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Mar 202018
 

The whole world is watching what we do in Salem this month!  Entering its 11th year, we are home to the Salem Film Fest (March 22-29), one of New England’s largest documentary film festivals, which presents a rich and diverse collection of the year’s best work from all over the world.

Just look at the offerings this year.

  • Between Land & Sea: Ireland’s stunning west coast is the setting for this intimate yet epic look at a Big Wave surf community. This is an engaging look at life at land’s end, placing viewers inside colossal waves while emotionally connecting them with the athletes who ride them and the bucolic Irish town whose fortunes are at the mercy of the mighty Atlantic.
  • Becoming Who I Was: In India’s mountainous Ladakh region, a young boy considered the reincarnation of a Tibetan monk and his elderly godfather embark on a grueling trek to return the monk-to-be to his rightful monastery in Tibet. With powerful imagery capturing the natural landscape, this is a stirring exploration of dedication, culture, tradition and identity that conveys the universal truths of unconditional love, family bonds and sacrifice. (photo from Salem Film Fest website)
  • Skid Row Marathon: Craig Mitchell, a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge makes difficult decisions on a daily basis within the criminal justice system. He feels compelled to help change the lives of recovering addicts and convicts he has encountered in his courtroom. Through the long-distance runner’s club of the Midnight Mission on Skid Row, Judge Mitchell befriends and inspires, restoring self-worth and dignity as club members train to compete in international marathons.

When we first started blogging about “a” local city-wide film fest back in 2007, frankly it was an easy write. Some films. Some events. Now it is the world-renowned Salem Film Fest. A lot of films. Diverse. From all over the world. Expressing opinions you may agree with. Or you may not. And a lot of events. So many activities that it is easier to give the you the link to their multi-page website. Just spending time there, you can catch the breadth of this project that began as an idea to do something to highlight the Salem cultural scene.

Dinah Cardin wrote a very informative behind the scenes look at the Salem Film Fest for Northshore magazine last year, explaining that award-winning filmmaker and Salem native Joe Cultrera had just moved back from New York. He was approached with the idea of doing a film festival. In short time, along with CinemaSalem owner Paul Van Ness and Rinus Oosthoek, executive director of the Salem Chamber of Commerce., the beginning of the Salem Film Fest originated.

Cardin wrote that Cultrera crafted a philosophy that centered on creative and unique storytelling without compromise. “The first couple years it felt like we were teaching the local community about how vast, varied, entertaining, and provoking documentaries could be—how they didn’t have to be the boring and preachy stuff you might think they were,” says Cultrera. “I built the programming aesthetic with that in mind—looking for great stories, interesting characters, and strong filmmaking technique.”

Cultrera also devised a model that pays filmmakers to participate and motivates local businesses to become involved as sponsors, underwriting the film of their choice. You can read the article here to see how and why the “process works” to make the Salem Film Fest a success for the filmmakers, the business community and the film attendees.

Events in Addition to Films

The highlight “event” for many attendees is the opportunity to meet visiting filmmakers in intimate settings. Other events include discussions, parties, galas, meet-and-greets, family-friendly screenings, high school and college student film showcases. Although many of these may be free of charge, space may well be limited, so word to the wise— arrive early!

Actually, that is good advice for any of the showings or events. Individual admission tickets for all Salem Film Fest film presentations are priced at $13 for adults, and then $11 for seniors, students, active military and veterans. Tickets may be purchased online or at the Salem Film Fest box office, located adjacent to CinemaSalem in the Museum Place Mall hallway. For more info on individual tickets or Salem Film Fest VIP All Access Film Pass, please go to the Salem Film Fest website.

Come to Salem, see the world — as you may never have seen it before.

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Feb 282016
 

Define a Film Festival? Pictures, performers, people and passion. Now in its 9th year, the Salem Film Fest presents all that and more, running March 3-10. The “and more?” As in previous years, filmmakers are expected to be present for more than half of the screenings, providing audiences with a unique opportunity to learn more about the documentary filmmaking process.

 

Here is a full list of the films along with trailers.

What more could founders filmmaker Joe Cultrera (Hand of God), local businessman Paul Van Ness (CinemaSalem, Van Ness Creative), Executive Director of the Salem Chamber of Commerce Rinus Oosthoek and others from the community ask for? How about a growth rate of 15-25% each year?

SFFLogo_2016BIGRun and operated entirely by volunteers, the week-long festival has become not only a community-wide event, but also one of New England’s largest documentary film festivals, with screenings at CinemaSalem, the Peabody Essex Museum and the National Park Service Salem Visitor Center. Plus, there are filmmaker parties and music events held at venues throughout downtown.

Well-told stories with strong technical elements and interesting visual approaches are what you will find at the 2016 Salem Film Fest. Yes, you could say it is a big deal. We think so. Check out the entire schedule, then mark your calendars. And definitely come to Salem, see the world.

