BIFF Thinks Globally, Presents Locally
The Berkshire International Film Festival, running May 31 – June 3, takes the international part of its name seriously. For her seventh annual Festival, founder Kelley Vickery has slated more than 70 independent films from more than 15 countries, from Estonia to Tanzania.
BIFF’s global scope also encompasses talent and subjects much closer to home. Among the Festival’s three major documentaries, two focus on local artists. Following the opening night screening of Ethel, Rory Kennedy’s feature-length portrait of her mother, Ethel Kennedy, on Thursday, May 31, Friday night’s agenda includes a screening of the documentary Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present—and indeed, she will be. Abramović, who is creating her Center for the Preservation of Performing Arts in Hudson, will attend and participate in a post-screening Q&A.
The Festival closes on Sunday, June 3, with a screening of Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters, a documentary focused on the photographer’s extensive work in the Berkshires producing his acclaimed cinematic photographic series, Beneath the Roses. Both Crewdson (above, with Festival founder Vickery) and director Ben Shapiro spent a good deal of their childhood summers at their families’ Berkshire vacation homes, and Crewdson now works from a studio at his own home outside of Great Barrington. This is the only screening of the film at which Crewdson will speak, in a panel that also includes Shapiro and Joe Thompson, executive director of MASS MoCA, where many of the images in Beneath the Roses were produced. A good portion of the film’s crew will also be in attendance.
Nestled between these blockbusters, other documentaries with local links have found a place on the Festival’s roster, particularly among the three programs of shorts. Within Shorts #1 is Leon Smith: A Life of Art, Jay Corcoran’s 14-minute film about the life and work of this 78-year-old Ancramdale sculptor.
In Shorts #2, another Berkshire-based artist finds himself on the other side of the lens. For all of eight minutes, Ken Regan: Rock Photographer puts the focus on the man who produced iconic images of every rock star from Bob Dylan to George Harrison, to the Rolling Stones and The Band. On Saturday afternoon, Berkshire resident Regan will be signing copies of his new book, All Access: The Rock & Roll Photography of Ken Regan, in the lobby of The Triplex Cinema.
Shorts #3 includes Mondays at Racine, a 40-minute documentary about a beauty parlor offering complimentary services to women undergoing chemotherapy. The film’s director, Berkshire-based filmmaker Cynthia Wade, who won an Academy Award in 2008 for her short documentary Freeheld, will be in attendance at the screenings, as will the film’s subjects and much of its crew.
Tracking back to feature-length documentaries, Lemon earns a place among Festival films with local ties. Filmmaker Beth Levison, who grew up in Pittsfield, co-directed this portrait of Tony Award-winning Puerto Rican slam poet Lemon Andersen and his struggles to forge a better life life for himself through his talent and creativity. The filmmakers will be in attendance.
And for an international film with a local angle, check out the German feature Wunderkinder, the story of three children, bound by their passion for music, who are swept up in the Holocaust. Lenox resident Stephen Glantz, a member of the Berkshire Film and Media Commisson’s board of directors, is one of Wunderkinder’s four screenwriters. This film has already racked up scores of awards on the international festival circuit; its BIFF screenings offer a rare opportunity for local audiences to see one of Glantz’s films, which also include the German features Babij Jar, The Last Train, and the upcoming If Stones Could Cry, which is scheduled to be shot in September. Glantz will attend the screenings of his film. —Bess J.M. Hochstein
The 7th Annual Berkshire International Film Festival
May 31 - June 3
Screenings at The Mahaiwe and The Triplex Cinema in Great Barrington, and at the Beacon Cinema in Pittsfield