New filmmakers to showcase works in Concord

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    A scene from "Pony." —Courtesy

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    A scene from "Walk With Me." —Courtesy

  • A scene from “Phil’s Camino,” a short film being screened this weekend at Red River Theatres as part of the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival tour. Courtesy photos

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    A scene from "The Guys Next Door." —Courtesy

  • A scene from “The Best and Worst Days of George Morales’ Unnaturally Long Life,” a short film that will be shown during the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival’s New England tour. Courtesy

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    A scene from "Broke." —Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 3/8/2017 5:43:09 PM

Last August, the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival held its second showcase of first- and second-time filmmakers.

Now, organizers are taking the top films on the road for a tour of New England; Concord’s Red River Theatres will be the first stop in a six-state tour on Saturday.

The festival will pair the top three feature-length films with the top three shorts from the festival. At 2 p.m. Saturday, you can watch the feature Broke paired with the short The Best and Worst Days of George Morales’ Unnaturally Long Life. At 5 p.m., view The Guys Next Door with the short Pony. Then at 8 p.m., see Walk With Me paired with the short Phil’s Camino.

The six films are winners of VTeddys, the festival’s version of an Oscar, which are custom-made by the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, one of the festival’s sponsors.

“We set the bar pretty high,” said festival producer Lloyd Komesar, a retired Disney film distribution executive.

A committee judges films based on qualities such as having a unique viewpoint, a clear directorial style and command of craft with good editing and believable acting, Komesar said.

“We’re all about new filmmakers,” Komesar said. The festival only allows submissions and curates films that are the first or second creation by a director.

In addition to two sets of winning filmmakers, veteran filmmaker Jay Craven will act as host. He was invited by Komesar in 2013 to be artistic director for the festival after making a deprecating joke about Hollywood at an independent film screening in Brandon, Vt. Komesar, a retired Hollywood executive, agreed with him.

“We’re sort of an odd couple,” Craven said.

Craven curates the films that appear in the festival, culling some 400 submissions to about 60 and finding about a dozen others to screen. He is not part of the judging process, but does okay the final line-up that goes on tour.

Filmmakers Jesse Nesser, Amy Geller and Alie Humenek will be attending the Concord screenings with their films and have a question-and-answer period after their respective screening.

Geller and Humenek created the documentary The Guys Next Door, which follows Erik and Sandro, a gay couple whose neighbor, Rachel, volunteers to be a surrogate twice for their two daughters.

Nesser also created a documentary, Walk With Me: The Trials of Damon J. Keith, looking at the life of a 94-year-old, still-active Detroit federal judge.

Nesser first met Keith when he was hired to film him for a two-minute video promoting the judge’s book online.

“But the judge doesn’t tell two-minute stories,” Nesser said.

Nesser said he looked over Keith’s biography and saw the influential cases ruled on the involvement with the civil rights movement and saw a story needing to be recorded.

Keith worked with civil rights giants, including former South African president Nelson Mandela, but is still alive to tell his story, Nesser said. He ruled that Richard Nixon’s attorney general had to disclose transcripts of illegal wiretaps. His decision contributed to Jimmy Carter’s signing of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

“By the end of the movie, you’ll see how relevant his cases are,” Nesser said.

Keith first saw a rough cut of the film at an event held in honor of his birthday, the director said. “His reaction was very positive.”

Nesser explained that during the filming, they’d taken Keith to different locations to tell different stories from his life. At the time, he didn’t really understand why.

After viewing the film, he could see how it fit together, Nesser said of Keith, adding that the judge’s understanding was gratifying for him as a director.

The documentary is Nesser’s second film, his first outside of college and with a crew and budget.

Craven has screened his own films at Red River Theaters for years.

“I’ve played my films in Concord way back to 1994,” he explained. His first feature film was screened at an art house run by Red Rivers’ programming consultant, Barry Steelman.

Komesar said Red River Theatres was selected as the New Hampshire venue due to its commitment to independent cinema.

“We’re just delighted to kick off this whole tour at Red Rivers,” he said.

“Red River Theatres is excited to host the first stop of the New England tour of the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival,” said Katie Mosher, Red River Theater’s events manager. “We have partnered with Jay Craven on a number of screenings in the past, and we are looking forward to another great collaboration. This is our first film festival in the Simchik Cinema and we think it is going to really showcase the space as an intimate and glamorous venue.”

The New England tour is a unique feature of the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival. Komesar explained that with new filmmakers, getting wider exposure is particularly important.

“The tour is a distinctive part of our commitment to new filmmakers,” he said.

As a director, Nesser said he appreciated the attention new filmmakers get at the festival.

“They give us, as first-time filmmakers, the same respect as veterans,” Nesser said. The tour, which pays to screen the films, is an added bonus.

“They are way ahead of their game there,” Nesser said.

Tickets to each pair of shows are $12.

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