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Inaugural Monadnock International Film Festival honors Ken Burns

  • Filmmaker Ken Burns of Walpole will be honored with the inaugural Jonathan Daniels Award on Saturday at the conclusion of the Monadnock International Film Festival in Keene.

    Filmmaker Ken Burns of Walpole will be honored with the inaugural Jonathan Daniels Award on Saturday at the conclusion of the Monadnock International Film Festival in Keene. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • During PBS’ THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE session at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, CA on Monday, January 14, 2013,<br/>Filmmaker Ken Burns,left, with his daughter, filmmaker Sarah Burns, and  Raymond Santana, one of the members of the Central Park Five, at a California discussion of the Burnses' film about five teenagers who were wrongly convicted of raping a woman in Central Park in 1989. <br/><br/>Photo by Rahoul Ghose

    During PBS’ THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE session at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, CA on Monday, January 14, 2013,
    Filmmaker Ken Burns,left, with his daughter, filmmaker Sarah Burns, and Raymond Santana, one of the members of the Central Park Five, at a California discussion of the Burnses' film about five teenagers who were wrongly convicted of raping a woman in Central Park in 1989.

    Photo by Rahoul Ghose Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Filmmaker Ken Burns of Walpole will be honored with the inaugural Jonathan Daniels Award on Saturday at the conclusion of the Monadnock International Film Festival in Keene.
  • During PBS’ THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE session at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, CA on Monday, January 14, 2013,<br/>Filmmaker Ken Burns,left, with his daughter, filmmaker Sarah Burns, and  Raymond Santana, one of the members of the Central Park Five, at a California discussion of the Burnses' film about five teenagers who were wrongly convicted of raping a woman in Central Park in 1989. <br/><br/>Photo by Rahoul Ghose

The red carpet will line the sidewalk at the Colonial Theatre in Keene on Saturday prior to the finale of the first Monadnock International Film Festival: a showing of “The Central Park Five,” the latest film from the region’s most noted filmmaker, Ken Burns.

Burns will be joined by well-known actors Matthew Gray Gubler (“Criminal Minds”), William Sanderson (“Deadwood,” “True Blood”), Jessalyn Gilsig (“Glee,” “The Practice”), Hancock’s Sam Huntington (“CSI,” “NY Law & Order”) and others who appear in films being shown during the three-day festival, which organizers hope to make an annual event. And the highlight of the evening will be when Burns is awarded the Jonathan Daniels Award, in honor of the white 26-year-old Keene seminary student who was killed during the Civil Rights struggle in Alabama in 1965, when he attempted to help an African-American fellow activist.

Burns said he will be honored to receive the award.

“In my work, I’ve struggled to tell deep and complicated stories about American history,” he said on the phone last week from his studio in Walpole. “You inevitably touch up against race and civil rights. To be given this award in honor of a man who was such a hero is very humbling.”

He’s also excited to participate in the inaugural festival.

“I think it will be a cultural anchor for Keene and the whole Monadnock region,” Burns said. “I’ve been in Walpole in the same house for more than 30 years. I’ve always loved the Colonial [Theatre]. It’s morphing into something to represent a broad diversity of folks. We tend to forget the extent to which cultural heritage and the arts are a bedrock to the economic stability of the region.”

Laina Barakat, the festival’s director, said last week that the event, which starts today and runs through Saturday, has been in the works for about four years.

“A group of local people realized that Keene is set up perfectly for a festival,” Barakat said. “It’s a college town, with lots of theaters and restaurants. It’s really quite perfect.”

Films will be shown at the Redfern Arts Center and the Putnam Theater at Keene State College as well as at the Colonial. The weekend includes a television panel featuring Gubler, Sanderson and Allison Miller of the new TV show “Go On.”

Tickets are $10 per screening. A $45 film pass includes admission to all films and panel discussions, and a $75 VIP pass includes the opening reception, after-parties and a swag bag, which Barakat described as “a cool film festival bag filled with great stuff.” She said the after-parties, at Nicola’s Trattoria on Thursday, Luca’s Mediterranean Cafe on Friday and Fireworks restaurant on Saturday, will have free food and a cash bar, and elaborate lighting and sound systems.

“It’s really a chance to meet other people who are passionate about film,” Barakat said. “You can meet the filmmakers and give them feedback. It will be different than anything you’ve ever been to in Keene.”

Although the festival is based in Keene, it’s drawn support from movie lovers throughout the region, some of whom are serving on the MonIFF board of directors.

Lisa Murray, director of university relations at Franklin Pierce University, said the opportunity to work on bringing an educational focus to the panels attracted her to represent the university on the board.

“It really seemed like a good mix for us,” said Murray, who previously worked at the Peterborough Players. “We have more than 25 directors, actors and producers participating. It’s great for students, and anyone interested in film, to have a really up-close experience.”

Murray said FPU is hoping to show films and have panels on the Rindge campus as part of future festivals.

Bill Smith of InHaus Media in Peterborough said Murray had contacted him about joining the festival board.

“I used to work in TV and radio in Los Angeles,” Smith said. “I really enjoyed the film industry and this seemed like a fun project.”

Smith also said the festival could expand in the future.

“This is just the first year,” he said. “There are ambitions to bring it to different towns. We hope to make it a festival for the entire region. First, we want to make it doable this year.”

Barakat said the festival might expand to Peterborough and Jaffrey.

“We hope to get bigger and better,” she said. “It may take one year, it may take three.”

Burns said he hopes to be back next year.

“I’ll be happy to continue to submit. If they take our films, we’ll be honored to show them,” he said. “For it to be a success, people will have to vote with their feet and come out. People tend to just think about first-run Hollywood movies, but there are hundreds of small films out there, a rich and vibrant world of film that we all deserve to see.”

This excellent film festival is another feather in the Monadnock Region's arts 'cap', thank you organizers!

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