Lights. Camera. Action -June 2011

by: Joshua H. Balling

The annual festival devoted to celebrating the art of screenwriting has added an extra day this year, opening on Wednesday and running through Sunday, when it will close with Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut “Higher Ground,” in which the Oscar-nominated actress also stars.

The festival will present its highest-profile award, the Screenwriters Tribute, to Paul Haggis (“Crash”). Past winners have included Walter Bernstein, Charlie Kaufman, Steve Martin, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Harold Ramis, Judd Apatow and Barry Levinson.

Venues will include Nantucket High School, the Starlight Theater and Cafe, the Sconset Casino and others.

“After last year’s success, it was inevitable that we would need to expand the festival’s length and scope to accommodate the growing interest,” executive director Colin Stanfield said. “Along with the later dates (the festival has traditionally been held at least a week earlier in June) allowing more families to attend after the school year wraps, the festival stands to help bring more people to the island and in turn positively affect local business economically.”

Haggis is the first screenwriter in Hollywood history to write two Best Film Academy Award winners back to back: “Million Dollar Baby,” directed by Clint Eastwood, and “Crash,” which Haggis also directed.

“Mr. Haggis’ films and television projects have given us a wide array of tales spanning over two decades,” festival artistic director Mystelle Brabbée said. “His work has run the gamut from intrigue to thrilling to heart-breaking, and we are thrilled to present him with our Screenwriting Tribute this year.”

The festival is also bringing back its New Voices in Screenwriting award, to be presented to Ben Queen, the “Cars 2” screenwriter.

The second opening-night film is the Sundance award-winner “Buck,” a docu- mentary on the life of famed horse-trainer Buck Brannaman.


This year’s festival will include at least one entry with truly local ties: Kit Noble’s vivid homage to the island’s scenic beauty, “Nantucket by Nature.”
Noble, a professional photographer and filmmaker who divides his time between Nantucket and Stamford, Conn., spent a year shooting the island’s seascapes, landscapes and natural habitat in all four seasons, and has crafted a richly-textured and graceful 45-minute montage backed by a score recorded by island musicians Jamie Howarth, Dave Provost, Mollie Glazer, Matthew Hutchinson, Caleb Cressman, Tom Stoddart, Jeff Carlson and Chuck Collie.
“‘Nantucket by Nature’ was born of a confluence of circumstances. I felt there was a strong need for a motion-picture ‘tribute’ to this remarkable island. I was shocked that there wasn’t one. I was inspired, like most artists on Nantucket, by the natural beauty and amazing quality of light,” Noble said.

“Once I began the project, I was continually amazed at how much Nantucket had to offer. The island delivers.

“I’m thrilled with the finished piece. It’s even better than I had envisioned. I’m hoping to inspire Nantucket lovers to discover areas of the island they might not be aware of and show people who have not visited the island what they are missing.”

“Nantucket By Nature” will also be shown throughout the summer at the Starlight Theatre.

Other spotlight films at this year’s festival include “Bobby Fisher Against the World,” a documentary exploring the nature of genius, madness and the game of chess itself; Berlin Film Festival Best Feature winner “On the Ice,” about two teens who try to get away with mur- der on the snow-covered tundra of Barrow, Alaska; “Point Blank,” a thriller that follows a man as he races against time to save his preg- nant wife; and “One Lucky Elephant,” another film with a star many Nantucketers may be familiar with. It follows Circus Flora’s main attraction Flora the Elephant (the circus appeared on Nantucket for several years to benefit the Atheneum library) after she loses her zest for performing, and chronicles the search to find her a new home.

Also returning this year will be Late Night Storytelling. Participants include five surprise guests as well as audience members. Past storytellers included Ben Stiller, Jim Carrey, Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman, Mos Def, Rosie Perez, Cheryl Hines, Laird Hamilton, Olympia Dukakis, Paul Rudd, Alan Cumming, Fisher Stevens, Brian Williams and Jonathan Ames.

The festival will also once again host the All-Star Comedy Roundtable presented by Ben Stiller. The annual event sees a discussion on the art of comedy with some of today’s leading funnymen and funnywomen. Past participants included Stiller, Zach Galifianakis, Andy Samberg, Sarah Silverman, Harold Ramis, Peter Farrelly, John Hamburg and more.

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