Snowball effect: Four films keep festival’s momentum going

Rutland Herald Article
By Patricia Minichiello
Staff Writer | December 31,2015

Back in 1988, Lloyd Komesar, a young television exec working for the Walt Disney Company, began what he calls “a long love affair with Vermont.”

He would drive from Burlington to southern Vermont, evenacross to White River Junction, pitching films and TV programming and taking in the idiosyncrasies of small-town life along the way.

“I became very fond of Vermont as a result of those travels,” he said.

Often he found himself exploring Green Mountain State beyond work obligations.

“I was in Montpelier,” he said. “And I remember thinking, ‘Montpelier has the smallest population of any state capital in the U.S. – I want to see that.’”

Komesar spent 25 years with Disney, then decided it was time for a new beginning. He and his wife planned a bi-coastal retirement, wintering in Pasadena, Calif., and summering on Lake Dunmore in Sudbury.

In 2014, his new beginning — a change in the direction of his life’s work — began to take shape: Creating and delivering a quality film festival in Middlebury. He started making calls, recruiting an artistic director (Vermont’s own Jay Craven), securing sponsors and rallying the community around his idea.

“The idea was a film festival dedicated to new filmmakers — solely first- and second-time filmmakers,” he said. “I thought that would be an important addition to film festivals in New England.”

After much leg work, Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival debuted in August and featured 93 films submitted by filmmakers from across the country and the globe.

The festival attracted 1,000 attendees, which Komesar said was a huge success.

Now, to build on the momentum of the event, MNFF will present four films curated by Komesar and artistic director Jay Craven this winter in what they are calling the 2016 Winter Screening Series.

“This is our way of creating continuity and maintaining our connection with local audiences,” Komesar said.

The first film is “Meru,” which The New York Times calls, “blindingly beautiful.” It’s set to screen at 7 p.m. Sunday at Town Hall Theatre. It’s a documentary about Himalayan climbers, one of the climbers being Jimmy Chin, who with his wife Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi directed the film.

This year it received the Audience Award as best documentary in the Sundance Film Festival.

The second film, “Truth,” screens on Feb. 28 in Middlebury. It’s directed by James Vanderbilt and stars Robert Redford, Cate Blanchett, Dennis Quaid and Topher Grace. The film delves into the CBS newsroom as a 2004 investigation of then-President George W. Bush’s military service was underway.

“Mustang,” the third film in the series, is set to screen March 20. Nominated for a Golden Globe and France’s official entry for Oscar consideration, it’s about five sisters whose family imprisons the girls, subjecting them to endless lessons in housework as preparation for them to become brides. The director is 37-year-old Deniz Ganze Erguven. A young director whom Komesar said, “has a very bright future.”

The last film in the winter series, “What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy,” is set for April 3.

“This particular movie is immensely powerful,” Komesar said.

It details the relationship between two men, each of whom are the sons of very high-ranking Nazi officials convicted of war crimes following World War II.

“I was on the edge of my seat viewing it.”

Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival

Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival presents the 2016 Winter Screening Series. Screenings start at 7 p.m. on various dates at Town Hall Theatre in Middlebury. Tickets for the winter screening series are $12 per film or $40 for a four-film package. Tickets are available at the box office or by calling 802-382-9222 or visiting

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