#MFF16 Jon and Tracey Stewart Bring Star Power For Animal Rights and MFF’s Screening of “Unlocking the Cage”

BY  |  Tuesday, May 10, 2016 11:30am  |  COMMENTS (1)

Unlocking the Cage

Last Sunday afternoon, Jon Stewart arrived for Montclair Film Festival’s screening of “Unlocking the Cage” at Bellevue Theatre with wife Tracey and friends Stephen and Evie Colbert to shine a spotlight on an issue which is near and dear to his heart – compassionate and humane treatment of animals.

Addressing the audience, Stewart explained how, thanks to Tracey, the importance of animal rights has been a learning experience for him and his mind has been opened. Having purchased a 12-acre farm in NJ to harbor abused farm animals, and now about to partner with Farm Sanctuary,  the Stewarts often get the question “how can you talk about animal rights when people don’t have their rights?”  Tracey’s response is  “can’t society do two nice things – by doing that it will elevate all of us”

Unlocking the Cage

“Unlocking the Cage” tells the story of animal rights lawyer Steven Wise who for 30 years has championed animal rights in the courts, and has recently filed multiple lawsuits attempting to change the legal status of  chimps in captivity from a thing/animal with no rights to a “person” with legal protection to grant them freedom. Wise makes his case with affidavits from primatologists around the world affirming the high functioning cognitive abilities and self consciousness of chimpanzees and gorillas.

The sad stories of Tommy, Kiko, Merlin – chimps in captivity as pets in NY state – are difficult to watch.

And while some may find the idea attributing personhood to a chimp outrageous, Wise clearly differentiates the legal meaning of personhood from human being.

Whales, dolphins and elephants are also grouped as cognitively complex, however Wise’s strategy, as explained in the film, is to kick the door open on this issue, one species, one state at a time.

The documentary is a wild ride and begs the viewer to look at these sentient beings through a different lens, suggesting that they are worthy of respect and humane treatment.


After the screening, filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, and attorney for the Nonhuman Rights Project Elizabeth Stein, spoke about making the documentary – and the court room drama depicted in the film. Pennebaker sat with me later discussing his work, saying that the making of this documentary was a “life-changing” experience. “Because of Steve’s work, animal rights is now taught at over 100 law schools in the country. It’s going to take a long time to make people change, but I think that in maybe 50 years, we won’t be eating meat.”

Steve Wise and Jane Goodall are on the board of the Nonhuman Rights Project, which, according to its website is “the only civil rights organization in the United States working to achieve actual LEGAL rights for members of species other than our own.”  Kevin R. Schneider, Executive Director, was in the audience and told me years have been devoted to legal research and now there’s room for volunteers of all backgrounds to participate..”sharing the information on social media, grass-roots movements.”

If you missed this documentary, watch it on HBO, coming this July.

#MFF16: Five Things Montclair Learned About Norman Reedus

BY  |  Monday, May 09, 2016 10:30am

Norman Reedus

Photo courtesy of Kimberly Cecchini, MFF

The lines waiting to get in to The Wellmont Theater to see Norman Reedus in Conversation with AMC President of ​Original Programming and Montclair resident Joel Stillerman, snaked down Bloomfield Avenue then down several blocks on North Willow. Two women were waiting at the front of the line at 8:30 am to grab the best seats at the general admission event:

This was no ordinary Montclair Film Festival event, it was The Walking Dead fandom at its finest.

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Montclair Film Festival 2016: And The Winners Are… #MFF16

BY  |  Sunday, May 08, 2016 1:01pm

Montclair Film Festival 2016: And The Winners Are... #MFF16

The Montclair Film Festival (MFF) today announced the festival’s 2016 Audience Award winners. Taika Waititi’s HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE took top honors in the Narrative Feature category, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s NORMAN LEAR: JUST ANOTHER VERSION OF YOU won the Documentary Feature category, Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami’s SONITA won the audience prize for World Cinema, and Kahane Cooperman’s JOE’s VIOLIN taking home top audience honors in the Short Film category.