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Feb 032016
 

Ghost ArmyThere is reality and there is perception in life, but in the summer of 1944, camouflaging which was which was the point of an absurd, yet deadly, yet creative ruse being played out during World War II. The details of which were in The Ghost Army, an award winning documentary by Rick Beyer that played to sold out houses at the 2013 Salem Film Fest — and is returning as the Salem Film Fest presents a special screening of The Ghost Army this Thursday at CinemaSalem at 8:15pm. Beyer will be available for a Q&A session.

During World War II, a handpicked group of American GI’s undertook a bizarre mission: create a traveling road show of deception on the battlefields of Europe, with the German Army as their audience. The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops used inflatable rubber tanks, sound trucks, and dazzling performance art to bluff the enemy again and again, often right along the front lines.

Many of the men picked to carry out these dangerous deception missions were artists. Some went on to become famous, including fashion designer Bill Blass. In their spare time, they painted and sketched their way across Europe, creating a unique and moving visual record of their war. Their secret mission was kept hushed up for nearly 50 years after the war’s end.

Beyer has been quoted as saying “The idea that American soldiers in World War II went into battle with inflatable tanks and sound effects records was so bizarre, so contrary to every image from every war movie I’ve ever seen, that it immediately attracted my attention.”

The story will do the same for you.

For more details on the documentary, check out the coverage by PBS and view this excerpt.

For tickets to the showing at CinemaSalem please go to this website.

The Salem Film Fest will return March 3-10, 2016.

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Mar 032015
 

Interaction. There are many factors contributing to Salem Film Fest’s continued growth and worldwide recognition, with interaction between moviegoers and filmmakers being a key element. You can be part of that process March 5-12 when Salem Film Fest is presented in Salem Ma.

Shoulder the LionThis year, 38 films will be showcased by filmmakers representing 10 different countries telling stories from around the world. Of these films, 29 will be making their North American, US, East Coast, New England or Massachusetts premiere.

As self-described on their web page “Salem Film Fest focuses on well-told stories with strong technical elements and interesting visual approaches, each film screened over the week-long schedule represents an immersive aesthetic experience, an opportunity to glimpse the world with fresh eyes, and leave changed as a result.”

It is also an open opportunity for you, the viewer, to speak directly with many of the driving forces of the films to be screened, as more than half of these films will feature Q&As with the filmmakers.

For example, consider this forum topic: Filmmakers often encounter people experiencing difficult life situations while making a film. How does a filmmaker balance respect and empathy for their subjects, while crafting the narrative of their film?

Salem Film FestScreenings will take place at the Peabody Essex Museum and CinemaSalem.

PEM will also host the opening night film and the closing awards ceremony, live music, talks and art making.

For films shown at PEM, tickets may be purchased at the admissions desk, by calling 978-542-1511 or by visiting salemfilmfest.com. Ticket sales at PEM will conclude each day by 4:30 pm. Tickets are also available through CinemaSalem (in-person box office or at cinemasalem.com).

(Photo from Shoulder the Lion, a film focusing on “three artists, three tragedies. The usual story told in a very unusual way.”)

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Feb 242015
 

Film Fest WindowWith the Oscars out of the way, you can now focus up close and personal on the Salem Film Fest (March 5-12). Entering its eighth year, Salem Film Fest is one of New England’s largest documentary film festivals; it attracts submissions and attendees from all over the world.

We’ll have more on the SFF in an upcoming blog, but if you want a sampling of SFF, Creative Salem produced an Oscar worthy profile page. But there is a visual problem with being the home of SFF, and we’ve come up with a solution that requires your assistance.

“The only drawback of a festival like Salem Film Fest,” explains Kylie Sullivan, Salem Main Streets Manager, “is that, by necessity, the vast majority of the action happens behind closed doors. The Film Fest gets bigger and better every year, but sometimes it’s hard to see that if you’re just walking down the street.”

She continues, “Therefore, we started the Film Fest window decorations last year because we wanted people to walk into town and KNOW that there was a film festival in town! In addition, we have many filmmakers and guests from out of town who are exploring the city for the first time during the festival. The Salem community gets so excited for this festival, and we wanted to have a visual representation of that excitement to welcome our visitors.”

Merchants, if you’ve got a downtown storefront window, we want to see your best film-inspired window! While the festival focuses on documentaries, your window does not have to be documentary-specific (windows inspired by Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, or The Avengers are absolutely encouraged).

This year, we will have a jury select a winning window. The winner of the competition will become the underwriter of a single film for the 2016 Salem Film Fest ($300 value)!

As a sign that this is indeed a group effort, if you need some inspiration or materials, Paul Van Ness of CinemaSalem will again be donating old celluloid film and film reels (and popcorn!) to anyone who wants to decorate a window. Stop by the Main Streets / Chamber offices at 265 Essex any time after 12:30 pm for film, popcorn, and Salem Film Fest posters (while they last)!

Participating businesses must notify Salem Main Streets of their interest and have window decorations completed by Friday, Feb. 27. So don’t delay. Any questions should be sent to kylie@salemmainstreets.org or go old school and call 978-744-0004.

(Photo courtesy of Social Palates)

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