While the new Park Theatre continues in wait of its unveiling, the show must go on...line.
The 1922 theater, which was the center of community life in Jaffrey for 54 years before it closed in 1976, underwent an extensive renovation and was set to reopen in 2020 before the pandemic hit. The theater, a state-of-the-art film and performing arts center, features two auditoriums seating 450 and when it opens will present film, live theater (including children’s productions), concerts, and lectures as well as offering a place for business and community gatherings for the Monadnock Region.
In the meantime, the theater has hosted livestreamed events, including movie showings and filmmaker talks, to raise money in place of live ticket sales.
Right now, the Park Theatre is offering on-demand streamed rentals of the 2021 Academy-Award nominated short films in all three categories: live action, animated and documentary.
The theater has shown the short film Oscar nominees two other years at its River Street Theatre, adjacent to the new theater complex.
“We always got a good response and an audience,” said Steve Jackson, Park Theatre CEO and managing director. Many noteworthy feature film directors, he added, were nominees in the short film Academy Award category, in existence since 1932.
The same company that compiles the films is doing so this year for the on-demand releases. You can rent and stream the grouping of films in one of any three categories for $12 for three days; or all the nominees in one bundle for $30.
“There’s also such high creativity and introspection,” said Jackson of this category, from which nominees used to be mainly from the United States—now they come from around the world.
The nominated animated short films come almost entirely from the U.S. this year, with one coming from France. Live action short film comes from Israel and Palestine as well as the U.S.; and documentary short films are from France, Germany, Norway and the U.S.
Each category program The Park Theatre is offering via stream on-demand includes bonus short films from the Academy Awards (airing April 25) nominee shortlist as well as other noted short films from the past year.
Jackson hasn’t viewed all of the short film nominees yet, but he has heard buzz about a documentary short film, “Colette,” which focuses on a former French resistance member who agrees, at 90, to visit the concentration camp in Nordhausen, Germany, where her brother, who was also in resistance, died.
The other nominees in the short film documentary category explore other journeys of the human spirit.
“A Concerto Is a Conversation” is an interview with a Jim Crow-era man who had to start a mail-in business because when he applied in person he was denied because of his skin color.
“Do Not Split,” captures the 2019 protests in Hong Kong through live footage in the middle of them and interviews with protesters about their motivations.
“Hunger Ward” draws attention to the threat of famine in Yemen by observing two heroic medical workers, both women; and “A Love Song for Latasha” tells the story of a 15-year-old killed in Los Angeles in 1991, an event considered to be a factor in citing the 1992 riots there.
The live action short film nominees also highlight current socio-political topics.
The story of “Two Distant Strangers,” is told “Groundhog Day” style, featuring several options of encounters between a graphic designer and a murderous New York City police officer. The film was inspired by the death of George Floyd.
Another nominee in this category, “The Letter Room,” considers the human being beneath the uniform, following a corrections officer whose job entails reading prisoner correspondence.
Even the animated short film category is not filled with lighthearted nominees—“Opera,” for one, from former Pixar animator Erick Oh, he defined as “a contemporary animated edition of Renaissance fresco mural paintings that examines racism, terrorism, religion, war, and class struggle within our society.”
“If Anything Happens I Love You,” another animated short, features a couple grieving the death of their daughter killed in a school shooting.
There is some fun and exuberance in this category, however. Consider “Burrow,” about a rabbit trying to build herself an underground home with the help of her new neighbors, who create everything from a frog library to an ant bistro.
In a similar vein, “Yes-People” from Iceland is about the mundane happenings of a group of eclectic residents living in an apartment building.
“You start with a great idea and present it in a creative or surprising way, shedding light on (a topic) that’s never been done before,” said Jackson. “That’s usually the magic recipe for short film. It’s just a slice of life, a great little story well-told.”
More streamed events are coming up via the Park Theatre’s website, including more film showings, roundtable chats and speaker panels with film industry experts, blues band concert, magician performance and more.
For a full schedule of upcoming events and film showings, and to purchase tickets and film rentals, visit theparktheatre.org, The Park Theatre Facebook page or call the box office at 532-8888.