Forty years ago, Telluride, Colo. was a tiny, little-known western town preparing to stage its first international film festival with a line up of hard-to-find films. Today, the town of 2,300 is synonymous worldwide with its annual Labor Day weekend film festival that draws Hollywood bigwigs and independent filmmakers alike and has premiered numerous acclaimed films.
But what’s more striking than the notoriety the town gained through the growth of its festival is the community spirit it and hundreds of other film festivals nationwide illustrate. Honoring the arts and artists, film festivals can bring communities together, while also allowing them to welcome tourists, and, in some ways, have a role in shaping the entertainment industry at large.
That’s what makes the Monadnock International Film Festival, which debuts in Keene April 4-6, a promising arts-focused initiative for the Monadnock Region.
The event is weeks away, but an impressive community-based planning effort is behind the festival. And with five films slated for the first go-round, organizers are aiming for a realistically modest turnout this year that will allow the event to grow into itself.
The festival’s film line up will be announced tonight at 5 p.m. at a free public launch party at the Courtyard Marriott in Keene.
Organizers who met with Sentinel editors earlier this month said the idea for the festival came about two years ago in a conversation among a few local film buffs who thought a festival could be a good community event for downtown Keene, which already hosts several events throughout the year including a winter festival, music and arts festival and the city’s signature Pumpkin Festival.
The effort is supported by the local nonprofit organization Arts Alive! and the Greater Keene Chamber of Commerce, along with dozens of local businesses, and was awarded a state tourism grant. The festival’s board of directors includes a diverse group of local business and nonprofit professionals, filmmakers and educators.
With its wide, walkable streets, college and Colonial theaters, large college-age population and abundance of centrally-located shops, hotels and restaurants, Keene is an ideal location to host a festival to display the city’s charm to tourists, organizers say.
But it’s not just the festival’s tourism potential we see as a benefit for the city.
Organizers plan to tap local filmmaker talent in years to come, including through initiatives with Keene State College, Antioch University New England and Franklin Pierce University. They also aim to include social awareness in the festival by offering an annual award named after slain local Civil Rights activist Jonathan Daniels to a socially-conscious film of artistic merit.
And as a member of the festival’s board told us, organizers hope that enriching the region’s arts offerings can be a tool to attract and maintain a thriving population of young professionals and families. With studies showing New Hampshire’s population is aging as more young people move away, the state faces a dwindling workforce. We agree that along with offering a safe, affordable environment to raise a family, a region boasting diverse entertainment and educational opportunities will have a leg-up in curbing the outflow.