Here's why you should go to see a movie at Woods Hole Film Festival this week

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Dozens of filmmakers will make their way to the western tip of Cape Cod over the next week or so and — available accommodations willing — many are expected to bring larger groups than usual to be part of the Woods Hole Film Festival.

Why? The chance to finally see their movies with a crowd.

The pandemic changed the film industry over the past three years, with audience members feeling safer and getting used to seeing movies at home, and many films going straight to streaming services rather than theaters. So the chances for group movie-watching experiences have grown scarcer.

A scene from the documentary "After Antarctica," which will be playing at the Woods Hole Film Festival.
A scene from the documentary "After Antarctica," which will be playing at the Woods Hole Film Festival.

That group movie-watching is what the organizers of the seven-day Woods Hole fest, running July 30-Aug. 6, say they want to provide.

Filmmakers come to engage with audiences

“We have filmmakers coming from Ireland and the U.K to support their short films, which I think is amazing,” says John Gamache, Woods Hole festival associate/technical director. With more than 100 filmmakers due to attend, “it’s going to be a wonderful environment here. … It's been such a long time since a lot of filmmakers have been able to see their films on a big screen with an audience and be able to interact with them that I think filmmakers are really hungry for that experience again. We’re really excited that we can help do that.”

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This applies to both the filmmakers and movie-lovers, notes executive director Judy Laster. They have created a hybrid 2022 festival that still offers a virtual option but is also almost back to pre-pandemic numbers of in-person screenings, workshops, Q&As and discussions.

“The challenge every film festival is facing now is just getting audiences back into the groove of going to see things in person. After a few years of not doing that, people have sort of forgotten how,” she says. “I'm hopeful that with the festival being more back in person that the excitement and the reason why people go to film festivals will push them to go back indoors.

"A large part of the reason filmmakers come here is to engage with the audiences,” Laster says.

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Overall, this 31st annual festival will screen 45 feature-length films and 72 shorts — nearly half of which were directed by women — including nine world, two national and 50 New England premieres. Topics are wide-ranging, though many deal with current themes and issues, music or science — part of a focus based on the festival’s location among top scientific institutions.

Guest stars will include movie stars Karen Allen and William Sadler with their film “A Stage of Twilight;” Jennifer Siebel Newsom, First Partner of California; polar explorer Will Steger; and multiple scientists.

Karen Allen stars in "A Stage of Twilight," one of dozens of feature films screening in person and virtually for the Woods Hole Film Festival.
Karen Allen stars in "A Stage of Twilight," one of dozens of feature films screening in person and virtually for the Woods Hole Film Festival.

While WHFF will offer almost all movies on the virtual platform that kept the event successful in the past two years — and brought its films to faraway audiences — this year’s seven-day schedule at five main venues will feel the closest to the pre-pandemic experience for loyal fans, says Laster.

In-person only

All screening Q&As with directors and stars, for example, plus workshops and master classes, will be in-person only. There will be parties, live music and the awards ceremony will be in person again as part of the closing night.

Laster and Gamache say they are also excited about the quality of what they will get to show, saying worries were unfounded about people not being able to make films during the pandemic. Many found clever and creative ways to work around limitations, they say.

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One example is opening-night documentary “Fire of Love,” Sara Dosa’s film that Laster says uses a lot of archival footage to tell the story of French volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft, who roamed the planet for two decades chasing eruptions then were killed in a 1991 volcanic explosion.

Want to go? Woods Hole Film Festival schedule

There are a variety of ways to experience what the festival has to offer. For free, at 10 a.m. on the July 25-29 weekdays leading up to the festival, there will be live Facebook chats with filmmakers at

Starting July 30, passes for online screenings are $130 for an individual and $175 for a household; in-person ticket packages are $125 for 10 tickets and $80 for six tickets. Individual film, workshop, and panel discussion tickets range from $16-$20. Tickets and the full schedule: Information: 508-495-3456 or

Film festival highlights

Among all there is to see in person or virtually, Laster and Gamache point out some highlights:

Holly Morris, whose "Exposure” tells the story of 11 novice women explorers who journey to the North Pole, will be one of the filmmakers participating in a panel discussion on creating movies related to climate change.
Holly Morris, whose "Exposure” tells the story of 11 novice women explorers who journey to the North Pole, will be one of the filmmakers participating in a panel discussion on creating movies related to climate change.

