This year’s Chesapeake Film Festival, which runs from Sept. 30-Oct. 9, 2022, will be something of a hybrid – part live screenings and part online showings.
In 2020, when most live events were shuttered because of the pandemic, the festival took a novel approach. Rather than postponing (or canceling), the festival was moved online. The approach was so successful, festival organizers have adopted the hybrid approach as the new normal in 2022.
Local Screenings, Worldwide Audience
“We had a very favorable response to that,” says Festival Director Cid Collins Walker, explaining why organizers have continued to offer a virtual festival experience. “There’s nothing quite like live screenings, of course, where people can meet with the filmmakers and talk to one another about what they’re seeing. But what we have found is that people also really enjoy being able to see the festival films from wherever they may be in the world.”
This year, the in-person festival features eight films and spans three days, from Friday, Sept. 30 through Sunday, Oct. 2. Showings will take place at two historic theaters in downtown Easton, the Avalon Theatre and the Ebenezer Theatre. The festival continues online from Oct. 3-9 and offers free 24-hour access to an additional 40 films.
The Chesapeake Film Festival takes seriously its role as one of the leading film festivals on the East Coast. Competition among filmmakers is steep. Over the course of six months the film festival staff and board reviews literally hundreds of films, seeking meaningful and unique work that will connect with Mid-Atlantic audiences.
“Each film is evaluated on a number of merits, such as cinematography, sound, direction and production value,” explains Collins Walker.
Big Names, Bold Choices
This year the festival has chosen some big names who appear in front, as well as behind, the camera.
Sunday, Oct. 2 is all about Billy Wyler, the famed Hollywood director who won three Academy Awards (and was nominated for a total of 12). The audience will have a chance to see his masterpiece Roman Holiday starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck on the big screen. The film will be followed by a one-hour documentary about the director made by his daughter Catherine Wyler, who will appear in person for a Q&A session.
Those who tap into the free virtual film festival can view The Automat, a star-studded movie which was a fan favorite at the Telluride Film Festival. This feel-good documentary about the legendary restaurant chain Horn & Hardart features Mel Brooks along with the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg and is just one of the many highlights of the festival’s online offerings that go live at 9 a.m., Monday, Oct. 3.
Women Out Front
Collins Walker, herself a filmmaker whose film Arc of Light: A Portrait of Anna Campbell Bliss screened at the 2015 Chesapeake Film Festival, cares passionately about amplifying the contributions of women on cinema and beyond. This year, the festival will screen two full-length films about women who have impacted American culture.
Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy Blache, narrated by Jodie Foster, is a documentary examining the indelible imprint left on the film industry by the first female director and studio owner, an often overlooked figure in this historically male-dominated industry.
The Glorias is a narrative feature about feminist icon Gloria Steinem that immediately resonated with Collins Walker earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. “I knew right away that I needed to to get this one for our festival,” she says.
Since its inception, the Chesapeake Film Festival has been recognized for its dedication to films that address issues affecting the environment.
This year the festival will open with three short films focused on the environment. It will include a panel discussion with the filmmakers, who will address not only their work as well as the issues that informed their films, such as climate change. Among the luminaries who will be in attendance is Maggie Stogner, the director of Upstream, Downriver, a documentary that questions how America’s waterways remain dangerously polluted a half century after the passage of the Clean Water Act in the United States.
Additionally, this year’s festival will run a series of environmental features that will be available for free. Among the highlights are Mediterranean Life Under Siege, made in France, which takes a literal deep dive into the increasingly fragile ecosystem in the Mediterranean, as well as TRASHY: A Zero Waste Film follows one American woman’s attempt to create no garbage for an entire year in an effort to live a more sustainable lifestyle.
There are also shorts films that shine light on changemakers—near and far — who are making a difference. Two prime examples: Tides of Change, which in 44 minutes examines how residents of Virginia’s Eastern Shore are adapting to rising waters of the Chesapeake Bay, and Green Nettle, a film that runs just under three minutes, introduces viewers to farmers who are growing stinging nettles on Mount Kenya in an effort to bolster sustainable agriculture in Africa.
Shorts are always popular at the Chesapeake Film Festival. In part, it’s because it so rare that audiences have an opportunity to view them since streaming services and movie theaters tend to favor long form work. “People love them. I think it’s because they can see five or ten in an hour and have that many different experiences in such a short amount of time,” Collins Walker notes.
Student Shorts, which introduce audiences to budding filmmakers, are among the most inspirational. While some are the work of college students, others are created by far younger students. For instance, this year the festival will screen two two-minute films by young filmmakers: The Power of Play about a puppy’s determination, the product of a six-year-old and Shark Beat about a shark attempting to make friends with fish, which was created by a 6th grader.
In the end, what makes the Chesapeake Film Festival such a standout in a vast sea of film festivals is its diversity of first-class films, along with its unpretentious celebration of the best of the art form. And for film lovers, it doesn’t get any better than that.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit chesapeakefilmfestival.com.