Lights, Camera Action – NH Film Festival returns Thursday
The curtain rises on the 20th New Hampshire Film Festival on Thursday after a two-year absence with more than 140 films over four days plus panels and parties.
Festival Executive Director Nicole Gregg, her team and volunteers are excited to return with an all-in-person event after an enforced hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We really want to have fun this year. It’s been three years and we’re so excited for people to come and be in person. We’re not doing any virtual events. It’s all in person. We have a lot of filmmakers in attendance for Q&A It’s just time to recommit and get back to life as normal,” Gregg told Seacoast Current.
On Thursday night, the festival kicks off with the premiere of “God’s Country,” the feature debut of New Hampshire filmmaker Julian Higgins starring Thandiwe Newton. The film is about a tense battle of wills between landowner Newton and two hunters who break into his property in western Montana.
Spotlight on New Hampshire
Friday night’s star show is comedy-drama ‘The Lost King’ starring Sally Hawkins, produced and written by English actor Stephen Coogan about the woman who discovered the remains of King Richard III under a Leicester car park, in England. Gregg calls it a “real crowd please for everyone”.
Gregg is also particularly excited about two films that spotlight New Hampshire.
“Lily Topples The World” is about Sandown’s Lily Hevesh, an acclaimed 20-year-old domino artist also known on YouTube as Hevesh5. The coming-of-age film features appearances from Jimmy Fallon, Katy Perry, Will Smith, and YouTuber Casey Neistat.
“And then we also have a very good short film about the Portsmouth hockey team and the St. Thomas hockey team, the rivalry and the history of how the two faced each other in the championship,” said Gregg.
New and old places
A comedy panel hosted by Portsmouth comedian Justin McKinney will include Laura Silverman, Sarah Silverman’s sister, Gary Valentine, Josh Meyers, Aaron Lee and Robert Kelley.
Screenings and panels will take place in several venues both familiar and new, including the Music Hall Lounge (formerly the Loft), Jimmy’s Jazz & Blues Club, MONA, the returning Seacoast Repertory Theater and the newly renovated Parish Hall of St. John’s Episcopal Church. .
“It’s a really good opportunity for us to really weave all of these places together, all over Portsmouth and create this amazing synergy around the city by bringing all of these places together for one common cause, the New Hampshire Film Festival,” said Gregg. “So it’s going to be really fresh and new. And we have a lot of movies and a lot of parties. We’re just really excited.”
Recovery from pandemic restrictions
The film industry has struggled to recover from the pandemic, as restrictions on the size of indoor gatherings kept many theaters closed and ultimately put many out of business. The Cinemagic chain has closed its locations in New Hampshire and Maine, many of which have been taken over by Apple Cinema.
Gregg said ticket sales for the festival have been strong and nothing can replace the experience of seeing a film in a cinema instead of a home theater or phone. She credits Tom Cruise’s “Top Gun Maverick” for bringing people back.
“I think it will take time for the theater industry to recover and bounce back. But you know, from what we’re seeing, people are really excited to come back and be at the festival,” Gregg said.
Tickets for the festival are available online at nhfilmfestival.com or at the Music Hall box office. A VIP pass will allow you to see as many films as you want during the four days of the festival.
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