Science and climate change

As part of the "Film and Science Initiative" that the WHFF has been growing for the past several years, there will be a panel discussion on “From Pole to Pole: Documenting Climate Change in Extreme Locations” connected to three particular movies.

Panelists will include WHFF filmmaker in residence Tasha Van Zandt; her “After Antarctica” film subject and longtime Arctic and Antarctica explorer Will Steger; Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution polar scientists Sarah Das and Catherine Walker; and other festival filmmakers Holly Morris (“Exposure,” about 11 novice women explorers who journey to the North Pole), and Kathy Kasic (“The Lake at the Bottom of the World,” about scientists who discovered a lake under the Antarctic ice).

The goal of the film/science initiative, Laster says, is to have scientists and filmmakers talk to each other. Festival officials have worked on curating science-oriented films, making some of their own, and partnering year-round with the Museum of Science in Boston.

“I know that scientists are eager to work with filmmakers, in part because they understand the importance of telling these stories and getting them out more broadly so that people have a deeper appreciation for what happens in these places that are so very far away, and that most of us will never go to,” Laster says.

She notes that Kasic was one of the first filmmakers to be included in a National Science Foundation grant that funded the research.

A look at equality and other social issues

Social issues are also well-represented on the festival schedule.

After screening her documentary feature “Fair Play” about families trying to create gender equity at home — inspired by Eve Rodsky’s bestselling book about the unfair work dynamic — director Jennifer Siebel Newsom (California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s First Partner) will lead a discussion about inequity.

Also due to participate is festival alum Lucia Small (“One Cut, One Life”), who spent nearly seven years filming “Girl Talk,” about five girls on the diverse, top-ranked Newton South (Massachusetts) debate team, who found their voices despite being talked over, underrepresented, and judged differently than their male counterparts.

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Laster also mentions the world-premiere documentary “Do I Need This?” about people’s obsession with possessions, and “A Decent Home,” about people in a Colorado trailer park and what happens when investors buy the property where their homes are.

“This film, we're hoping, will create a much larger conversation about housing and affordability and stability, especially in light of everything happening on Cape Cod right now,” Laster says.

David Grubin’s documentary “Free Renty: Lanier v. Harvard,” is about how Tamara Lanier, an African American woman from Connecticut, was determined to force Harvard University to cede possession of daguerreotypes made of her great-great-great grandfather — an enslaved man named Renty — that were commissioned in 1850 by a Harvard professor to "prove" the superiority of the white race.

Cambridge director Garrett Zevgetis’s “On These Grounds” follows healer and activist Vivian Anderson, who uprooted her life in New York City after a video that went viral inspired her to support a Black teenager who was pulled from her school desk and thrown across the floor by a white police officer in South Carolina.

Short films

The festival offers 10 separate programs of short films, including ones grouped around the themes of “Be the Change,” “Conversations,” “Modern Problems,” “Finding Our Way” and “It’s Getting Dark in Here.”

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The widely varying shorts include comedies, animated stories and documentaries, and films that Gamache says are “a little darker and a little more on the odd side.”

Laster says she hopes the short-film groupings will help to attract younger audiences, “the audiences of the future … to (help) sustain the notion of screening films in a theater setting. We need younger people to appreciate why that matters and to become part of the group of people that cares about it. (Young people) are more used to watching things that are short-form content.”

“Bonnie Blue: James Cotton’s Life in the Blues” will be a preview event for the Woods Hole Film Festival.
“Bonnie Blue: James Cotton’s Life in the Blues” will be a preview event for the Woods Hole Film Festival.


A July 28 pre-festival kickoff event will feature a screening of “Bonnie Blue: James Cotton’s Life in the Blues,” a portrait of a man who changed the sound of the blues and history. Director Bestor Cram, and producers Laster and musician James Montgomery, frequently on Cape stages, will be part of a post-show Q&A.

Music-related films will include feature documentaries “The Chisels Are Calling,” by Trevor Laurence, about guitar builder and designer to the stars John Monteleone; and “Omoiyari — A Song Film by Kishi Bashi,” co-directed by Justin Taylor Smith, that follows co-director (and violinist and songwriter) Kishi Bashi on a musical journey to understand WWII-era Japanese incarceration, assimilation and what it means to be a minority in America today.

Contact Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll at Follow on Twitter: @KathiSDCCT.

This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Woods Hole Film Festival schedule of in-person screenings, parties