Arts & Leisure

Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival to welcome special guests

BRUCE GREENWOOD AND Ella Purnell star in “Wildlike,” which will screen during the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival on Sunday, Aug. 25, at 10 a.m., at the Town Hall Theater in Middlebury.

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival will welcome special guests at the 5th Annual Festival, Aug. 22-25. Among those guests will be iconic screenwriter and director Paul Schrader, Canadian actor Bruce Greenwood and French New Wave filmmaker Anges Varda.
PAUL SCHRADER: “First Reformed”
Originally a film critic, Schrader burst onto the filmmaking scene in 1972, turning to writing in a moment of existential drift. In two weeks, he completed a script about a nocturnal loner who stalks the streets of New York in his yellow cab with fantasies of cleansing the city of its depravity. That was “Taxi Driver” (1976) and was directed by Martin Scorcese.  Schrader also collaborated with Scorcese on “Raging Bull” (1980), “The Last Temptation of Christ” (1988) and “Bringing Out the Dead” (1999) and he has written and directed films including “Blue Collar” (1978), “American Gigolo” (1980), “Affliction” (1997) and “First Reformed” (2017).  Schrader lives on a short list of masterful screenwriters and storytellers, having won or been nominated for more than fifty international honors, including the Academy Award, Golden Globes, National Society of Film Critics and the Cannes Palm d’Or.  Schrader will receive MNFF’s Sustained Excellence in Cutting Edge Filmmaking Award.
MNFF will screen Schrader’s latest film, the Academy Award-nominated “First Reformed,” on Friday, Aug. 23, at 1:30 p.m., at the Town Hall Theater in Middlebury. The film follows a pastor in upstate New York, played by Ethan Hawke, who emotionally spirals after a soul-shaking encounter with an unstable environmental activist and his pregnant wife. Schrader and MNFF Artistic Director Jay Craven will hold a discussion following the screening, at 4 p.m.
“We feel honored and excited to host Paul Schrader,” Craven said, “and have the chance to talk with him about his huge body of work as well as the influences he pulls from film, literature and contemporary culture. Few people working in film draw as intimately or specifically from our life and times.”
BRUCE GREENWOOD: “Exotica” and “Wildlike”
MNFF audiences will have a chance to see Bruce Greenwood’s starring roles in Atom Egoyan’s “The Sweet Hereafter” (1997)  and Frank Hall Green’s “Wildlike” (2015).
“The Sweet Hereafter” depicts a small mountain community in Canada devastated when a school bus accident kills more than a dozen children. Based on the novel by Russell Banks, this film pushes audiences to reckon with a loss of innocence and collective trauma. It will show on Saturday, Aug. 24, at 7:15 p.m., at Twilight Hall on the Middlebury College campus.
“Wildlike” tells the story of a gruff backpacker and a troubled teen trekking through the Alaskan wilderness. It will show on Sunday, Aug. 25, at 10 a.m., at the Town Hall Theater in Middlebury. 
Greenwood will be in conversation with Craven following each of his screenings and MNFF will present him with a  Sustained Excellence in Acting Award at the conclusion of his Q&A on Sunday, Aug. 25.
AGNES VARDA: “Cléo from 5 to 7”
Discussion of innovation in narrative filmmaking would not be complete without mention of Agnes Varda, leader of the French New Wave film movement and pioneer for female filmmakers. An Honorary Academy Award Winner, Varda directed over 20 feature films, including the seminal classics “Cléo from 5 to 7” (1962), “Le Bonheur” (1965), and “Faces, Places” (2017).
Varda, who passed away in late May at the age of 90, represented a rare and unique female voice — making films when women were edged out of production houses, and showcasing complex female characters in a rampant era of narrow female tropes. She straddled the line between what was commonly accepted as fiction and nonfiction, defying the boundaries of gender and reality.
In a remembrance of Varda’s substantial body of work, MNFF will present a special screening of her second feature, “Cléo from 5 to 7,” on Friday, Aug. 23, at 1:30 p.m., in Twilight Hall on the Middlebury College campus. On the surface, “Cléo from 5 to 7,” may seem simple: it’s a real-time portrait of a singer, Cléo, who wanders the streets of Paris awaiting a potential cancer diagnosis. She distracts herself by visiting old friends, working on a short film and going for a wander in the park. A lively record of early-’60s Paris, this multilayered French New Wave classic is also a profound reflection on the inner life of a woman fearing death.  The film will be introduced by film scholar Kathryn Hearst. 
The 2019 MNFF will roll out Aug. 22-25, across five screens in Middlebury. Fest Passes are available for purchase through Aug. 25. Individual advance ticket sales begin Aug. 5. Visit middfilmfest.org for more information.

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