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Filmmakers festival to present winter movie screenings

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival is excited to announce its lineup for the 2017 Winter Screening Series at Town Hall Theater in Middlebury. MNFF will be offering one distinctive film every month beginning in January and finishing up in May. Shifting to Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. this year (with the exception of the May film), the Series retains its exclusive focus on prominent work by first- and second-time filmmakers.
“Starting in our first year,” said Jay Craven, MNFF’s artistic director, “we committed to showing films at Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater during our ‘off-season.’ Our Winter Series will screen important first and second films, several of them in consideration for Academy Awards. We do this consistent with our mission to build a local film culture that investigates and celebrates exciting new work. Many filmmakers make their most inspired pictures during these first forays. We hope people will join us for a ringside seat for the work of these emerging artists.”
“The Winter Screening Series is a natural extension of what we do at the August festival,” said Lloyd Komesar, MNFF’s producer. “We have carefully selected the 2017 lineup to reflect a diversity of styles, tone and content. And several of the films are already being recognized for their excellence… We’re just really excited to be bringing this terrific group of films to our great audiences in Middlebury and throughout Addison County.”
Komesar said that the 2017 Winter Screening Series is particularly grateful for support from Town Hall Theater, The Addison Independent, Farm Fresh Radio 102.9 FM, IPJ Realty and The Residence at Otter Creek.
The series kicks off on Jan. 15 with the documentary “Cameraperson,” directed by multi-award winning cinematographer Kirsten Johnson. “Cameraperson” is the recipient of nine Best Documentary Feature festival awards and was listed on this year’s Academy Awards shortlist. A hybrid work that combines documentary, autobiography and ethical inquiry, “Cameraperson” is both a moving glimpse into one filmmaker’s personal journey and a bold, thoughtful examination of what it means to train a camera on the world. The film will be introduced by photographer James P. Blair, of Middlebury.
On Feb. 19, MNFF will present “Moonlight,” the astonishing narrative feature from director Barry Jenkins. Nominated for five Golden Globe Awards, including Best Drama, Director and Screenplay and likely bound for an Academy Award nomination, “Moonlight” has captivated audiences all over the country with its sensitive treatment of what it means to grow up black in America. A beautifully intimate character study, “Moonlight” defies stereotyping and asks us to consider the complexities of the lives it portrays. A stunning achievement, “Moonlight” provides a memorable movie experience.
Coming March 12 is the delightful and highly acclaimed documentary, “The Eagle Huntress,” director Otto Bell’s first feature and a remarkable film that appeals to audiences of all ages. An enchanting portrait of a quietly determined 13-year-old Kazakh girl, Aisholpan, “The Eagle Huntress” beautifully captures her quest to buck the ancient, male only tradition of hunting with eagles in Mongolia. Following her through all the difficult physical and societal challenges she faces in breaking down barriers, Bell has fashioned a rousing and empowering film that ultimately delivers a very good feeling about life’s possibilities. “The Eagle Huntress” has also been named to the Academy Awards shortlist.
On April 2, the series continues with “Off The Rails,” the riveting documentary from director Adam Irving that tells the incredible true story of Darius McCollum, a man with Asperger’s syndrome whose overwhelming love and comprehensive knowledge of transit has landed him in jail 32 times for the criminal impersonation of NYC subway drivers, conductors, bus drivers, token booth clerks and track repairmen. Currently incarcerated at Riker’s Island, yet again, Mr. McCollum puts in sharp focus the line between folk hero benevolence and persistently risking the public’s safety. Extraordinary and troubling at the same time, “Off The Rails” is an accomplished work. The film will be introduced by Jude Domski, Vermont playwright and close friend of Mr. McCollum.
Finally, the Winter Screening Series concludes on May 12 with the mesmerizing animated feature “The Red Turtle,” seven years in the making by the Oscar-winning Dutch director, Michael Dudok de Wit. Winner of the 2016 Special Jury prize at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, the film is a visually stunning poetic fable of a man trapped on a remote island whose life takes on unanticipated dimensions. Completely dialogue free, “The Red Turtle” is an immersive experience and utterly unlike the typical animated fare that dominates the commercial marketplace.
Individual tickets are $12. A Winter Screening Series pass for all five films is $50. Tickets and passes are available at the Town Hall Theater Box Office, Monday-Saturday, 12-5 p.m., by phone at (802) 382-9222 or online at www.townhalltheater.org/calendar-and-tickets.

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