For most people Martha’s Vineyard is the mysterious little place where U.S. presidents go on vacation. But for the lucky folks who have had the opportunity to spend time on the island, it is really a unique place with a special mix of longtime locals, artists, farmers, politicians, entrepreneurs and a slew of people from the entertainment industry. This great assortment of people on the island is the reason Richard Paradise started the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society and Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival. In its 6th year the festival is one of the most popular events on the island.
Opening night festivities begin at a scenic spot called Saltwater, which overlooks the inviting Lagoon Pond. The windy, foggy and slightly raining evening-classic vineyard- didn’t stop a large crowd from coming out to celebrate the start of the festival with some unbelievably tasty bites from Saltwater’s chef. Sipping libations, they laughed and danced to some groovin' tunes by Afro Beat Project. Paradise made a great speech introducing the internationally focused festival and humorously reminded people on there 4, 5, and 10th drink that, “you know folks, there is a film tonight too!” We got the hint, and headed to downtown Vineyard Haven to watch the opening night film “Just Like Us.”
“Just Like Us,” directed by Ahmed Ahmed, is a riveting documentary which shot on location in Dubai, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Ahmed (Axis of Evil Comedy Tour), has been known for his stand up comedy for some time, and this is his first stab at filmmaking. For a comedian who is usually used to talking at an audience, Ahmed did an amazing job just listening to his subjects in this film, and we get to see an insight into the humor of the Arab world what we Americans know little about. It was just a great opening night film, judging from the smiles and conversations as people left the theatre.
There will be a ton of great films, and interesting people this weekend, and I hope to capture as much of it as possible on this blog. For island folks who are here year round, some exciting news: the festival is in the works to build a permanent film center in the Tisbury marketplace. It will be opened year round with a state of the art screening room, and sound equipment, in one of the most beautiful areas of the Vineyard.
Big things are happening on this tiny island.