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Festival to spotlight some Vermont films

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival has announced the initial lineup of films with connections to Vermont that will be screened at this summer’s inaugural event.
With more than 320 films submitted — three times the number originally expected — festival organizers said the selection process was energizing but challenging.
They are expecting to show 80 films over the four days of the festival, Aug. 27-30. Seven of those will have a connection in some way to Vermont — they were created by local artists, about Vermonters, or shot in the Green Mountain State.
“As a Vermont festival, we want to include work by local directors and producers that provides a portrait of the current state of filmmaking in the state,” said MNFF artistic director Jay Craven. “This year’s festival is our first — so I’m pleased that we’ve attracted a solid slate of pictures. We’ll also stage a number of on-stage festival dialogues and workshops that we hope Vermont filmmakers will attend — both to learn and substantially contribute.”
The following are the Vermont films that will be shown at the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival, with their title and category, followed by a short description:
“Sabra” / Documentary feature
Directed by Bill Phillips, visiting associate professor of Film and Media Studies at Dartmouth College, “Sabra” profiles the career of Sabra Field, a Vermont-based print artist. Phillips describes the documentary as one that “explores Field’s most commonly seen and circulated images — which celebrate American pastoral motifs in New England — and asks why some critics have long dismissed the pastoral as an appropriate subject for contemporary art.”
Phillips is the head of Northern Light Productions and he has written many produced screenplays, including adaptations of both Carolyn Shute’s “The Beans of Egypt, Maine,” and Stephen King’s “Christine,” directed by John Carpenter. His adaptation of Peter Maas’ “In a Child’s Name” was nominated for an Emmy as Best Mini-Series. Phillips, who also produced and wrote “Sabra,” will be in attendance at the festival, alongside Sabra Field herself.
“Cowgirls” / Documentary short
Co-directed by Sarah Briggs and Anna Carroll, “Cowgirls” presents “a portrait of three women at work in the American West” in Hot Springs, S.D. Briggs and Carroll are both recent graduates of Middlebury College and made the film in their final semester. The short first screened at Middlebury College this past January.
“Milk with Dignity” / Documentary short
This short documentary, directed, written and produced by Middlebury College graduate Molly Stuart, follows Vermont dairy farmworkers’ struggle to “secure their basic human rights and create a more just dairy industry.” The documentary portrays varying first-hand accounts of the frequently difficult ways of life on Vermont dairy farms. The project was also produced in part by Migrant Justice and Middlebury College.
“The Land” / Documentary Short
Directed by Vermonter Erin Davis, “The Land” is a “closely observed short direct cinema documentary film about the nature of play, risk and hazard among children.” The film is set at The Land, a Welsh “adventure playground” where children climb trees, light fires and use hammers and nails in a play-space rooted in the belief that kids are empowered when they learn to manage risks on their own.
In a review of the film, The Atlantic’s Hannah Rosin wrote, “This film will change everything you think you believe. By you, I mean kids, parents, teachers, city managers, humans. It doesn’t have any overt agenda or philosophizing about overprotective parenting, or a coddled generation. Nonetheless in scene after natural scene the truth becomes obvious: With a little bit of creativity, empathy and guidance, children can be freed to experience a much more fun, adventurous and fulfilling childhood.”
The film premiered at the 2015 Full Frame Documentary Festival. Davis teaches radio documentary at Middlebury College and will be at the festival.
“Thaw” / Narrative short
Directed, produced and written by Sheryl Glubok, “Thaw” follows a disenchanted woman, Maggie Page, as she escapes from her normal life to visit a friend in Vermont for the weekend. After a chance encounter with a musician at a gas station she returns home, only to be greeted with solitude. In a spurt of determination she attends the musician’s show and he returns home with her, “giving Maggie the spark she needs to ignite her creative passion.” “Thaw” is Glubok’s second short, and was shot in Vermont.
“(T)error” / Documentary feature
Winner of the Sundance Special Jury Award for Break Out First Feature, and co-directed by Lyric Cabral and David Sutcliff, “(T)error” follows a counterterrorism informant as he conducts a final terrorist infiltration. Shot over two years, the documentary offers “unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to a counterterrorism sting” and “feels like a political spy novel set in your own hometown,” according to Sundance. Executive Producer Eugene Jarecki is originally from Waitsfield and is one of only two people to ever win two Sundance Grand Jury Prizes for documentary (most recently in 2012 for “The House I Live In”).
“Eben Markowski: The Elephant Project” / Documentary short
Directed by Natalie Stultz of Burlington, “Eben Markowski” follows Panton sculptor Eben Markowski’s creation of a massive elephant statue. Commissioned for display at the Burlington waterfront in January 2013, the elephant was designed from metal plates and chains to echo — in Markowski’s own words — “the enslavement this giant beauty has endured existing by our side.” Shot over 18 months, this short documentary takes viewers through the intricate design and creation of the elephant and is a true celebration of local Vermont artists.
“Nasbandi: Conversations about Female Sterilization in Rural India” / Documentary feature
Shot in a rural village in India, this documentary features the stories of local women’s decisions to undergo sterilization — or why they chose not to. The film explores family planning in India with a broader attention to the political and socio-economic factors at play in Indian women’s lives. Co-directed by Anne Munger, a Dartmouth graduate, and Zoe Hamilton, a 2013 Middlebury College graduate.
Festival organizers have also announced that they will screen three short films made by local Vermont teens, curated from the Freedom and Unity VT Film competition. The competition, begun last year by professional filmmakers from the group Freedom and Unity: The Vermont Movie, received nearly 90 films from young filmmakers age 13-25. The winning films were originally screened at Randolph High School on May 16, and at the White River Indie Film Festival in April.
The 2015 winning Freedom and Unity films that will be screened at the MNFF include “Blue Light: Living in A Technology Addicted World,” which won first place and is directed by Ben Shumlin; “Can’t Get There From Here,” directed by Amelia Hutchinson Moore, “The F-35: A Noisy Problem?” by Audrey Lee.
Marlboro College students have also produced three short films that have been selected for screening. They include “Association and Asymmetric” by central Vermont student filmmaker Luke Becker-Lowe, and the experimental narrative “The Inspector Goes to Breakfast” by Joceylyn Mitchell and Anna Lucka.

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