12th Annual Newburyport Documentary Film Festival in 2017

The 12th annual Newburyport Film Festival will take place from Friday, September 15th, to Sunday, September 17th, at the Firehouse theater and the Screening Room theater.

Short films will range from seven minutes to 93 minutes, and will cover topical and true stories that are shaping the world we live in for 2017.

Film Festivals are important for the showcasing of new talent.  An up-and-coming filmmaker can get her/his name out there and increase their acceptance into larger film festivals.  The filmmaker can get acknowledgement purely for completing a work and getting it screened.  There is also the potential for further awards and recognition.  Documentary Films have an added element of encouraging good public policy and educating viewers on political and economic problems.  Some stories will inspire and others will be a sobering call to action.

This year, we asked Newburyport Film Festival President, Joanne Morris, a few questions about the event.

(HIN) Why the festival was started 12 years ago and by whom?—  (JM) It was started by Michelle Fino to bring documentaries to the community.
(HIN) How films are selected, and by whom?—  (JM) There is a screening committee that reviews them and a decision is made in a series of meetings during June and July. The filmmakers submit the films to a website, www.withoutabox.com, which is a clearinghouse for filmmakers and film festivals. They provide us with an on-line link so we can view them. In the old days they had to send 2 DVDs which is a lot of DVDs!!!!
(HIN) How does Newburyport’s film festival differ from other documentary film festivals?—   (JM) We are proud of the caliber of film we show every year. We also have a wide range of accepted filmmakers, from student to experienced.  If the film is good it will get in! We are in a very film-loving, arts-centric community on the waterfront so it is a special destination. All visiting filmmakers receive two nights lodging at a local B&B. More that 75% who are invited come every year.
(HIN) Do you have any relationships with larger film festivals like Sundance?— (JM) No we don’t.
(HIN) Do you give out awards and do those help a film get recognition?— (JM) Yes we have five awards, Best Feature, Best Short, Best New England Film, Best First Time FIlmmaker and an Audience Award.
(HIN) Have any past films done better than expected or perhaps have an interesting after story?— (JM) One of the films we screened called Cave Digger went on to be one of the nominees for an Oscar. We were the only festival to show the film in New England. We also screened I Am Big Bird, and had Carrol Spinney (Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch) with us. He brought Oscar who participated in the Q&A!.  Well, early in his career Carrol had worked in the Boston area on TV shows and worked with a woman named Judy Valentine. She lives nearby and was able to come to the festival and reunited with him after 35 years! It was a wonderful moment.


Take a look at this year’s selections and see if any films peak your curiosity.

A few highlights for this year include:

True Conviction
Jamie Meltzer; 84 min
Filmmaker Q&A
Friday, September 15 at 7:30 PM
Firehouse Center for the Arts

There’s a new detective agency in Dallas, Texas, started by a group of exonerated men, with decades in prison served between them. They are looking to free innocent people still behind bars. True Conviction is a character-driven documentary that follows these change-makers as they rebuild their lives and families, learn to investigate cases, work to support each other, and campaign to fix the criminal justice system.

The Man in the Cowboy Hat
Janice Rogovin; 62 min
Filmmaker Q&A
Saturday, September 16 at 11:30 AM
Firehouse Center for the Arts

Carlos Arredondo, aka The Man in the Cowboy Hat, is best known for saving a life during the Boston Marathon bombing, but the story begins with the death of his own son, Alex, in the Iraq War. In 2004, three Marines came to Carlos’s house to inform him that his oldest son, Alex, had died in Iraq. Carlos’s extreme grief over Alex’s death launched him on a journey to honor his son and fight for the America he believed in. Publicly Carlos had a new purpose. Behind the scenes the story was more complex.

Losing Our Religion
Leslea Mair & Leif Kaldor; 86 min
Filmmaker Q&A
Saturday, September 16 at 2:30 PM
Screening Room

A film about preachers who are not believers and what atheists do when they miss church. This is the strange dilemma of a hidden segment of our population, a group with a secret they dare not tell lest they lose everything. They are clergy who no longer believe in God. They are trapped in a social shift that is rapidly changing our world. Losing Our Religion takes a candid look inside an upheaval in our society. The extreme personal cost to those trapped in the clergy reflects the larger move in our western world as they grapple with how to re-shape their lives, rebuild community, and answer the big question – what’s next?

Anthony Sherin; 11 min
Filmmaker Q&A
Shorts Block #1, Saturday, September 16 at 11:30 AM
Screening Room

Imagine you can’t read this.  Imagine you are afraid to tell anyone.  Imagine thinking it is all your fault.  Imagine the only way to tell if a book is right side up is by looking at the pictures.  Imagine the only way you can avoid humiliation and get through school is by being a troublemaker.  Imagine being expelled over and over and passed along to different schools only to be someone else’s problem. You reach fifth grade, but you have yet to read a two-syllable word.  You can’t spell your name.  You are unteachable. Now imagine a teacher who changes everything.


See the Film Festival website for more information here-



happyinnewburyport.net is the property of HappyInNewburyport, LLC