There were around 1,000 submissions for the 15th New Hampshire Film Festival, scheduled to happen in Portsmouth Oct. 15 through Oct. 18 this year.
It wasn’t an unusual number, festival programming director Nicole Galovski said via phone. She watched more than 200 of those flicks herself, and the difference, she said, was in the quality, making this year’s programming some of the best the festival has ever seen. New Hampshire Day, Oct. 15, in particular has seen incredible transformation.
“New Hampshire Day is getting so competitive. It used to be that we’d take anything and everything five or six years ago,” Galovski said. “Now we’re only able to play the top 30 or 35 [out of 100]. We have two venues completely dedicated to New Hampshire for a full day. … There’s so much great filmmaking happening in the state. It’s really growing, and it makes us really want to include as many people as we can.”
The event occurs in various downtown venues, including one new location this year — 3S Artspace — and is made up of screenings, filmmaker Q&A’s, awards and panels. Other venues include The Music Hall, The Music Hall Loft and the Moffatt-Ladd House, and the Discover Portsmouth Center will serve as headquarters.
Galovski said she noticed a number of themes in this year’s submissions — one was reducing the stigma of mental illness. Those that made the cut include Go Jackson Doll, A Light Beneath Their Feet, Touched With Fire and What Would Time Think of Me? Another theme was food sustainability and consciousness, which is evident in flicks like Food Fight: Inside the Battle For Market Basket and Growing Local.
But maybe one of the most anticipated food-related films, at least for many people in Portsmouth, is Brew Hampshire, about the growing craft beer culture in the state. Created by married duo and Keene grads Meagan Frappiea and Bryant Naro, the movie has been about two years in the making. It started with what was supposed to be a short documentary about Throwback Brewery.
Then they met the people. There’s a niche in the beer-making community, they said via phone last week, partially because New Hampshire was first in the country to distinguish small nanobreweries — companies that produce fewer than 2,000 barrels a year, requiring a $240 license — and partially because of its close-knit following.
“We have met some really thoughtful, interesting characters in the beer community. … A lot of breweries have these communities behind them,” Naro said. “And I think people are excited to see their favorite or local brewery on the screen.”
This is the film’s second public New Hampshire screening, and the two are excited to show it to their home state and the film’s subjects, many of whom will be seeing it for the first time.
Coincidentally, Matt Gallagher, who runs Portsmouth Brewery, is involved in the festival as well, though his film has nothing to do with beer. He plays the son of real-life father-in-law Bob Tarasuk in feature narrative Bob and the Trees.
Tarasuk, who lives in Sandisfield, Mass., become involved with the film when he met new-to-the-neighborhood filmmaker Diego Ongaro years back. After three years of knowing Tarasuk, Ongaro approached Tarasuk — he thought he was a character, and he thought he had a story.
“He just approached me out of the blue and asked if I wanted to be in a short movie,” Tarasuk said. “I said sure, why wouldn’t I? I had no acting experience.”
They made the short, fictional narrative, and then created a long one, shooting for three weeks in the middle of February. The film is technically fictional, but Tarasuk plays himself and the story is about his occupation — logging. The flick recently won awards at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic, and is fresh from a screening at Sundance.
Saturday’s comedy panel includes special guest celebrities, including John Michael Higgins (Best in Show, Pitch Perfect), Tom Bergeron (Dancing With the Stars, America’s Funniest Home Videos) and Jimmy Dunn. David Dastmalchian (The Dark Knight) will perform as an NHFF screenplay judge.
“Spotlight films” include Manglehorn (starring Al Pacino and Holly Hunter), The Witch (which was very successful at Sundance), Mississippi Grind (starring Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn), Anomalisa (directed by Charlie Kaufmann), Cartel Land, The Wolfpack and A Ballerina’s Tale.