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.

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.

Mar 032013

First Friday last week was a success, and the activity doesn’t end for March. It is only beginning!  The 6th annual all-documentary Salem Film Fest will be held March 7 – March 14 at CinemaSalem (with a few presentations at the Peabody Essex Museum, see full list below).

This is the largest All-Documentary Festival in New England, representing 32 feature length films. And— two-thirds of filmmakers plan to not only attend but also engage in post-screening dialogues.

This year’s fest kicks off at the Peabody Essex Museum with the world premiere of  THE GHOST ARMY about a top-secret WWII unit that used inflatable tanks, sound trucks and other clever tactics to impersonate U.S. Army units and deceive Hitler’s legions. Q&A with Lexington filmmaker Rick Beyer and local heroes who served during WWII will follow.

The Salem Film Fest is also proud to host the much-anticipated Salem premiere of WEST OF MEMPHIS that tells the story of Salem resident Damien Echols desperate and extraordinary fight to escape death row. Echols will be on hand for what is sure to be a powerful Q&A.

Salem Film Fest was founded in 2008 by filmmaker Joe Cultrera (HAND OF GOD), local businessman Paul Van Ness (CinemaSalem, Van Ness Creative), the Executive Director of Salem Chamber of Commerce Rinus Oosthoek and others from the community. Run and operated entirely by volunteers, the weeklong festival’s attendance has grown 20 to 25 percent each year.(Mike Otis photo)

For more information about Salem Film Fest including ticket purchase information (some showings may be sold out already) visit, follow Salem Film Fest on Facebook ( and Twitter (@SalemFilmFest).

Screening Locations:
CinemaSalem, 1 India Square Mall, 978-744-1400
Peabody Essex Museum, East India Square (161 Essex Street), 978-745-9500

Screening Schedule:
Thursday, 3/7/13
7:00PM The Ghost Army, Peabody Essex Museum

Friday, 3/8/13
5:00PM Bay of All Saints, Screening Room, CinemaSalem
6:00PM Buzkashi!, Main Theater, CinemaSalem
6:45PM Scarlet Road, Screening Room, CinemaSalem
8:20PM Water Children, Screening Room CinemaSalem
8:30PM West of Memphis, Main Theater, CinemaSalem
10:00PM Radio Unnameable, Screening Room, CinemaSalem

Saturday, 3/9/13
10:00AM Trash Dance, Main Theater, CinemaSalem
10:30AM The Fade, Screening Room, Cinema Salem
12:00PM The Missing Piece: The Truth About The Man Who Stole The Mona Lisa, Main Theater, CinemaSalem
12:30PM Bay of All Saints, Screening Room, CinemaSalem
1:00PM In No Great Hurry – 13 Lessons in Life with Saul Leiter, Peabody Essex Museum
2:30PM Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride, Main Theater, CinemaSalem
2:30PM Scarlet Road, Screening Room, CinemaSalem
3:30PM The World’s Most Fashionable Prison, Peabody Essex Museum
4:45PM Mr. Cao Goes to Washington, Main Theater, CinemaSalem
5:15PM Radio Unnameable, Screening Room, CinemaSalem
5:30PM The World Before Her, Peabody Essex Museum
7:15PM The Fade, Screening Room, CinemaSalem
7:15PM The Big Easy Express, Main Theater, CinemaSalem
7:30PM Poetry of Resilience, Peabody Essex Museum
9:15PM Welcome To The Machine, Main Theater, CinemaSalem
9:45PM Water Children, Screening Room, CinemaSalem

Sunday, 3/10/13
10:00AM Town of Runners, Main Theater, CinemaSalem
10:30AM Radio Unnameable, Screening Room, CinemaSalem
12:15PM Sneak Peek, Main Theater, CinemaSalem
12:45PM Scarlet Road, Screening Room, CinemaSalem
1:00PM Kind Hearted Woman, Peabody Essex Museum
2:30PM Charles Bradley: Soul of America, Main Theater, CinemaSalem
2:45PM The Fade, Screening Room, CinemaSalem
4:00PM FRONTLINE Forum, Peabody Essex Museum
4:45PM Dreams of a Life, Main Theater, CinemaSalem
5:00PM Water Children, Screening Room, CinemaSalem
7:15PM Bay Of All Saints, Screening Room, CinemaSalem
7:20PM Women With Cows, Main Theater, CinemaSalem
7:30PM Poetry of Resilience, Peabody Essex Museum

Monday, 3/11/13 6:00PM Seeking Asian Female, Main Theater, CinemaSalem

Radio Unnameable, Screening Room, CinemaSalem
8:00PM Scarlet Road, Screening Room, CinemaSalem
8:30PM Where Heaven Meets Hell, CinemaSalem

Tuesday, 3/12/13
6:00PM La Camioneta, Main Theater, CinemaSalem
6:30PM Bay Of All Saints, Screening Room, CinemaSalem
8:15PM Call Me Kuchu, Main Theater, CinemaSalem
8:15PM Water Children, Screening Room, CinemaSalem