Programming highlights the impact of singular stories on society
By Tara Mae
What responsibility do people have to each other and to the planet? This question is a recurring theme examined during the return of the award-winning Port Jefferson documentary series film festival this fall. The season kicks off Monday, September 19 and runs select Mondays until November 28.
“There’s an underlying thread of social responsibility – getting up and doing the right thing or at least recognizing when things are going wrong and emphasizing that – throughout the season. It takes a lot of courage to take such a stand,” said co-director Lyn Boland.
The screenings will take place in person at 7 p.m. With the exception of Rebellion, which will screen at John F. Kennedy Middle School, 200 Jayne Blvd. at Port Jefferson Station, all documentaries will screen at Theater Three, 412 Main Street in Port Jefferson.
“This series provides a valuable service. We are providing an opportunity for an arts organization in our community. Many of these films are non-commercial; people might not necessarily be able to see them in theaters,” the executive artistic director said. by Theater Three, Jeffrey Sanzel.
Sponsored by the Suffolk County Film Commission, the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, Maggio Environmental, Maia Salon Spa and Wellness, and Covati and Janhsen, CPAs, the festival, which began in 2005, will feature seven thought-provoking documentaries this year.
Addressing issues of personal responsibility, public activism, and corporate responsibility, these documentaries explore the private motivations of public figures, community workers, and morally questionable entities that exploit areas of opaque legality for profit.
Kaepernick and America launches the series, exploring the thought process of a man whose actions speak loudly; an act of worship amplifies the ingenuity, initiative and stamina of American Muslim women activists; Adullam Cave chronicles the unwavering dedication of a black martial arts sensei who strives to support at-risk black youth; Rebellion, American painand The YouTube Effect detail the detrimental impact of a trio of simultaneous crises: climate change, opioid addiction and misinformation, respectively. The seventh film, which will be screened on November 28, will be announced at a later date.
“This festival really has something for everyone. I think we have some really remarkable films. A good number explore current events – things that everyone is so concerned about,” Boland added.
After each screening, Tom Needham, host of The Sounds of Film on WUSB, will host a Q&A with the director or producer of the documentary. Some guests will appear in person while others will appear via Zoom.
Documentaries are selected by the All-Female Film Committee: co-directors Lyn Boland, Wendy Feinberg and Barbara Sverd as well as Honey Katz, Lorie Rothstein and Lynn Rein. Known collectively as “the ladies of film”, each woman nominates a documentary to be included in the series and, if approved, arranges for the speaker(s) to participate in the Q&A.
After it is nominated, the board and volunteers review the film to decide if it is selected. The next step can be among the most difficult: obtaining the rights to broadcast the documentary. This feat is usually negotiated by contacting the film distribution company or directly contacting a filmmaker in person at a festival, or via email and phone. Some documentarians, like Alex Winter (The Youtube effect), have previously shown other work to the Port Jefferson documentary series, and therefore have an existing connection to it.
Films come largely from festivals like the TriBeca Film Festival and the Hamptons International Film Festival. Board members pay for their own industry travel, tickets and passes.
The Port Jefferson documentary series is an exciting project for everyone involved.
“My favorite parts of this business are attending film festivals, previewing films on the big screen, and meeting the directors and subjects of the films in person. The satisfaction of having seen dozens of films and ultimately to limit ourselves to seven of the best with guest speakers for each… I love it. To me, it’s entertainment,” said co-director Wendy Feinberg.
Individual tickets are $10 each online or at the door. A season pass costs $58 and is also available online or at the door.
For more details on the documentaries, booking tickets or the series in general, visit www.portjeffdocumentaryseries.com.
■ The season begins with a screening of Kaepernick and America at Theater Three on September 19. The documentary relives the summer of 2016, an election year when unrest rumbles across America, when Colin Kaepernick took a knee and America lost its mind. Kaepernick and America examines the man and his protest, exploring the remarkable conflict sparked by such a symbolic gesture. The guest speaker will be co-director Tommy Walker.
■ The next is an act of worship October 3 at Theater Three. The film weaves a glorious tapestry of personal stories, truth, archival footage and home movies, to open a window into the world of American Muslims. The film follows three activists who have come of age since 9/11 and are part of a new generation of Muslims in America. Guest speakers will be director Nausheen Dadabhoy and producer Sofian Khan.
■ The award-winning film Adullam Cave will be heading to Theater Three on October 10. The film focuses on martial arts sensei Jason Wilson and his efforts to help Detroit’s often-struggling black youth at the Cave of Adullam Transformational Training Academy which he founded in 2008. The guest speaker will be director Laura Check- out.
■ After a brief break, the series continues with a screening of Rebellion at John F. Kennedy Middle School on October 24. The film gives us an in-depth look at the global environmental movement, Extinction Rebellion (XR), established in the UK, since its beginnings in 2018. The guest speaker will be co-director Maia Kenworthy via Zoom.
■ Moving on to the month of November, American pain will screen at Theater Three on November 14. A jaw-dropping crime documentary, the film tells the story of twin brothers and bodybuilders Chris and Jeff George, who operated a franchise of pain clinics in Florida where they dispensed painkillers like Candy. Director Darren Foster delivers an incredibly compelling and shocking story that exposes the tower of corruption that made George’s business successful. The guest speaker will be producer Carolyn Hepburn.
■ Eand Youtube effect heads to Theater Three on November 21. The documentary takes viewers on a timely and captivating journey inside the cloistered world of YouTube and parent Google. He investigates the rise of YouTube from its humble beginnings in the attic of a pizzeria to its explosion on the world stage, becoming the largest media platform in history and sparking a cultural revolution, while creating a massive controversy in the age of misinformation. The film is a surprising but necessary look at a website that has become so intertwined with our daily lives. The guest speaker via Zoom will be director Alex Winter.
■ Film on November 28 to be determined.
*Please note that all movies start at 7 p.m.