When the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival (MNFF) kicks off its fourth season on Thursday, August 23, it will do so with a distinct Middlebury College flavor. The festival’s opening night film, a documentary titled Personal Statement, was produced by Beth Levison ’91 and is one of 11 films written, directed, or produced by Middlebury alumni chosen to be screened over the course of the four-day event.
“We were pleased to receive so many interesting films from the Middlebury College community,” said MNFF founder and producer Lloyd Komesar. “We are delighted to share a truly impressive selection of work by its talented alumni.
The festival drew nearly 500 film submissions from around the world for consideration, Komesar added, making this season the most competitive of MNFF’s young history. Founded by the former Disney executive in 2015 to showcase up-and-coming filmmaking talent, the festival has become an end-of-summer highlight in the town of Middlebury, drawing crowds of film lovers to screenings and special events featuring not only the new filmmakers but also Hollywood veterans.
The additional College-affiliated films include the following:
A Murder in Mansfield, a documentary produced by John Morrissey ’72, which tells the story of a man who overheard his father murder his mother when he was 12 years old and is now ready to confront his father in prison—30 years after the fact. The film screens in Dana Auditorium at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, August 24.
Man Made, a documentary directed by T Cooper ’94 that follows the lives of four transgender men as they compete in the only all-trans bodybuilding competition in the world. This extraordinary film—which arrives in Vermont having won the jury award for Best Documentary Feature at the Atlanta Film Festival—will screen on Friday, August 24, in Twilight Hall at 1:30 p.m.
Rust Creek, a feature thriller written by Julie Lipson ’07 that hearkens back to the “backwoods mayhem” thriller/horror genre. The film screens in the main theater at the Marquis at 1:30 on Saturday, August 25.
Moroni for President, a documentary directed by Saila Huusko ’10 that captures Moroni Benally’s run for the president of the Navajo Nation, the largest Native American nation in the United States. Described as an “eye-opening and humorous portrait of a political race” featuring a protagonist who is young, gay, Mormon, and prepped with a degree in public policy, the doc will screen on Friday, August 24, at the Marquis Theater at 7:15.
For the Love of Mary, a documentary short directed, produced, and written by Simon Perkins ’05 and Kirk Horton ’17, which traces a 97-year-old runner’s attempt to compete in a grueling 7.6-mile race to the summit of Mount Washington, the tallest mountain peak in the Northeast. The film screens in the main theater at the Marquis at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, August 23.
Rodney, an animation short directed by recent grad Will Lupica ’18 should be a crowd-pleaser for all ages—once they meet the protagonist, a penguin trying very hard to make it in the human world. The film screens at the Marquis Theater at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, August 24.
Lily, a narrative short directed by Danilo Herrera ’18 that introduces a couple re-thinking life plans after touring an assisted-living home. The film screens in the main theater at the Marquis at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, August 25.
Paleonaut, written and director by Eric McEver, is a narrative short about time travel. McEver attended Middlebury’s Japanese School in 2007 and 2009, and his film features a pair of Japanese lead actors. The film screens on Friday, August 24, at 1:30 p.m. at the Marquis Theater.
Wild and Precious is a documentary that narrates 60 years of one man’s journey of gay liberation. The film is produced by Bjorn Peterson ‘15; its cinematographer is Tommy Hyde ‘14. The doc is part of a triple header that screens in the main theater at the Marquis on Thursday, August 23, beginning at 10:30 a.m.
And Meeting George, a documentary short directed by Matt Lennon ’13, which features the filmmaker’s quest to learn more about his father in the years after his sudden death in 2006. The film screens in the main theater at the Marquis at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, August 23.
Then the festival will conclude in much the same way it began: with a special event featuring a Middlebury graduate. On Sunday, August 26, music composed by Matt LaRocca ’02 and performed by the Vermont Symphony Orchestra (VSO) will accompany a new film directed by Robin Starbuck. The arrangement is the product of a collaboration by the VSO and MNFF, in which a filmmaker who is deemed to best integrate music into his or her work is awarded with an original composition for the filmmaker’s next film; Starbuck received the award in 2017. Her collaboration with LaRocca will have its world premiere at Robison Hall in the Mahaney Center for the Arts on August 26 at 1:00 p.m.