As the longest-running film festival on the Cape and Islands and one of the oldest in New England, the Woods Hole Film Festival was an early leader in promoting the films and careers of emerging, independent filmmakers, especially those with ties to New England, and specifically Cape Cod and the Islands—a mission that continues to this day.
The 31st Annual Woods Hole Film Festival will be fully back in-person this year, with all films, filmmaker Q&As, panel discussions, the master class with Filmmaker-In-Residence Tasha Van Zandt, workshops, music events, the awards ceremony, and parties taking place at six different venues in Woods Hole, Falmouth, and Cotuit. A majority of films will also be available to watch on the Festival’s virtual platform. The festival dates are Saturday, July 30 through Saturday, August 6.
The Festival’s intimate environment and inspiring setting by the sea provide filmmakers from around the world and audience members the opportunity to watch films together and to engage face to face in thought-provoking and meaningful conversations.
The 44 feature-length and 72 short films (the latter organized into 10 separate, themed programs) offer something for everyone: films about coming-of-any-age, adventure, music, love, family, social and climate change, science, art and sports. Read on about some of the festival’s highlights.
New England Connections
Since the festival is in New England, it also attracts films that either include New England cast and crew members or were shot or set here—or sometimes both. On the narrative side there’s NORTHERN SHADE (Thursday, August 4), Branford, Connecticut native Chris Rucinski’s feature debut, set and filmed mostly in Connecticut, about a disenchanted Army vet who emerges from isolation when his younger brother is recruited by an extremist militia. Its cast and crew are also mainly from Massachusetts and Connecticut: actor Brian McDonald lives in Hanover, Massachusetts, and his father works at The Captain Kidd in Woods Hole, the Festival’s party host. MIDNIGHT BLACK, MIDNIGHT BLUE (Friday, August 5), a cinematic poem about a man grappling with his shifting memories of his ex-lover, stars and is co-directed by Samantha Soule, who was born and raised in Massachusetts; cinematographer Piero Basso divides his time between Cape Cod and Manhattan. ROUTE 1 NORTH (Tuesday, August 2), the debut narrative feature from Isabelle Rose Farrell, follows two sisters on a road trip along the eastern seaboard from Maryland to Maine, including a night on Cape Cod.
On the documentary side, one film with New England ties has made headlines recently. David Grubin’s FREE RENTY: LANIER V. HARVARD (Sunday, July 31) follows Tamara Lanier’s fight to force Harvard University to cede possession of daguerreotypes made of her great-great-great grandfather—an enslaved man named Renty—and his daughter Delia, which were commissioned in 1850 by a Harvard professor (without their consent) to "prove" the superiority of the white race. On June 24, 2022, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that Lanier could sue Harvard for negligent infliction of emotional distress, but that Harvard can still retain physical and legal title of the four images. Cambridge director Garrett Zevgetis’s ON THESE GROUNDS (Tuesday, August 2) follows healer and activist Vivian Anderson, who uprooted her life in New York City after a video that went viral inspired her to support a Black teenager who was pulled from her school desk and thrown across the floor by a white police officer in South Carolina. Sara Archambault of Cambridge-based The DocYard, produced A DECENT HOME (Wednesday, August 3) by renowned photographer/cinematographer Sarah Terry, which addresses urgent issues of class and economic inequity through the lives of mobile home park residents who can’t afford other housing. Boston-based filmmaker and festival alum Lucia Small (One Cut, One Life) spent nearly seven years filming GIRL TALK, (Wednesday, August 3), her tour-de-force documentary about five girls on the diverse, top-ranked Newton South (Massachusetts) debate team, who find their voices despite being talked over, underrepresented, and judged differently than their male counterparts.
Two short films also have strong New England ties. In WHERE LAND ENDS (Thursday, August 4) Grace McNally creates a sensitive portrait of Cuttyhunk, the tiny island with only 12 full-time residents and only one child, who is the only student at the last one room schoolhouse in Massachusetts. Harvard Professor Peter Galison’s animated documentary SHATTERING STARS (Sunday, July 31) tells the story of Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, an Indian physics prodigy who at age 19 was publicly humiliated when his major discovery about black holes collided with accepted physics. Decades later he won the Nobel Prize for his discovery, even though the experience shattered his ambitions.
Panel Discussions, Master Classes, Workshops & Other Special Events
Renowned explorer Will Steger, filmmakers Tasha Van Zandt (AFTER ANTARCTICA), Holly Morris (EXPOSURE), and Kathy Kasic (THE LAKE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD), together with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) polar scientists Sarah Das and Catherine Walker, will discuss how to communicate information about climate change through documentary filmmaking during “From Pole to Pole: Documenting Climate Change in Extreme Locations,” a panel discussion that is also part of WHOI’s Dispatches from an Ocean Planet series sponsored by the Yawkey Foundation. Filmmaker-in-Residence Van Zandt will also teach a master class on Tuesday, August 2.
After screening her documentary feature FAIR PLAY (Friday, August 5)—inspired by Eve Rodsky’s bestselling book about the unfair work dynamic in her own home and society at large—director Jennifer Siebel Newsom (California Governor Gavin Newsom’s First Partner) will lead a discussion about domestic inequity, making visible the invisible care work historically held by women.
For those interested in the new Dolby Atmos sound system, consultant and Garrett Audio owner Jay Sheehan presents “Beyond Stereo: Exploring Immersive Mixing” (Thursday, August 4), a workshop on navigating the new system and an examination of what emerging filmmakers of today need to consider when adopting the workflow associated with this new delivery format.
For tickets and more information, visit www.woodsholefilmfestival.org, or call (508) 495-3456 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.