Thursday February 21, 2013

KEENE, N.H. -- All right, Mr. DeMille, the city is ready for its close-up.

A group of local film buffs decided a few years ago it would be a great idea to exploit Keene's resources and culture by hosting an event to celebrate the region's filmmakers and movie icons.

Now, the Monadnock International Film Festival Board of Directors is ready to announce the first-ever festival's launch at a public party set for the Courtyard Marriott on Railroad Street this Friday. Festival Director Laina Barakat said the free party is slated to last from 5 to 6:30 p.m. and will serve as a grand opportunity to announce all the films, filmmakers and guest celebrities expected at the festival, which is scheduled for Thursday, April 4, to Saturday, April 6.

"Movies really matter. They're an amazing way to bring a community together to celebrate the human experience," Barakat told the Reformer on Wednesday. "We want to show how positive and creative movies are."

She said Keene is the ideal location for a regional film festival because of its layout as a college town that has many lodging facilities and in which everything is within walking distance.

Jamie Contois and Peter Condon are the co-chairs of the 13-member board of directors and have been working feverishly with Barakat to get every detail in perfect order for the launch party and the film festival.

Contois said they have been collaborating with the directors of the Women's Film Festival in Brattleboro in an attempt to mirror its function and success.

"We're really excited to announce the films and the talent coming to the region," she said, though she and Barakat declined to list them before Friday. "Film festivals can attract very dynamic artists, directors and actors to the region."

Condon, who teaches film studies at Keene State College and serves as an advisor to its film society, said the directors have probably screened 100 movies between them, picking a select collection to show. He said there were no film submissions because this is the festival's first year and the members of the board got a hold of films to screen through their contacts in the arts world. Condon said most of the movies screened were not chosen for the festival -- not due to lack of quality but because the directors are trying to keep it small and simple in its genesis.

He said all the directors have become good friends and "that's why things have been going very, very well."

The movies will be shown at The Colonial Theatre in town and in the recital hall and Putnam Arts Lecture Hall of the Redfern Arts Center on KSC's campus.

The Monadnock International Film Festival is a non-profit organization started in June 2011 with a mission to bring world-class film and filmmakers to the Monadnock Region, combining the area's twin traditions of great art and social awareness. The film festival will feature the Jonathan Daniels Award -- granted to a socially-conscious film of great artistic merit, educational panels with guest filmmakers of note, a question-and-answer session following each screening, and after-parties.

The festival is in partnership with Arts Alive!, the Greater Keene Chamber of Commerce, W.H.A.T.'S. Keene and more than 40 area businesses. It has raised $45,000 of its $60,000 goal.

Condon said the board of directors has been advertising all over New England and in publications throughout the country related to film and art.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.