. 2-19. Information: capecodchambermusic.org.

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By Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll

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