Dear Friends,

Welcome to the 6th Annual Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival! The world has changed dramatically since our last gathering on the streets and in our screening venues in Middlebury. The challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic have made it impossible for us to bring you our customary on-the-ground Fest in beautiful Middlebury and we will sorely miss seeing all of you, our extended family. Yet, the show must go on, particularly in the face of adversity. So we have created MNFF6: ONLINE, a virtual event that we hope will capture the vibrant independent spirit that MNFF has come to represent for our filmmakers and our audiences alike.

The Festival will take place on your mobile phone, your tablet, your laptop and your big screen television from August 27-September 3. It will be available to you 24/7 during those eight days. Whether you want to catch a film in the morning as a sunrise treat, in the early afternoon as a lunch companion, in the late afternoon as a dinner appetizer or in the evening as a tasty way to end your day, we will be here for you. With two dozen feature films and six collections of short films to choose from, MNFF6: ONLINE provides you with a mix of outstanding documentaries and dramas that will entertain and, in many cases, change the conversation about the subjects our courageous and talented filmmakers tackle. We hope you enjoy this innovative version of the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival!

We’re pleased to extend our tradition of honoring special guests and this year we recognize two remarkable individuals at MNFF6: ONLINE. First, the universally acclaimed British master filmmaker, Ken Loach, a director who has achieved astonishing breadth and depth in his narrative filmmaking during a remarkable career that dates back to 1967. With an award for Sustained Excellence in Narrative Feature Filmmaking, MNFF celebrates Mr. Loach’s courage in creating films that go beneath the surface to capture complex and unguarded moments of lived experience and social engagement. And we look forward to sharing his latest film, Sorry We Missed You, as part of our feature film program. Be sure to catch our engaging and extensive Q & A with Ken Loach, among the many filmmaker conversations we are offering.

We honor as well the rising African American documentary filmmaker Dawn Porter with an award for Sustained Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking. Her growing body of work has grappled with essential subjects including the unstinting commitment of public defenders in our court system, state spying upon citizens of color in Mississippi and the avalanche of TRAP laws that severely curtail abortion services in Southern states. We think you will enormously appreciate Ms. Porter’s timely, poignant and moving new film, John Lewis: Good Trouble, a work made all the more urgent in the wake of Congressman Lewis’ recent passing. And do attend Dawn Porter’s superb Q&A for a fuller understanding of her daring filmmaking.

We’re also happy to welcome back two-time Academy Award winning director, Barbara Kopple, with her new film, Desert One, a penetrating exploration of the failed 1980 Iranian hostage rescue mission during Jimmy Carter’s presidency. And Mohammed Naqvi also returns with The Accused: Damned or Devoted? which digs into recent political upheavals in Pakistan, growing out of controversial blasphemy charges, arrests and prosecutions. Supported by the BBC and the French and German television networks, Arte and ZDF, Mo Naqvi’s Middlebury screening will be the film’s North American premiere.

MNFF is also pleased to announce this year the creation of the Thaddeus Stevens Award for Social Engagement by a Vermont Filmmaker.  The award pays tribute to the heroic Vermonter, Thaddeus Stevens, a native of the Northeast Kingdom and a U.S. Congressman, who played a decisive role in the abolition of slavery and the establishment of free public schooling in America.  Congressman Stevens was played by Tommy Lee Jones in Steven Spielberg’s film, Lincoln. We are delighted to honor his monumental life and legacy.  First-year Stevens Award winners are Willow O’Feral and Brad Heck for their penetrating documentary feature, Sisters Rising, which deeply explores the question of domestic violence and marginalization in the Native American community. Amidst the current national focus on deserved status for people of color and also the “Me Too” insurgency, the filmmakers have made a vital contribution to the national conversation.

We hope you’ll make the most of this year’s online program which, uniquely, allows you to view as many films as you’d like, without regard to conflicting screening times and venues across town. Our selections this year will take you into new and distinct worlds of imagination and engagement. That said, we’ll deeply miss our in-person festival where unexpected connections and conversations proliferate in multiple venues, restaurants and curbside encounters.  We’re already looking forward to the day we can resume our downtown festival in scenic Middlebury.

In the meantime, join us – and help us honor this year’s crop of filmmakers, who are especially deserving of our attention during this time of caution and concern.

Thank you for your ongoing support of the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival. Be well and stay safe.

Jay Craven, Artistic Director


Lloyd Komesar, Producer




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