The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival is active year-round, putting on community events, educational programs, and showing films with the goal of sparking discussion, debate, and action. Past years have featured traditional film festival events filled with screenings of documentaries and other thought-provoking films followed by discussions with filmmakers or the subjects of the films. The MVFF generally puts on a three-day event in March followed by a Summer Film Series in addition to other educational programming.
Needless to say, the summer of 2020 was a bit different! The MVFF took this challenge in stride, pivoting to create a drive-in style theater on the island. Collaborating with the YMCA in Oak Bluffs they showed a wide range of films to attract all audiences, bringing the community together for a socially distanced and fun summer activity. The pay-what-you-can event was popular, with shows often selling out and leading to a standby line.
From July through October as dusk started falling, cars gathered at the YMCA parking lot, driving past the chalkboard “Box Office” sign, and guided into socially distanced parking spots in front of the screen. Masked movie-goers set up camp chairs in the backs of pickup trucks, piled pillows, and blankets in the back of minivans, tuned their radios to the appropriate FM station and settled in for the show. From John Lewis: Good Trouble in August, to Hocus Pocus in October the films drew audiences from around the island.
Films were introduced and discussed from the ‘back-of-a-little-red-pickup-truck-stage’
just to the side of the screen, or virtually. Amy Schumer introduced “Expecting Amy” in July, and Bill Murray introduced “Groundhog Day” in August, commenting on the familiar feeling of repetition experienced by many during the pandemic, and noting the wonderful fact that we all get to start over again each day learning to take care of ourselves and those around us, doing our best not to be jerks!
Other films shown at the 2020 drive-in included: Jaws, The Wizard of Oz, Do the Right Thing, Coco, Harry Potter, O’Brother Where Art Thou?, I Am Gretta, The Way I See It, Frozen and more, totaling near 60. Supporters of the MVFF Drive-In project also helped to fund free film education for Island children through summer camps and school programs.
The Drive-In is back for 2021! A screening of In The Heights on August 20th kicks off the season and will be followed by Jaws. Visit the film festival’s website for more details and to buy your tickets!
In addition to the drive-in, the MVFF puts on educational programs for children of all ages, including a three-week filmmaking intensive for high school students and a Cinema Circus for younger ages. During the pandemic they’ve put together suggestions for weekly family movie nights, complete with complementary educational activities. Their website also features an excellent film recommendation section of films screened at past MVFF events, from documentaries to comedies.
The production branch, MVFF Productions, also works to create films that tell beautiful and engaging stories often focused on Martha’s Vineyard. Film subjects include Edgartown’s Japanese Pagoda Tree, Fishermen in Martha’s Vineyard, efforts on Whelk preservation, the Great Ponds, the housing struggles on the Vineyard, and more.
For those looking for even more films on Martha’s Vineyard, The Martha’s Vineyard Film Society also puts on several festivals with focuses on LGBTQ+, Environmental, International, and Women’s stories, as well as documentary films.