The Woods Hole Film Festival celebrates 30 years of bringing independent films to the Upper Cape in 2021. The festival consists of eight event-packed days beginning the last Saturday of July. This year’s festival, running from July 31st- August 7th may of course look a bit different than previous years, but will nevertheless go on!
While many film festivals were cancelled in 2020, the Woods Hole Film Festival went virtual. The event was held in a new way, but still “included 188 films: 42 feature narratives and documentaries and 146 short drama, comedies, documentaries and animations,” continuing the organization’s mission to present ‘the best independent film from emerging filmmakers from around the world.” The 2021 festival will follow a hybrid model, showing films in-person and virtually.
The festival began with humble roots as a one-hour, one-day event in the old Woods Hole Fire Station in 1991, showing 16 mm films and VHS tapes. The event was a big success and continued to grow as the oldest film festival on the Cape and Islands. The festival grew organically, with word spreading in the independent film community, and becoming more sophisticated over time. As the world of independent film and film festivals have become more mainstream, the Woods Hole Film Festival has become nationally recognized and attracts world-class independent filmmakers and films.
Over the years the festival has gained momentum and added events, from workshops with filmmakers, to evenings of live music at local restaurants, outdoor screenings, panel discussions and events for kids. They’ve also branched out into more off-season programming, including a monthly film screening available to stream virtually!
They’ve also set themselves apart from other festivals by focusing on what makes Woods Hole unique: its access to marine science and scientists. (For more information swing by the Woods Hole Science Aquarium!) In a Zoom Chat with the Woods Hole Historical Museum, Executive Director Judy Laster noted she and co-founder Kate Davis both spent summers in Woods Hole as the children of scientists, and wanted to connect this event to that aspect of Wood Hole.
The Film and Science Initiative connects filmmakers and scientists to increase public understanding of science. The emphasis on films that amplify science is reflected in the marine imagery on the film festival’s posters, which in recent years have come to feature an octopus.
The first two projects developed from this initiative are set to be released this year. One follows Bruce Strickrott, the head of the Alvin Group, who is exploring the ocean with the National Deep Submergence Facility at the
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The second project is a series about youth activists fighting climate change. A third project is a collaboration with filmmakers on Martha’s Vineyard about right whale.
The Woods Hole Film Festival is also committed to growing and sustaining the film festival community that has sprung up over the past 30 years. Their new Programming Fellowship aims to do just that by training the next generation of enthusiasts in the intricacies of selecting films for festivals. Each year the festival receives over 1,000 film submissions which they carefully select to screen at the festival.
Whatever form the festival takes in its 30th year, it will certainly be worth a visit, virtual or otherwise!