By Xander Landen Sentinel Staff
April 21, 2017
A red carpet and posts attached with a rope ran from under the marquee of The Colonial Theatre in Keene and out onto Main Street.
Dozens of moviegoers, some dressed to the nines, strolled along the carpet to enter the theater for the opening night of the fifth annual Monadnock International Film Festival.
The festival’s kickoff drew in viewers from throughout the state, including Dan Deering, 36, of Somersworth. They came to see “I, Daniel Blake,” a film by esteemed director Ken Loach.
A filmmaker himself, Deering said there wasn’t one particular film or director he came to see at the four-day event. There wasn’t one particular reason, at all, that brought him to the festival.
“It’s a film festival. You don’t need an excuse to go to a film festival,” he said. “You go to a film festival for the love of art and the love of artists.”
This year, MONIFF will feature 27 films from directors who come from around the world, as well as in and around New England. The directors hail from countries including Spain and Hungary and states, such as Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts.
One of the 16 short films scheduled to screen this morning focuses on a subject that’s even closer to home: “Draft Gratitude” is about a small, all-volunteer nonprofit organization in Winchester by the same name that rescues old farming horses.
This year’s festival received 105 film submissions — up from 60 last year, according to Dianna Costello, who has been the executive director of MONIFF since 2016.
That’s in part because the festival started using a website widely used by film festivals, filmfreeway.com, to accept submissions, Costello said.
She added that one of her goals for MONIFF since she began running the festival has been to expand its scope.
MONIFF has started hosting monthly film screenings at the Peterborough Community Theatre and hosted an Oscars party at Waxy O’Connor’s Irish Pub & Restaurant in Keene this year.
“My vision was to make it into a yearlong cultural resource and not just a three-day festival that people forget about for the rest of the year,” Costello said.
Keene resident Jeff Kolter, 33, who has been to past Monadnock International Film Festivals, said the event is a boon for Keene’s creative community.
He said he’s also glad to see art collectives such as Machina Arts and Make It So: The Monadnock Makerspace pop up in recent years. However, he believes that in general, there aren’t enough outlets for artists in the area.
“There’s a lot of creative culture … that seems not to be able to express itself in this town,” he said.
But you wouldn’t think that with some of the fashion statements festival-goers made Thursday night.
Bob E. Kelly of Rindge wore a blue, gray, red and white striped kilt and a suit jacket over a tuxedo shirt and bow tie.
A film lover, Kelly has been to all of the Monadnock International Film Festivals. He has also worked in film production; he was an assistant producer on a short film titled “Glowworm,” which will show at the Philadelphia Independent Film Festival April 26.
Until recently, Kelly said, he had always wanted a kilt. Then he finally got one.
“At Christmastime, I said, ‘I’m buying myself a kilt; that’s all there is to it,’ ” he said.
A 77-year-old man who said he goes by only his last name, Schultz, sported a purple tie and scarf.
He said he likes to dress up for the festival and has every year since the event came to Keene five years ago.
“I wore my tux the first night. I kind of went wild,” he said of the first MONIFF in 2013.
Costello said she’s proud of the festival’s lineup.
This year will include films about the state of civil rights in the U.S., a Holocaust survivor and gay rights.
The film whose director won the festival’s top honor, the Jonathan Daniels Award, tells the story of the first girls’ school in a rural village in Afghanistan. “What Tomorrow Brings” (2015) was directed by Massachusetts-based filmmaker Beth Murphy and will be shown at the festival Saturday at 7:45 p.m. The screening will be followed with a Q&A with Murphy, moderated by N.H. Public Radio’s Virginia Prescott.
The festival’s films will screen at The Colonial Theatre in Keene today and Saturday. On Sunday, the Peterborough Community Theatre will show selected short films from the festival as well as “What Tomorrow Brings,” starting at 2 p.m.
A panel featuring directors of the festival’s short films will be held today at 1:15 p.m in The Hannah Grimes Center on Roxbury Street. On Saturday, a panel of the festival’s feature film directors will be held in the center at 3:15 p.m.
Festival after-parties are scheduled at the Keene Country Club tonight and Fireworks Restaurant Saturday night.