EASTON — The Chesapeake Film Festival returns from Sept. 23 to 26 for its fourth year, with screenings of more than two dozen films at venues in Easton, Cambridge and, for the first time, Chestertown and Chesapeake College.
Each year, members of the CFF board of directors and advisory committee travel to film festivals across the country, including the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, and South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, to scout films and network with filmmakers and producers—all in effort to bring the best in independent film to the Eastern Shore.
“Not all of us can go to Sundance. Not all of us can go to South by Southwest,” said Liza Moore, the festival’s filmmaker liaison. “But somebody from the committee will go, and they actually can bring them back here. So you’re getting that same experience.”
The CFF slogan is “Watch. Think. Discuss.”
“We are a community hub, and in a way, we can be like a community book club,” said Doug Sadler, one of the festival’s founders and its artistic director. “We can really elevate the community and the dialogue, because there’s a shared experience hopefully. People see the same film, experience it, and it creates a dialogue.
“And we bring in filmmakers, which is one of the key components, as well as experts and panelists.”
Since the festival began, organizers have worked hard to establish relationships with filmmakers.
“They don't forget that we had one of their first films here when nobody else had necessarily given it such a front position,” Moore said. “And they stay in touch, and they bring their friends, and they want to support.”
The festival’s setting is another part of its appeal.
“People who come, whether they’re filmmakers or actors or people coming just to go to the festival, they fall in love with where we live,” said festival director Rhonda Thomson. “They love the Eastern Shore, and they want to come back.”
|Dennis Farina is shown in a scene from "The Last Rites of Joe May," the opening night film of the 2011 Chesapeake Film Festival, which is set for Sept. 23 through 26. Farina and writer-director Joe Maggio will appear at the festival.|
Writer-director Joe Maggio, whose film “Bitter Feast” showed at the 2010 festival, is one of those who is returning. This year, he has the opening night slot for his latest picture, “The Last Rites of Joe May.”
“I’m thrilled and honored to be returning ...,” Maggio said. “In my opinion, CFF’s got it all. Great town, great venues and some of the smartest programming of any festival in North America.”
“The Last Rites of Joe May” depicts the last days in the life of an aging hustler (Dennis Farina), who continues to believe a glorious destiny awaits him.
Farina, whose long list of credits includes films such as “Saving Private Ryan” (1998), “Snatch” (2000) and “Get Shorty” (1995), and the TV series “Law & Order,” will attend the festival.
“If you don’t know him, you will when you see his face. He’s basically a character actor that's been all over the place,” Sadler said. “This is a role that’s created some Oscar discussion already and really is an opportunity for him to shine.”
The closing night film is “Cafeteria Man,” a documentary following Baltimore City Public Schools food service director Tony Geraci’s efforts to replace the school system’s processed foods with nutritious, locally grown, freshly prepared meals. Geraci and director Richard Chisolm plan to attend the festival.
Between opening and closing nights, the schedule is packed with a wide range of films, including the following:
- “Hell and Back Again,” a documentary following 25-year-old Sgt. Nathan Harris, a Marine wounded in Afghanistan. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for documentary, world cinema, at Sundance. Director Danfung Dennis will attend.
- “Band Together,” Chestertown resident Kurt Kolaja’s documentary on the Kent County Community Marching Band. Kolaja brought his previous film, “Charlie Obert’s Barn,” to the festival in 2008.
“‘Band Together’ is a really beautiful, sweet film about all the small-town characters that make up these little groups, and particularly this marching band,” Sadler said, “and I think he’s drawing a larger narrative about how people come together and what holds us together and who we are.
“There’s not a cynical bone in the film’s body, and that's incredibly refreshing both in life as well as in independent film.”
- “Everyday Sunshine,” a documentary on the punk/funk band Fishbone.
- Classics honoring Peter Falk, Sidney Lumet and Elizabeth Taylor, all of whom passed away earlier this year—“A Woman Under the Influence” (Falk, 1974), “Network” (Lumet, 1976) and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (Taylor, 1966).
- “The Great McGinty,” the 1940 Preston Sturges comedy, with special guest Sheila Lanahan of Oxford, who appeared in the film as an 11-year-old girl.
- “Bull Durham” (1988), the baseball comedy starring Kevin Costner.
Star Democrat cartoonist/columnist Rick Kollinger will host this screening as a result of his back-and-forth banter with festival organizers on the newspaper’s editorial pages, during which he accused the festival of being elitist and they invited him to select a movie to be shown.
“It should be a lot of fun. He’s been a very good sport,” Sadler said.
- A collection of animated short films from the New York International Children’s Film Festival, including several award-winners.
These are “really remarkable, beautiful, animated films for kids that you’re just not going to see anywhere else,” Sadler said.
- “A Cat in Paris,” an award-winning animated feature from the New York International Children’s Film Festival.
- “Budrus,” a documentary about a Palestinian leader who unites Fatah, Hamas and Israelis in a nonviolent effort to save his village.
- “Meek’s Cutoff,” a Western set in the early days of the Oregon Trail, starring Michelle Williams and Bruce Greenwood.
- “The Lie,” in which a fib told to get out of work for a day dramatically changes a man’s life. Written and directed by, and starring Joshua Leonard.
“I think we’ve done a beautiful job this year,” Sadler said of the 2011 slate of films. “Our team is strong and growing stronger.”
Though having a full-time staff is a goal, the festival remains a volunteer effort.
“There are a lot of people that have put a lot of energy into birthing and growing this event. I think there’s a lot of potential,” Sadler said. “Obviously, when they started a film festival in a little, tiny town called Park City, Utah, they had no idea—no idea.
“I’m not saying that we want to grow to that, but I think there’s a beautiful possibility here. ... I think this is a gem, and I think it can bloom."
Tickets for most individual films are $10 for adults and $8 for students. Passes for the entire festival are available, as well. For tickets, the full schedule, venue locations and more information, visit www.chesapeakefilmfestival.com.