Film, opera, and theater — all in one place

The Martha’s Vineyard Film Center entertains the Island year-round.

Labor Day may be behind us, the air is cooler, and the sun is going down earlier, but that doesn’t mean the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center is going into hibernation.

Richard Paradise, founder/executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society, recently spoke with me about what’s in store for us during the next few months: “When you look toward the off-season, we still have some pretty significant signature events. At the end of the month, from Sept. 28 through Oct. 1, we present the singular Manhattan Short Film Festival, which is something I’ve been doing for close to twenty years.”

The MVFC will be one of over 500 venues across six continents that are screening the same 10 shorts. At each show, audience members cast ballots for Best Film and Best Actor, with the accumulated scores across the venues determining the winners. The films this year include “Sunless” (U.S.), “Voice Activated” (Australia), “Yellow” (Afghanistan), “Tuulikki” (Finland), “The Family Circus” (U.S.), “Career Day” (U.S.), “Snail” (Iran), “The Record” (Switzerland), “The Stupid Boy” (UK), “and Soleil De Nuit” (Canada). Paradise says, “This is something we’ve been doing for a long, long time back when we were showing films at the Katherine Cornell Theater. It’s become an audience favorite.”

From Oct. 13 through Oct. 15 is the fifth annual Women in Film Festival. There will be six to seven films. Although not a hundred percent confirmed, offerings currently include Meg Ryan’s new film “What Happens Later,” which she wrote and directed, and possibly a Q & A afterward with her. There will also be “Isle of Hope,” starring Diane Ladd, who also might attend. Also currently in the lineup is a documentary, “Joan Baez I Am a Noise,” which follows this living folk legend and activist on her farewell tour. Another film is “Dancing Queen” from Norway, about a 12-year-old girl who falls in love with a famous dancer who moves to her town and auditions for his crew — despite the fact that she cannot dance. Paradise adds, “For the last few years, we have thrown in a special live event on Sunday at 1 pm. This time, it is Jon Stetson, ‘The Mentalist,’ or psychic reader, for a ladies-only show. It’s very unusual. It’s a bit of magic, mysticism, and mind-reading … all with a sense of mystery, humor, and lots of audience interaction.”

Another audience favorite on the Vineyard is The Met: Live in HD, the Metropolitan Opera’s awardwinning series of live high-definition cinema simulcasts, which begins its 17th season on Saturday, Oct. 21, with a live transmission of Jake Heggie’s “Dead Man Walking.” This Met premiere is a new production by Ivo van Hove, starring mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato as Sister Helen Prejean. Two additional company premieres include Anthony Davis’s “X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X,” and Daniel Catán’s “Florencia en el Amazonas,” the company’s first opera in Spanish in nearly a century. There will also be new productions of Bizet’s “Carmen” and Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino” and revivals of Verdi’s “Nabucco,” Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette,” Puccini’s “La Rondine,” and Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly,” as well as an encore presentation of the perennial holiday favorite, Julie Taymor’s “The Magic Flute.”

Starting in October, there will be another broadcast series — National Theater Live, another big draw. It’s captured live and presented later here in the States because of the time difference with London. Seeing theater performances up close on stage is always thrilling. It’s like getting first-row seats no matter where you sit in the Film Center.

For those thirsting for the ski slopes, there will be the 74th annual event by Warren Miller Entertainment on Nov.18. “It’s a film for ski lovers, and we usually do a sweepstakes and it’s a lot of fun,” Paradise says.

He continues, “There will be new releases throughout the autumn, of course, as we roll toward the holidays.”

People who live here year-round or most of the time frequently tell Paradise that the Film Center makes their cultural life in the off-season.

“The Island is filled with so many events in the summer months,” Paradise says. “Still, many of those organizations and activities disappear, just like many restaurants and retail stores go into hibernation because there isn’t a massive group of people.

“But at the Film Center, we continue to do special programming, including community events and school screenings during the academic day aligned with the classroom curriculum.”

They also do events with other nonprofits and community groups, keeping the scene lively. He shares, “We’re very community-oriented, and that’s what brings people back and keeps them engaged with our Film Center. We’re considered a year-round treasure. We’re always here. We never close. We keep the lights on and try to keep it interesting.”

Paradise concludes, “We’re always looking for special collaborations and tie-ins. I’m sure this winter, we’ll come up with new creative ones. You never know what will come across our path.”

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