Preview: The 3rd Annual Berkshire International Film Festival
BIFF founder Kelley Vickery at The Triplex
If you play “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” with Kelley Vickery, it’s pretty certain she will win. As the founder and director of the 3rd annual Berkshire International Film Festival (BIFF), she’s watched almost every one of the actor’s 60 films to prepare the tribute to him that will take place at the Mahaiwe Theater in Great Barrington on Friday May 16. “He’s had such an amazing career when you think about it—beginning with Animal House and Diner through Apollo 13 and The Woodsman,” she says. “I really like the idea of honoring someone with a connection to our region.” (Bacon and his wife, actress Krya Sedgwick have long had a house in Sharon, CT, and his band, the Bacon Brothers, often gives benefit concerts in the region.)
Vickery has managed to organize a world-class festival with a hometown sensibility. For instance, she’s arranged for Douglas Trumbull of Southfield, MA, who created the special effects for the groundbreaking Blade Runner in 1982, to speak before a screening of the new digital edition (trailer below) of director Ridley Scott’s cult classic on Sunday May 18.
“He’s one of the legends in his field,” says Vickery. “He has a wonderful presentation that he’ll do.” She’s excited that BIFF’s finale will be Frozen River—the story of an upstate New York woman who smuggles illegal immigrants from Canada into the United States through a Mohawk Indian Reservation—which was written and directed by Courtney Hunt of Chatham, NY.
A film festival, she explains, is about celebrating films you might not normally get to see as well as schmoozing and networking. She has worked hard to make BIFF serious and fun, glamorous and accessible. “I just got permission to close down Railroad Street on opening night,” she says. “We’re going to have a free dance party on the street from 9 P.M. to midnight with a local Brazilian band, Berkshire Bateria. And if it rains, we’ll have it in Pearl’s.” Other parties and dinners are only open to ticket-holders who’ve purchased the $250 or $500 passes, which are still available. BIFF has already sold out all of its $100 movies-only passes, which is why now is the time to buy tickets for individual films before they sell out, too. “We’re developing a reputation,” she says. “Seventy percent of our sales are to people from outside the Berkshires.”
A mother of three—Kaitlin, 14, Andrew, 12, and Jack, 10—Vickery enjoys taking her children to to Tanglewood and Jacob’s Pillow, but felt that there was a gap in their cultural education, which was one of the inspirations for the festival. “We have so much dance, theater and music in the Berkshires and I thought that movies deserved to be celebrated too,” she says, adding that the affordability of tickets ($10) makes BIFF family friendly. Indeed, BIFF reaches out to the community all year long and hosts a free 11 AM screening at The Triplex on the first Sunday of every month. (This Sunday’s film is the documentary Single about the 100 million unmarried adults in the U.S., and the filmmakers will host a Q&A after the screening.)
The weekend before Memorial Day has turned out to be ideal time for the event. “The summer crowds have not yet shown up so the restaurants and shops are happy for the extra business,” she says. “It’s really become the kick-off for the cultural season.”