Op/Ed

Editorial: MNFF hit it out of the park!

ANGELO LYNN

This year’s Middlebury New Filmmaker’s Festival knocked it out of the park. Numbers were up in every category: number of film submissions, number of films shown at the festival, number of countries represented, number of filmmakers who attended the festival, number of community businesses and individuals involved in sponsoring the event, hosting parties, and hosting filmmakers in their homes.

Throughout the five-day festival, Middlebury’s downtown was hopping with activity from 9 a.m. till well into the evening, with Saturday’s affair featuring dancing at 51 Main until almost midnight — a rare occurrence for any non-student crowd in our fair town, which normally is zipped up not long past 9:30 p.m. That, in itself, demonstrates the kind of exciting energy the festival brings to Middlebury for this annual festival, which just completed its ninth year.

The appeal of the festival for many is to see films that tackle provocative topics in unique ways with a focus on documentaries, but also feature length films that may never go mainstream, but which are inventive, tightly written and tell a compelling human story. 

Of the more than 125 films presented at the festival’s five venues, out of 508 submissions, even the most avid filmgoer couldn’t see more than a few handfuls, leaving attendees eager to pursue the films they didn’t see — but heard about from others at the festival — on other venues. 

According to MNFF co-producer Lloyd Komesar, there are various ways to see some of the films that were missed. 

“A good selection of our feature films,” he told me, “do obtain some sort of distribution and become available for rent or digital sale on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, etc.  Some may also become available in DVD or BluRay. Additionally, some feature films may end up on a streaming platform like Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon Prime or Hulu. It really depends on the deal reached between the filmmaker and the distributor.”

One path to know where a film might be distributed, he said, is on a website called JustWatch, https://www.justwatch.com/us. “It is very well curated and highly specific,” he said, adding there is also a JustWatch app you can download to your phone.

Short films, he said, typically do not get formal distribution, but can be found on Vimeo or YouTube.

If you didn’t make it to this year’s MNFF, mark out the next to last week of August 2024 on your calendar right now and plan to take in a few of what are sure to be amazing films for the MNFF’s 10th season. And here’s a tip: buy the festival pass early. Many shows during the evening were sold out, allowing festival passholders admission for early seating, while those hoping to buy tickets for a specific film had to stand in line hoping there would be an open seat. 

Such success is a testament to the festival’s appeal, which, again this year, received gushing praise from the filmmakers who attended Sunday night’s closing ceremonies. Time and again the filmmakers praised the festival organizers for their attention to detail, great venues, swag bags, wonderful hosts who housed some of the filmmakers in their homes, and, in general a community that exhibited a friendliness and warmth they had rarely seen.

With those types of comments coming from so many, it’s a festival that is gaining national and international recognition quickly and will put the greater Middlebury-area on the map as a film-festival mecca with all the economic and cultural benefits that may bring. Kudos to the MNFF team for an amazing 9th year, and thanks for all the hard work it takes to put on a first-class show!

Angelo Lynn

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