Arts & Leisure

Midd New Filmmakers Fest goes on tour Feb. 3-6

The Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival (MNFF) will resume its statewide Vermont tour, following a two year hiatus. Two top films from its 2021 7th Annual Festival will screen in six towns across the state on the expanded weekend of Feb. 3-6.

The two feature documentaries that will screen on tour are the award-winning “Storm Lake” and the acclaimed “The Ants & The Grasshopper.” 

“Storm Lake,” directed by Beth Levison and Jerry Risius, was the celebrated Opening Night film at the 7th Annual Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival this past August. “The Ants & The Grasshopper,” directed by Raj Patel and Zak Piper, was the popular Closing Night film at the Festival, where it was introduced by environmental activist Bill McKibben,

“Storm Lake” tells the compelling story of 63-year-old Pulitzer-prize winning editor Art Cullen and his family-run newspaper, The Storm Lake Times, in Storm Lake, Iowa. Twice weekly, week-in and week-out, the Cullens deliver local news and biting editorials on a shoestring budget for their 3,000 readers. In the face of significant long-term economic challenges in western Iowa and the added stress of the pandemic, the paper fights to preserve its editorial integrity, shore up its finances and bolster the quiet community the Cullens call home. An intimate and revealing chronicle of local journalism in rural America, featuring the charismatic Art Cullen, his brother and publisher John, Art’s wife, Dolores and Art’s son, Tom, “Storm Lake” is a living and breathing documentary that lets its central characters tell their essential story. 

Director Levison, multiple Emmy Award winner and a graduate of Middlebury College, will accompany the film and participate in Q&A sessions at several tour stops.

“The Ants & The Grasshopper” focuses on Anita Chitaya, an extraordinary woman from Malawi, who has a marvelous gift: she can help bring abundant food from dead soil, she can make men fight for gender equality and she can end child hunger in her village. Now, to save her home from extreme weather, she faces her greatest challenge: persuading Americans that climate change is real. Traveling from Malawi to California to the White House, she meets climate skeptics and despairing farmers. Her journey takes her across all the divisions shaping the United States, from the rural-urban divide, to schisms of race, class and gender, to the thinking that allows Americans to believe that we live on a different planet from everyone else. It will take all her skill and experience to persuade us that we are all in this together. “The Ants & The Grasshopper,” a documentary 10 years in the making, weaves together the most urgent themes of our times: climate change, gender and racial inequality, the gaps between the rich and the poor and the ideas that groups around the world have generated in order to save the planet.

Directed by Raj Patel, New York Times best-selling author and currently teaching at the University of Texas, and Zak Piper, Emmy Award-winning producer and director, “The Ants & The Grasshopper” has often been described as a film that genuinely embodies the impact of social activism.

The MNFF Vermont Tour will stop in Putney on Friday, Feb. 4 for a screening of Storm Lake at 7 p.m., and then again on Sunday, Feb. 6 for a screening of “The Ants & The Grasshopper” at 5 p.m., with both films showing at Next Stage Arts, a continuing Vermont Tour partner venue and a leading arts presenter in the region. 

Levison will attend and participate in a Q&A session following the screening, moderated by MNFF Artistic Director Jay Craven.

Other Vermont Tour venues and dates include: 

Thursday, Feb. 3 — Burlington’s Main Street Landing Film House

Saturday, Feb. 5 — Rutland’s Paramount Theatre and Woodstock’s Billings Farm and Museum

Sunday, Feb. 6 — Randolph’s Playhouse Theatre and Dover’s MHCA Dover Cinema and Arts. 

The films and screening times will vary at each venue. Complete MNFF Vermont Tour information, including film trailers, can be found at COVID-19 protocols for each venue can be found on their individual websites. 

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