“Without our incredibly generous audiences, there would be no Montclair Film Festival,” said Executive Director Tom Hall. “These awards are a wonderful way to deepen the connection between our filmmakers and film lovers.” Continue Reading

Montclair Film Festival Announces Additional 2016 Festival Education Programs

BY  |  Friday, May 06, 2016 1:15pm

Montclair Film Festival Adds Special Guests: Gilbert Gottfried and Ras Baraka

This week, Montclair Film Festival (MFF) announced the complete slate of education programs taking place at the 2016 MFF. These programs join the previously announced Young Voices: A Community Conversation program, presented by Partners For Health and taking place May 3 at 7:00 PM at the MFF’s Audible Lounge, located at 544 Bloomfield Ave, and the MFF’s Emerging Filmmakers Competition (EFC) screening, taking place Saturday May 7 at 11:00 AM at the Wellmont Theater:
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The Weekend: All About Mom

BY  |  Thursday, May 05, 2016 10:30am

Montclair Film Festival

This weekend it’s all about moms and there are many nice events for Mom to enjoy her special day. Want to take her out for a nice meal Check out our dining guide here.

Don’t forget about:

Here are more ways to spend Mother’s Day weekend:
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Montclair Film Festival: Sunday Was Rob Reiner Day In Montclair #MFF16

BY  |  Tuesday, May 03, 2016 3:15pm


You had a chance to see legendary actor/director/writer/producer Rob Reiner three times last Sunday in Montclair (four if you happened to be dining at De Novo, where Reiner stopped in to fuel up between events and even posed for a picture with owner Demetri Malki). The director behind Stand By Me, When Harry Met Sally, A Few Good Men and An American President, and the actor behind All in The Family’s Michael (Meathead) Stivic, was at three different Montclair Film Festival events.

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#MFF16: Jon Stewart and Tracey Stewart to Attend Festival for ‘Unlocking the Cage’ Screening

BY  |  Tuesday, May 03, 2016 11:10am

Jon Stewart and Tracey Stewart

The Montclair Film Festival is halfway through and the exciting announcements of special guests aren’t slowing down. Today MFF announced that Jon Stewart and his wife Tracey Stewart will be attending the festival on Saturday May 7 to introduce the film Unlocking the Cage. They will be joined in attendance by Stephen Colbert and Board President Evelyn Colbert, along with the directors D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

Unlocking the Cage, screening at 2:30 pm on Saturday May 7, explores the efforts to bestow human rights on animals by animal welfare activists. Jon and Tracey Stewart are partnering with Farm Sanctuary, America’s leading farm animal protection organization, to open the organization’s fourth location at their New Jersey farm. Farm Sanctuary operates three shelters in New York and California that provide lifelong care for nearly 1,000 rescued farm animals, works to change laws to decrease abuse of farm animals, and promotes compassionate vegan living.

Purchase tickets here.




#MFF16: Young Voices: A Community Conversation

BY  |  Thursday, Apr 28, 2016 11:30am

Montclair Film Festival

What do young people have on their minds today? The subjects that teens explore when creating films provide fascinating insights into their ideas, hopes, dreams, and deeply felt concerns. Young Voices: A Community Conversation, co-presented by the Montclair Film Festival and Partners for Health Foundation, will use selected submissions to the Festival’s Emerging Filmmaker Competition as a platform for a panel discussion that will examine concerns of local youth and how our community can provide a safety net to support them. The conversation will take place on Wednesday, May 4 at 7 pm at the Audible Lounge (544 Bloomfield Avenue).

Moderated by John Mooney, Founding Editor and Education Writer of NJ Spotlight, the panel will include these local experts:

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The Weekend: Montclair Film Festival, Books, Music, and More!

BY  |  Thursday, Apr 28, 2016 9:00am

Montclair Film Festival Adds Special Guests: Gilbert Gottfried and Ras Baraka

Get out and enjoy this jam-packed weekend at one of these local events!

We told you about:

Here’s what else is happening:
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#MFF16: Masters of the Score: Sound Design For Film, Audio, Games

BY  |  Wednesday, Apr 27, 2016 1:00pm


Montclair Film Festival will present Masters of the Score: Sound Design For Film, Audio, Games, a free panel event on the importance music plays in storytelling, on Saturday, April 30 at 3 pm in the Audible Lounge. Continue Reading

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YES!!! My favorite local event!!! Great news!!! Thank You to all who worked to make this possible!!

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