(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) – Documentary films about groundbreaking performance artist Marina Abramovic, visual artist Gregory Crewdson, and political matriarch Ethel Kennedy top the lineup of the 7th annual Berkshire International Film Festival (BIFF), which will take place May 31 – June 3, 2012 in Great Barrington and Pittsfield, Mass., and will be showcasing over 70 films in independent filmmaking. Abramovic, who recently made nearby Hudson, N.Y., her artistic home; Crewdson, who lives and works in the Berkshires; and members of the Kennedy clan will be in attendance at the festival, along with dozens of filmmakers, writers, actors, and producers.
The festival will kick off on Thursday, May 31, with an opening night party at the historic Mason Library and screening of the intimate documentary Ethel, presented by members of the Kennedy family, who will take part in a Q&A following the screening. The BIFF screening of the Abramovic film follows immediately upon its New York City premiere at the Museum of Modern Art. And Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters, will be the closing night feature of the festival, presented by the film’s director and Crewdson himself.
Kelley Vickery, founder and director of the Berkshire International Film Festival, stated, “We are thrilled to once again bring to our Berkshire community an incredibly diverse program with over 70 independent films from around the country and indeed the world.”
Ethel, a feature-length documentary about the life of Ethel Kennedy, is told by those who know Ethel best: her family. Directed by her Emmy Award-winning daughter, Rory Kennedy, the film features candid interviews with Ethel and seven of her children. The film is a personal portrait of Ethel’s political awakening, the life she shared with Robert F. Kennedy, and the years following his death when she raised their 11 children on her own. The film is scheduled for release on HBO in the fall of 2012. Members of the Kennedy family will be in attendance at the film and will hold a Q&A immediately following the film.
Opening night festivities include a cocktail party and light buffet supper for passholders catered by Max Ultimate Food of Boston at the Mason Library on Main Street in Great Barrington. The festivities continue that evening with Berkshire Bateria to play at the top of Railroad Street beginning at 9:30 pm to celebrate opening night.
On Friday, June 1, Marina Abramovic, director Matthew Akers and producers Jeff Dupre and Maro Chermayeff will be present at the screening of Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present and for a Q&A immediately following the film. The documentary follows the glamorous, fearless, controversial performance artist Marina Abramovi? as she prepares for what may be the most important moment of her life: a major retrospective of her work at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
To be given a retrospective at one of the world’s premiere museums is, for any living artist, the most exhilarating sort of milestone. For Abramovi?, it is far more. For four decades, she has used her own body as a medium, pushing herself beyond her physical and mental limits, and at times risking her life in the process; now, with the show at MoMA, she has the chance to finally silence the question she has been hearing over and over again throughout her career: “So why is this art?” The film offers an intimate, engaging portrait of an endlessly intriguing woman who draws no distinction between art and life. The film will be on HBO during 2012 and was Winner of the Berlin Film Festival 2012 Audience Award.
Abramovic recently revealed a new project in Hudson, N.Y.. called the Center for the Preservation of Performance Art. This space will be devoted to pieces that may last several hours or even several days. This special event will include a cocktail party and light buffet supper for passholders at Aston Magna in Great Barrington prior to the screening.
The BIFF continues its expansion into Pittsfield on Friday, June 1, with the Sundance hit Liberal Arts. This romantic comedy tells the story of when thirty-something Jesse is invited back to his alma mater, he falls for a young 19-year-old college student and is faced with the powerful attraction that springs up between them. Directed and written by Josh Radnor, the film stars Zac Efron, Elizabeth Olson, and Josh Radnor. Opening night in Pittsfield will include a celebratory cocktail party in the lobby of the Berkshire Bank on West Street catered by Mission prior to the opening night presentation.
On Sunday, June 3, artist Gregory Crewdson, director and producer Ben Shapiro, and MASS MoCA director Joe Thompson will be present at the screening and for a Q&A immediately following Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters. To call Gregory Crewdson a photographer is a misnomer. Crewdson doesn’t “take” images; he creates them, through elaborate days and weeks of invention, design, and set-up. The epic production of these movie-like images is both intensely personal and highly public: they begin in Crewdson’s deepest desires and memories, but come to life on streets and soundstages in the hills and towns of Western Massachusetts. In his decade-long project Beneath the Roses, he uses light, color and character to conjure arresting images, managing a crew of 60 amidst seemingly countless logistical and creative obstacles. Crewdson says of his work, “My pictures are about a search for a moment—a perfect moment. To me the most powerful moment in the whole process is when everything comes together and there is that perfect, beautiful, still moment. And for that instant, my life makes sense.”
The Closing Night Party will be held at the Castle Street Café immediately following the screening of Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters.
The BIFF’s third annual jury includes actors Mary Kay Place and Karen Allen, production and costume designer Kristi Zea, award-winning screenwriter John Orloff, producer Dan Braun, distribution guru Josh Braun, casting agent Gretchen Rennell, and film critic Kent Jones. There will be five films in competition for feature documentaries and four films in the narrative category. The award will carry a $5,000 prize sponsored by GWFF USA to be presented on Sunday, June 3, at allium in Great Barrington. The films in competition for Narrative are: Nuit #1, Hello I Must Be Going, Your Sister’s Sister, and Nobody Walks. In the documentary category; We’re Not Broke, Fierce Green Fire, Love Free Or Die, Escape Fire: The Fight To Rescue American Healthcare and Chasing Ice.
In its seventh year, the Berkshire International Film Festival (BIFF) in association with the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences presents its inaugural Filmmakers Summit, a two-day talent academy offered to the 2012 film selection filmmakers. Offering a diverse, multi-dimensional program of panel discussions, lectures, special events, and breakout sessions led by industry professionals, the BIFF Filmmakers Summit is designed to celebrate and support the advancement of filmmakers and recognize film as a relevant and important medium. Beginning on Wednesday, May 30, the Filmmakers Summit is an integral part of the festival experience for filmmakers.
Venues for all of the weekend-long events and screenings will include the Triplex Cinema and the historic Mahaiwe Theatre in Great Barrington and the Beacon Cinema in Pittsfield.
Passes are on sale now at $250 and $500; $150 passes are sold out. Individual tickets go on sale Friday, April 27, and may be purchased online at the BIFF website or by phone at 1.866.811.4111. Tickets can also be purchased by visiting the Triplex Cinema or the Mahaiwe Box Office in Great Barrington or the Beacon Cinema in Pittsfield.
The complete lineup of films at this year’s festival is available at the BIFF website.