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Up to Middlebury, back to World War I

Sarah-Sofie Boussnina in “The Bird Catcher.”
Sarah-Sofie Boussnina in “The Bird Catcher.” Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival

Film buffs looking for an out-of-town experience might check out the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival, in Middlebury, Vt., which unspools for its fifth season, Aug. 22-25. Cofounder and artistic director Jay Craven, a Vermont-based filmmaker known for “Where the Rivers Flow North” (1993) and “Peter and John” (2015), among others, launched the event as a showcase for first- and second-time filmmakers.

But this year three veterans, Paul Schrader, Barbara Kopple, and Bruce Greenwood, share top billing. Schrader, whose numerous screenwriting credits include Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” (1976) and co-writing “Raging Bull” (1980), and who wrote and directed “Blue Collar” (1978), “Affliction” (1997), and “First Reformed” (2017), will appear at the MNFF in conversation with Craven Aug. 23 at the Town Hall Theater, following the 1:30 p.m. screening of“First Reformed.” Starring Ethan Hawke as a Protestant minister grappling with questions of faith and morality, the film earned Schrader his first Oscar nomination for original screenplay.


Two-time Academy Award winner Barbara Kopple (“Harlan County, U.S.A.,” 1976, “American Dream,” 1990) returns to the MNFF with her latest documentary, “New Homeland” (Aug. 24, 1:30 p.m., Town Hall Theater) and will engage in a post-screening discussion. “New Homeland” is about Camp Pathfinder, a summer camp in Canada’s Algonquin Park, which since 1914 has invited boys from across Canada and the United States to spend a few weeks in the backcountry. Two years ago, in response to the growing global refugee crisis, the camp decided to bring a group of displaced boys from war-torn Syria and Iraq to spend the summer at Pathfinder.

Bruce Greenwood has acted in Atom Egoyan’s 1997 drama “The Sweet Hereafter” (Aug. 24, 7:15 p.m., at Twilight Hall, on the Middlebury College campus) and Frank Hall Green’s “Wildlike” (2015), screening Aug. 25, 10 a.m., at the Town Hall Theater. Greenwood is featured in conversation with Craven, following both screenings; and MNFF will present him with a sustained excellence in acting award on Aug. 25, at the conclusion of his Q&A.


Other MNFF highlights include a Vermont Film Showcase, Aug. 22, with four features by filmmakers based in the state or films set there. These include two documentaries, Mike Leonard’s “One Town at a Time” (10 a.m., Town Hall Theater) and Richard Moulton’s “Voice of America: Lowell Thomas and the Rise of Broadcasting” (1:30 p.m., Town Hall Theater); and two scripted films, Andy Mitton’s “The Witch in the Window” (10 a.m., Marquis Theater) and Josh Melrod’s “Major Arcana” (1:30 p.m., Marquis Theatre). All four directors are scheduled to be in attendance.

Director Ross Clarke will discuss “The Bird Catcher” after the screening (Aug. 25, 1 p.m., Marquis Main) with author and MNFF board member Jay Parini (“The Last Station”). Clarke’s film is about a Norwegian-Jewish teenager with dreams of Hollywood stardom. She’s suddenly faced with playing the role of her life when she masquerades as a boy on a Nazi-occupied farm while plotting an escape to Sweden.

Director Jenifer McShane will be in attendance with the festival’s closing night film, “Ernie & Joe” (Aug. 25, 8 p.m., Town Hall Theater). An intimate portrait of two San Antonio policemen trying to change the way officers respond to mental health, “Ernie & Joe” earned accolades at this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival, Berkshire International Film Festival, Nantucket Film Festival, and Wood’s Hole Film Festival, among others.


Go to www.middfilmfest.org.

“Silents, Please” series

Norma Talmadge’s last silent film, the 1928 melodrama “The Woman Disputed,” screens in 35mm at the Somerville Theatre Aug. 18, at 2 p.m., with live music by Jeff Rapsis. Talmadge, a major star during the Silent Era, plays a young European orphan in 1914 who is jointly “adopted” by two young military officers: Paul Hartman (Gilbert Roland), an Austrian, and Nika Turgenov (Arnold Kent), a Russian, who both fall in love with her. Co-directed by Henry King and Sam Taylor, the film is based on a play by Denison Clift who was inspired by Guy de Maupassant’s celebrated 1880 short story, “Boule de Suif.”

Go to www.somervilletheatre.com.