By JESSICA A. BOTELHO
The first annual Buzzards Bay Film Festival, set to debut Nov. 9th and run through Nov. 11th in Falmouth and New Bedford, Mass., is a tribute to the Bay itself, its watershed, as well as the 360,000 people who live in surrounding cities and towns. The Bay is a 233-square mile estuary in Southeastern Mass. between the mainland shore, western Cape Cod, and the Elizabeth Islands.
“It’s going to be really fun and unique,” said Festival Director Tom Gidwitz. “It’s hard to bring all these different communities together, so this is a way to become more of a unit. We share the same stories in many ways.”
The event is part of the Buzzards Bay Coalition’s 25th Anniversary celebration and offers viewers science fiction, documentaries, animation, and the long-anticipated local premiere of the feature film Fairhaven. One-hundred percent of the proceeds will be dedicated to the Coalition, a membership-supported, non-profit organization dedicated to the restoration, protection, sustainable use and enjoyment of the Bay and its watershed.
The Festival will kick off Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at the First Congregational Church, which is located at 68 Main Street in Falmouth, and continue at New Bedford’s Gallery X at169 William Street at 8 PM, Saturday, Nov. 10th.
“They show edgier stuff there and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” Gidwitz said of Gallery X.
The Zeiterion Performing Arts Center at 684 Purchase Street in New Bedford will host a day of films Sunday, Nov. 11th beginning at 11 a.m. with the 1968 science fiction classic, The Green Slime, and continue with an afternoon of other works. The day will wrap up with Fairhaven at 8 p.m.
“The Zeiterion is a big, beautiful theater and it’s a great place to show features,” Gidwitz said.
According to a press release, Fairhaven tells the story of three thirty-something friends who reunite in their hometown, a homecoming that forces them to reassess their friendship, as well as themselves. It stars Chris Messina of Vicky Christina Barcelona and Six Feet Under; Rich Sommer of Mad Men; Sarah Paulson of Mud and Deadwood; as well as the film’s writer and director Tom O’Brien, who grew up in Medford, but spent much of his time in Fairhaven, as his mother lived there for nearly a decade.
“That’s what inspired the screenplay,” O’Brien said in an e-mail interview. “I feel really great about bringing the film back to what inspired it. It completes the circle of the entire process for us.”
O’Brien plays Jon, a former high school football star and one-time college athlete, who feels dissatisfied with life and ends up back in Fairhaven, where he reunites with two old friends. It isn’t long before “old dreams and simmering resentments” come to the surface.
The film also stars a number of area residents.
“The production was made possible by the people of Fairhaven and the surrounding towns opening their homes and businesses to shoot in and volunteering to do everything from make lunch to be extras in the movie,” said O’Brien.
O’Brien went on to say that it felt much like a “grass roots community project” and that he is pleased that people have responded “warmly” to the film. He noted that many of the locals told him they feel as if the film does justice to the area.
“There’s that saying that if you can touch one person in the audience you’ve done your job and I’ve had so many people reach out to say nice things,” O’Brien said. “A local Fairhaven guy came up to me after the world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival and said that his father had helped build the hurricane barrier and, as soon as he saw it in the opening shot, it brought tears to his eyes. I loved the entire process of directing the film, but knowing that it affected people emotionally is all I could ever ask for as a filmmaker.”
Aside from Fairhaven, the Festival will feature The Green Slime, a 1968 sci-fi classic, screened as a tribute to Robert Dunham, an American Korean War veteran who starred in Japanese monster movies and returned to the United States in 1975, residing in Cape Cod.
While his part in the film is small, he can be seen battling invading space aliens, which Gidwitz said, “look remarkably like the rusty tide algae that has been clouding Buzzards Bay waters for several summers.”
“We call it rusty tide,” said Gidwitz. “The Green Slime is fun because it’s over the top. It has all these special effects, [plus] it’s very campy and hilarious. The monsters are these green things with tentacles that they wave about.”
Further, the release notes that other films include Into the Gyre, an award-winning look at Falmouth Sea Education Association scientists as they study plastic pollution in the North Atlantic; Patrimony, an intense drama about family and loss, starring television star Robert Vaughan; and a selection of cell phone videos submitted to the Festival in a weekly contest held throughout the summer.
“That was fantastic,” Gidwitz said. “We’ve got sailboats, powerboats – a guy riding his bicycle off a diving board into the water, people doing back flips off the dock in Fairhaven – just peoples’ impressions of the summer. It’s was nice to see how much energy people put into them.”
Tickets for all screenings are available online at buzzardsbayfilmfestival.org. Tickets for Sunday’s films, including Fairhaven and The Green Slime, are also available at the Zeiterion Box Office, in person or by phone at 508-994-2900, or online at http://www.zeiterion.org.