Lights. Camera. Action! Press Play!
The 9th Annual Montclair Film Festival started officially on Friday with the opening of the MFF Virtual Cinema one day early. Tonight is the perfect night to get cozy, order in and celebrate Opening Night by watching a film from MFF’s Virtual Cinema platform.
Montclair Film’s Executive Director Tom Hall hopes all of Montclair will come together for the next 10 days, starting tonight and connect, virtually and at MFF’s Carpool Theater screenings.
Carpool Theater Drive In Screenings Begin Saturday
Due to rain Friday, the Opening Night Carpool Theater screenings of NOMADLAND have been postponed until Monday, October 19 (click here to stay up to date with Montclair Film Festival’s daily schedule and any changes).
When you do roll up for your first drive-in movie experience at the 2020 Montclair Film Festival, Hall has some tips.
“The doors don’t really open until about an hour before, so there’s no rush. We have capped the number of cars that can attend these, because we want everyone to have a good sight line,” says Hall. “We are going to put cars in order by size so there’s really no advantage to sitting there for an hour. On the other hand, if you want to be in the front row and have the screen take up your entire field of vision, earlier might be better.”
Hall also recommends bringing some snacks.
“Because of the rules of COVID, we are not going to be selling food, but we have a lot of partners in town who are offering takeout dinners,” says Hall, who recommends picking up dinner to go from one of Montclair’s local restaurants that need your support right now.
Remember, it’s cooler than it was when Montclair Film offered summer drive in screenings, and you won’t be running your car the whole time (MFF recommends using accessory mode to hear the film), so Hall also recommends bringing a blanket.
“Getting comfy and cozy in your car for the screening is always fun,” says Hall, who recalls being a kid and bringing pillows and blankets to create his own little living room at the drive-in.
There are going to be Q&A’s following some of the drive-in screenings, so plan on sticking around after the film to get more out of your experience.
MFF Founder and Chairman of the Board Bob Feinberg, who has been following other film festivals and how they have had to pivot during the pandemic, is “cautiously excited about this iteration of Montclair Film Festival.”
Feinberg already plans to take in some double features at MFF’s Carpool Theater.
“There nothing more New Jersey than a drive-in,” says Feinberg, adding that the United States’ very first drive-in opened in South Jersey during the summer of 1933, a tradition he’s happy MFF can continue.
Virtual Cinema Experience
Hall says the festival has done a lot to create the theatrical experience for its Virtual Cinema that you would get when you traditionally went to a Montclair Film Festival screening in person. You’ll see Hall making an appearance at the beginning of each virtual film as well as others involved with the film giving an introduction. Q&A sessions have been recorded and play after many of the virtual films. There’s also a Virtual Cinema Step by Step guide to help you get the most out of your virtual cinema experience.
Hall is also encouraging people to go on Montclair Film’s Facebook page and MFF’s other social media to connect over the films they are watching, make recommendations to others, watch videos and participate in ongoing conversations.
Even with the loss of the in person experience due to the pandemic, Feinberg says the virtual format offers some advantages.
“It makes it easier to get talent to participate if they don’t have to be here in person,” says Feinberg, which means some big names for conversations and Q & A sessions. He adds that the virtual platform has also increased the geographic audience for the festival, making it accessible for people who can’t travel to Montclair.
What To Watch?
The 2020 Montclair Film Festival’s more than 100 offerings — 14 drive-in screenings at Montclair Film’s Carpool Cinema, 34 virtual features, 53 virtual short films, 11 conversations and other special events, including Montclair Film Festival’s Opening, Closing and Centerpiece Films – so you are spoiled for choice. But if you are having trouble deciding what to watch first, Hall shares some recommendations, including films that pair well with each other, so you can create a block of viewing.
“We are close to an election and we have a lot of films in our virtual platform that are about participatory democracy. There’s a film called Surge that’s about women running for Congress. We have City So Real, which is going to sound daunting — it’s 4 and a half hours — but it’s a documentary about the mayoral race in Chicago in 2018 that’s incredible. It shows how our democracy works, and uses Chicago as an example of the democratic process, but it’s really about America as well. Another film from Chicago is Unapologetic, about women of color organizing around the Black Lives Matter movement.
Hall highly recommends Us Kids (offered at the drive-in on Saturday as well as virtually), about the aftermath of the Parkland shooting and kids organizing March For Our Lives and becoming activists around the issue of gun control.
“I know Montclair High School had a lockdown last year and there was the whole mural situation that happened around gun control in town. I know it’s an issue that’s important to young people in Montclair and that’s why we brought this film to the community,” says Hall, adding that the film is totally appropriate for high school and middle school students.
Hall also recommends the brilliant “There Is No Evil” from Iran which won the 2020 Berlin Film Festival for Best Feature back in February. Hall also gave a shoutout to local filmmaker Kahani Cooperman, who was at Montclair Film Festival a few years ago with “Joe’s Violin.” Cooperman is back this year with “The Antidote” a film about acts of kindness in the United States during the Trump Administration.
In addition to these compelling films about country and democracy, Hall also says the festival is packed with beautiful fiction films from around the world. And although we can’t travel right now, there are also plenty of foreign films and foreign perspectives in the festival’s lineup.
The key thing for everyone to remember, says Hall, is that, Montclair Film, like every other arts organization, needs support.
“We haven’t had a net positive revenue opportunity for our organization since December of last year,” Hall says. “If everyone in Montclair picked one film and watched it, this would be the most fiscally successful Montclair Film Festival in history. If people saw this as an opportunity to support us, to help us sustain ourselves until we can get back together in person, it would be a huge help to us. I’m hopeful that people will do that.”