After two and half years of darkness, filmgoers will see the light—of the movie screen—once again this month.
The Monadnock International Film Festival returns (mostly) in-person Thursday, Oct. 21, and features 10 days of independent and award-winning cinema before closing Sunday, Oct. 30, in downtown Keene and in Peterborough.
More than 50 films were chosen for this year’s event, the ninth festival, with screenings at The Colonial Theatre’s SHOWROOM as well as the new Park Theatre in Jaffrey.
The event will also host filmmaker Q&As, panel discussions, and workshops in celebration of this year’s festival tagline, Bringing Film and Community Together.
Audiences can enjoy virtual in-home screenings via the festival’s streaming platform and attend in-person screenings.
Last year, the festival, which for seven years had been in April, was in November and was completely virtual due to the pandemic.
“Folks started making their way back into the theater for blockbuster films (this year),” she said. “It felt okay. We may not be up to the same pre-pandemic numbers (at theaters) but people are ready to experience the big screen again.”
Expanding offerings year-long is another festival goal, she added.
This year’s program includes more than 25 feature films, 30 shorts, two New York Times Critic’s Picks, a Sundance triple award winner, and showcases cinema from countries including France, Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, India, Ireland, Uganda, United States, and Thailand.
SHOWROOM in Keene will host 10 titles and two short film blocks (many of the shorts filmmakers will be in attendance) with several films featuring the work of New Hampshire and regional filmmakers as well as a pair of student filmmakers from Franklin Pierce University. Some of these filmmakers audiences can expect to see attending the festival.
“We welcome local filmmakers; we’re hoping to get more to participate in future (festival) years,” said Fitzgerald. “These are films that tell a compelling story that for whatever reason aren’t getting as much attention at bigger festivals.”
Opening the festival will be a screening of “Voodoo Macbeth” on Friday, Oct. 22, at The Park Theatre in Jaffrey.
Set in 1936 Harlem, the film is based on the true story of actor Orson Welles as a first-time director tasked with reimagining the “Scottish play” in Haiti with an all-black cast for the Federal Theatre Project’s stage production.
“That (President Franklin Delano) Roosevelt was hoping to lift up an all-black theater production and other arts is incredible,” said Fitzgerald.
The film’s actors are all students at USC School of Cinematic Arts. It was produced through a grant from Warner Brothers.
The screening includes a reception at 6 p.m. with lite fare from Sunflowers Cafe and a wine tasting courtesy of Chuck Saunders and Casey Leach. A post-film discussion with actor Lisa Bostnar and friends will round out the night.
The same evening at SHOWROOM in Keene will feature a screening of “Can you Bring it: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters,” a feature documentary that traces the history and legacy of one of the most important works of art to come out of the age of the AIDS pandemic: Bill T. Jones’s ballet, D-Man in the Waters.
Closing night on Saturday, Oct. 30 will honor the directors of “CURED,” the winners of the festival’s annual Jonathan Daniels Award.
“CURED” is a documentary by Bennett Singer and Patrick Sammon that illuminates a pivotal yet largely unknown chapter in the struggle for LGBT equality: the campaign that led the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses in 1973.
“It was the tipping point when things began to change,” said Fitzgerald.
Julianna Dodson of Radically Rural will moderate a special post-film discussion with co-director Patrick Sammon, who will accept the award.
The goal of the nonprofit festival has always been to celebrate diversity through film and films that tackle important social issues as well as bring films from all over the world to the region people wouldn’t normally see.
While a theme isn’t followed in planning the festival, often one emerges—in past years it was such topics as genocide and the environmental and global refugee immigration crises.
“In this year’s films, a topic that kept coming up over and over again was diversity,” said Fitzgerald, whether around women, people of color or the LGBTQ community. “It seems to be resonating during the pandemic.”
No matter the film tastes, Fitzgerald guarantees there is something for everyone to watch at the festival.
“There’s a lot here to enjoy, opportunities for people to be exposed to these stories and the rich history you get when you go to the movies.”
This ninth annual Monadnock International Film Festival (MONIFF) opens Thursday, Oct. 21, and runs through Saturday, Oct. 30 in Keene and Jaffrey venues. Face masks are required at venues unless eating or drinking and proof of vaccination or negative results of a COVID-19 PCR test administered within 72 hours for admittance to events. Festival-goers can visit each venue’s website for up-to-date COVID policies.