Salem Film Fest (SFF), one of New England’s largest all-documentary film festivals, will celebrate its 14th year by presenting more than 40 documentary features and short films online in a virtual film festival that will take place Friday, March 19 through Sunday, March 28.
This year’s festival film lineup is accessible at salemfilmfest.com/films, with six U.S. premieres and most films hosted in Massachusetts for the first time.
Films will be available for viewing anywhere in the United States, with filmmaker Q&As and livestream events also added to the program. Viewers can visit salemfilmfest.com to learn more about streaming or they can directly access films through the eventive streaming platform https://salemfilmfest2021.eventive.org.
In response to the pandemic, Salem Film Fest will be sharing ticket revenue from this year’s festival with filmmakers and two local charities. While most film festivals charge filmmakers submission fees, Salem Film Fest has never done so, and has always paid filmmakers in its main features program to screen their work. This year the festival will also contribute a portion of its ticket revenue to The Salem Pantry, which offers food assistance, and Behind You, Inc., which provides financial assistance to restaurant workers.
“As a documentary festival that presents films dealing with many societal issues, we want to be cognizant of the world around us and do whatever small part we can to contribute both to our film artists and local people in need,” says Joe Cultrera, Salem Film Fest co-founder and festival director.
Highlights from this year’s film program include:
The North American premiere of GLITTER AND DUST, directed by Anna Koch and Julia Lemke, which chronicles the journey of four girls navigating the American rodeo circuit in what is traditionally a male dominated sport.
The U.S. Premiere of SON OF FUKUSHIMA, directed by two Salem Film Fest alums, Salem resident Beth Balawick and Boston filmmaker Beth Murphy. The film is an animated and live action exploration of a Japanese family impacted by two nuclear tragedies—Hiroshima and Fukushima—and their struggle to reclaim their ancestral farmland and time-honored way of life.
The East Coast premiere of HOLY FRIT, directed by Justin Monroe, which just premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival and won their Audience Award. The film follows the creation of the largest stain-glass window of its kind, by an L.A. artist who bluffs his way into the commission without fully knowing if he can pull it off.
The Massachusetts Premiere of THE JUMP, directed by G iedrė Žickytė, is a harrowing look back at the 1970 Thanksgiving day defection attempt by a daring Lithuanian sailor who made a leap for freedom onto a US Coast Guard ship off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard and the international incident that ensued.
The New England Premiere of SAPELO, directed by Salem Film Fest alum Nick Brandestini, which won the Special Jury awards at Visions du Réel and the BendFilm Festival. The film takes place off the coast of Georgia, as two brothers come of age on an island as their adoptive mother works to preserve what remains of a unique community established by her ancestors.
The New England Premiere of THE LETTER, directed by husband and wife filmmaking team Maia Lekow and Christopher King, and Kenya’s official submission to this year’s Academy Awards for Best International Film, follows A 95-year-old Kenyan Grandmother with a fearless spirit, who must overcome dangerous accusations of witchcraft that come from within her own family in this modern day documentary that eerily mirrors the Salem Witch Trials.
“The film community has been impacted tremendously by the pandemic, as screening new work in a public way through traditional outlets like festivals and cinemas has been a challenge,” says Jeff Schmidt, SFF program director. “We’re really happy to provide a platform for artists to continue to reach an audience that is passionate about documentary film—streaming offers us a safe way to connect as a community.”
The presenting sponsor for this year’s festival is Salem’s Peabody Essex Museum. A complete lineup of films to be shown this year, accompanied by synopses, trailers, and ticketing is posted at salemfilmfest.com. Also, follow Salem Film Fest on Facebook at facebook.com/salemfilmfest and Instagram and Twitter @_salemfilmfest.