Festival showcases independent films

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(Host) Movie lovers will find a lot to love, and a lot to talk about, in White River Junction this weekend.

The week-long White River Indie Film Festival wraps up with a two-day feast of independent films.

VPR’s Susan Keese has a preview.

(Ticket taker) “All right one ticket — thank you…”

(Keese) Twenty-eight-year-old filmmaker Tara Wray watches anonymously as moviegoers in the old hotel Coolidge lobby file in to see her film.

It’s called Manhattan Kansas. That’s where Wray grew up, although she lives in the other Manhattan now.

(Wray) “It’s a first person story, my story about my relationship with my mother and how complicated and painful and intense it is and I believe it always will be.”

(Film) “And I think I’m going to come out with guns blazing and have the camera on as soon as I get out of the car. I think that’s a good idea. (music) Here we are. There’s my mom. She’s waving at me.
(Tara) “Hello. Hope you like cameras.”
(Mom) “Oh, darling, pants and shoes.”
(Tara) “Hello.”
(Mom) “You are gorgeous.”

(Keese) Wray trains the camera relentlessly on her mother, an aging free spirit who she believes is mentally ill.

Norwich filmmaker Nora Jacobson, the festival’s program director, says the film sparked strong opinions from the start.

(Jacobson) “There were some people that were against showing it because they were mad, they were mad at Tara for browbeating her mother and then maybe mad at the mother for possibly neglecting her daughter. I mean, they responded to it so personally. It’s also well-made. It’s well-shot. The characters are just really engaging.”

(Keese) Jacobson says this festival isn’t about showing mediocre films that everyone agrees on. The very form, autobiographical first person documentary, is controversial. Some people say anyone can get a camera and start talking.

The festival is showing eight first person films. There’s also a panel discussion on the genre that includes many of the filmmakers.

(Jacobson) “And it’s also going to include a video blogger because we sort of made the connection between first person video documentary and blogging — people using the camera as a means to express themselves.”

(Keese) In Waterbuster, a native American Filmmaker tries to reconnect with his grandmother’s people, who were scattered when a dam destroyed their land.

(Film clip) “We’re on the new Bridge. This is the bridge. Check it out. The water is so pretty! Grandma said there are serpents in that water and if you go in there they will eat you.”

(Keese) The filmmaker, Carlos Peinados, now lives in Quechee. He’s one of a number of Vermont and New Hampshire artists in the festival.

Like The War Tapes by New Hampshire filmmaker Deborah Scranton. It’s a film about New Hampshire National Guardsmen in Iraq. But Jacobson says it’s also a first person film.

(Jacobson) “Because she gave cameras to New Hampshire National Guardsmen and they filmed in Iraq their experiences and they would send the tapes home and she would look at them and as she puts it, sort of directs them through the Internet.”

(Keese) Jacobson says the festival is part of arts renaissance that’s happening in White River. Tara Wray, who’ll be on the first-person film panel, says the gritty old railroad town is better than Brooklyn.

In fact, she’s planning to move to White River Junction, to make her next film.

For VPR Backstage, I’m Susan Keese.

Related Link: WRIF Website

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