Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival announces 2015 selections: Vermont edition

Middlebury, Vermont. . . The Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival is pleased to announce its initial lineup of films with connections to Vermont that will be screened at this summer’s inaugural event. With more than 320 films submitted– three times the number originally expected—the selection process was energizing but challenging. The films profiled in this press release are all connected in some way to Vermont, either created by local artists, about Vermonters, or shot in the state. We are pleased to share these notable films with you, and to announce that our local community will be well represented at this international festival.

“As a Vermont festival,” said MNFF artistic director Jay Craven, “we want to include work by local directors and producers that provides a portrait of the current state of filmmaking in the state. This year’s festival is our first—so I’m pleased that we’ve attracted a solid slate of pictures.  We’ll also stage a number of on-stage festival dialogues and workshops that we hope Vermont filmmakers will attend—both to learn and substantially contribute.”


Sabra / Documentary feature.

Directed by Bill Phillips, visiting Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies at Dartmouth College, Sabra profiles the career of Sabra Field, a Vermont-based print artist.  Phillips describes the documentary as one that “explores Field’s most commonly seen and circulated images – which celebrate American pastoral motifs in New England – and asks why some critics have long dismissed the pastoral as an appropriate subject for contemporary art.”

Bill Phillips is the head of Northern Light Productions and he has written many produced screenplays, including adaptations of both Carolyn Shute’s The Beans of Egypt, Maine, and Stephen King’s Christine, directed by John Carpenter. His adaptation of Peter Maas’ In a Child’s Name was nominated for an Emmy as Best Mini-Series. Mr. Phillips, who also produced and wrote Sabra, will be in attendance at the Festival, alongside Sabra Field herself.

Cowgirls / Documentary short.

Co-directed by Sarah Briggs and Anna Carroll, Cowgirls presents “a portrait of three women at work in the American West” in Hot Springs, South Dakota. Ms. Briggs and Ms. Carroll are both recent graduates of Middlebury College and made the film in their final semester at the College. The short first screened at Middlebury College in January of 2015.

Milk with Dignity  / Documentary short.

This short documentary, directed, written and produced by Middlebury College graduate Molly Stuart, follows Vermont dairy farmworkers’ struggle to “secure their basic human rights and create a more just dairy industry” in the state. The documentary portrays varying first-hand accounts of the frequently difficult ways of life on Vermont dairy farms. The project was also produced in part by Migrant Justice and Middlebury College.

The Land / Documentary Short.

Directed by Vermonter Erin Davis, The Land “is a closely-observed short direct cinema documentary film about the nature of play, risk and hazard among children.  The film is set at The Land, a Welsh “adventure” playground”  where children climb trees, light fires and use hammers and nails in a play-space rooted in the belief that kids are empowered when they learn to manage risks on their own.

In a review of the film, The Atlantic’s Hannah Rosin wrote, “… this film will change everything you think you believe. By you, I mean kids, parents, teachers, city managers, humans. It doesn’t have any overt agenda or philosophizing about overprotective parenting, or a coddled generation. Nonetheless in scene after natural scene the truth becomes obvious: With a little bit of creativity, empathy and guidance, children can be freed to experience a much more fun, adventurous and fulfilling childhood.”

The film premiered at the 2015 Full Frame Documentary Festival. Ms. Davis teaches radio documentary at Middlebury College and will be in attendance at the Festival.

Nasbandi: Conversations about Female Sterilization in Rural India / Documentary Feature.

Filmed in a rural village in India, this documentary features the stories of why –or why not – local women decide to undergo sterilization. The film explores family planning in India with a broader attention to the political and socio-economic factors at play in Indian women’s lives. Co-directed by Anne Munger, a Dartmouth graduate, and Middlebury graduate Zoe Hamilton, class of 2013.

Thaw / Narrative short.

Directed, produced and written by Sheryl Glubok, Thaw follows a disenchanted woman, Maggie Page, as she escapes from her normal life to visit a friend in Vermont for the weekend. After a chance encounter with a musician at a gas station she returns home, only to be greeted with solitude. In a spurt of determination she attends the musician’s show and he returns home with her, “giving Maggie the spark she needs to ignite her creative passion.” Thaw is Ms. Glubok’s second short, and was shot in Vermont.

(T) ERROR / Documentary Feature.

Winner of the Sundance Special Jury Award for Break Out First Feature, and co-directed by Lyric Cabral and David Sutcliff, (T)error follows a counterterrorism informant as he conducts a final terrorist infiltration. Shot over two years, the documentary offers “unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to a counterterrorism sting” and “feels like a political spy novel set in your own hometown” (Sundance). Executive Producer Eugene Jarecki is originally from Waitsfield, Vermont, and is one of only two people to ever win two Sundance Grand Jury Prizes for documentary (most recently for The House I Live In (2012)).

Eben Markowski: The Elephant Project / Documentary Short.

Directed by Natalie Stultz of Burlington, Eben Markowski follows Panton sculptor Eben Markowski’s creation of a massive elephant statue. Commissioned for display at the Burlington waterfront in January 2013, the elephant was designed from metal plates and chains to echo– in Markowski’s own words— “the enslavement this giant beauty has endured existing by our side.” Shot over 18 months, this short documentary takes viewers through the intricate design and creation of the elephant and is a true celebration of local Vermont artists.

Building Trails, Building Communities / Documentary Short.

A short documentary by Scott Mallory, this film follows the collaboration between the Middlebury Bike Club, Vermont Bike Association, Jolly Rovers, Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, and the US Forest Service as the local organizations work to build a sustainable trail accessible to all members of the Middlebury community.

The Festival is also pleased to announce that it will screen three short films made by local Vermont teens, curated from the Freedom and Unity VT Film competition. The competition, begun last year by professional filmmakers from Freedom and Unity: The Vermont Movie, received nearly 90 films from young filmmakers aged 13-25. The winning films were originally screened at Randolph High School on May 16, and more recently at the White River Indie Film Festival in April.

The 2015 winning Freedom and Unity films that will be screened at the MNFF include Blue Light: Living in A Technology Addicted World, which won first place and is directed by Ben Shumlin; Can’t Get There From Here, directed by Amelia Hutchinson Moore, The F35: A Noisy Problem? by Audrey Lee.

Marlboro College students have also produced three short films that have been selected for screening.  They include Association and Asymmetric by central Vermont student filmmaker, Luke Becker-Lowe and the experimental narrative, The Inspector Goes to Breakfast, by Joceylyn Mitchell and Anna Lucka.

Information for the festival is available at middfilmfest.org.
To contact MNFF Producer Lloyd Komesar, please call (818)-406-3492.

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