The Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival is pleased to announce its Opening Night Film, feature documentary Walk With Me: The Trials of Damon J Keith. The film will screen on Thursday August 25, at 7pm at Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater. Director Jesse Nesser will speak with MNFF Artistic Director Jay Craven following the screening.

Speaking of Nesser and his film, Craven said, “It wasn’t planned this way—but I’m pleased to say that Jesse Nesser was a recent student of mine at Marlboro College. I’m very proud of him and his ambitious, moving, and compassionate film that so finely captures the animating spirit of Judge Keith, a pioneering figure in the epic journey to advance civil rights in the United States.”

In characterizing the significance of Opening Night, MNFF Producer Lloyd Komesar commented that “A stirring kick off film sets the tone for the entire Festival. With the remarkable Judge Keith, who now into his 90’s continues to sit on the United States Court of Appeals, at the heart of this documentary, Walk With Me offers our audiences a rich and powerful film experience and something to savor and talk about. We are fortunate to have this terrific film to lead off this year’s Fest.”

“We are incredibly excited have our New England premiere of Walk With Me: The Trials of Damon J. Keith at the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival,” said Nesser. “After attending the festival last year as an audience member, I wanted badly to play there one day. A HUGE thank you to Jay Craven, Lloyd Komesar and the MNFF team for not only making that a reality, but giving us the honor of opening the festival.”

An Opening Night After Party will follow at the Swift House Inn, where Opening Night ticket holders can enjoy live music from Dayve Huckett and Art DeQuaisie and meet attending filmmakers.

Tickets for this event are sold separately. Buy Opening Night Tickets.

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About the film

Walk With Me is slated to premiere at Michigan’s Traverse City Film Festival, and the MNFF is delighted to host its first Vermont screening.

The feature documentary sheds light on the life and legacy of 94-year-old Damon J Keith, who has served as a Detroit federal judge for over forty-five years and has established a legacy as a life-long civil rights advocate.

Judge Keith was first appointed by President Lyndon Johnson to serve on Eastern District of Michigan’s United States District Court. In 1977 President Jimmy Carter nominated Keith to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, where he continues to serve.

Judge Keith’s decisions have desegregated public schools, prohibited President Nixon from warrantless wiretapping, and addressed systemic racism. He has received over 40 honorary degrees, including the Edward J. Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award.

Nesser said of his acceptance to the MNFF,

“It feels simply great to come back to share my work at this particular festival,  to audiences who enthusiastically support the work of new filmmakers, and where festival organizers embrace these with a respect typically shown to veteran directors. There are a great many good new films out there, and I am proud and humbled that mine was chosen by MNFF.  I look forward to the festival, and enjoying the eclectic variety of other films by filmmakers whose company I’m honored to be in.”


Festival updates

The Festival plans to release the official 2016 lineup in August, but will release teasers for accepted films on the MNFF website and social media accounts over the next few weeks.

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