Nantucket Film Festival (NFF) announced its lineup for the 26th annual edition, which will run from June 17-28 in a hybrid format with both online and open air screenings and conversations.
NFF will open with SUMMER OF SOUL (…OR, WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED), by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, a powerful and transporting documentary about 1969’s Harlem Cultural Festival. Searchlight Pictures.
This year’s Centerpiece is PLAYING WITH SHARKS, by Sally Aitken, from National Geographic Films, about marine maverick, cinematographer, and conservationist Valerie Taylor.
The Festival will close with CODA, by Siân Heder, from Apple Original Films, about a hearing child of Deaf parents who finds herself torn between the obligations she feels to her family and the pursuit of her own dreams.
The Festival will be presented in three parts: NFF NOW: AT HOME, NFF AT THE DRIVE-IN, and NFF GARDEN SERIES. More than 50 feature and short films, as well as conversations with Ethan Hawke, Alice Hoffman, Mark Duplass, and more will be available online via NFF NOW: AT HOME. NFF AT THE DRIVE-IN will present eight screenings on Nantucket at the Dreamland Drive-In. Finally, the festival will host 11 intimate open air events at private residences across Nantucket through the NFF GARDEN SERIES, with special guests including Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino, Kelsey Grammer, Lesley Stahl, Chris Matthews, Elin Hilderbrand, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Blue Balliet, Michael Ian Black, Ophira Eisenberg, and Colin and Nick Barnicle.
Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino will be the recipients of the Excellence in Television Writing Award, recognizing their achievements as the writers, directors, and executive producers of the critically-acclaimed series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Gilmore Girls, among others. Past recipients have included David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik for Friends and Episodes, and Beau Willimon for House of Cards.
Additionally, Kelsey Grammer will be presented with the Compass Rose Award for Career Achievement, which recognizes his work as an outstanding artist whose contribution to the world of acting has been profound and serves as an inspiration to writers to create new material. Previous recipients have been Robert Duvall, Meg Ryan, Frank Langella, Vera Farmiga, and Molly Shannon.
More than 25 new features have been revealed as part of NFF’s 2021 feature film lineup. Among these are several notable award-winning films from Sundance, including LUZZU, written and directed by Alex Camilleri; HOMEROOM, directed by Pete Nicks; WRITING WITH FIRE, directed by Rintu Thomas & Sushmit Ghosh; and SABAYA, directed by Hogir Hirori. The lineup also includes audience award winners from SXSW, including LANGUAGE LESSONS, written by Natalie Morales and Mark Duplass and directed by Natalie Morales; IN THE SAME BREATH, directed by Nanfu Wang; INBETWEEN GIRL, written and directed by Mei Makino; and NINJABABY, written by Johan Fasting and directed by Yngvild Sve Flikke.
In addition, 32 short films from fresh new talent will be presented in five programs: In addition to NFF’s popular Kids Shorts, narrative programs include Crossroads, which features characters facing the consequences of their choices, and For the Love of, which looks at relationships of all kinds, while documentary programs include Bedrock, stories about community, legacy, and roots, and Stand Up, Stand Out, intimate portraits of unique individuals. Local filmmaking will be represented by additional short films produced by Nantucket high school students in the NFF Teen View program, which will be shown before each screening at NFF AT THE DRIVE-IN.
“As with every year, we are so excited about our programming selections for this year’s edition—we believe there is not only something for everyone, but that these films will transport our audiences,” said NFF Film Program Director Basil Tsiokos, “This year’s films come from such a wide range of filmmakers and tell incredibly diverse and dynamic stories. We look forward to sharing all the stories featured this year with our audiences, both virtually and in person.”
NFF’s Signature Program, In Their Shoes…®, has expanded this year to include conversations set both online and in open air spaces on Nantucket. Online conversations include Ethan Hawke on his work in film and novels, Mark Duplass on balancing Hollywood with indie projects, Alice Hoffman on her Practical Magic series of novels, and the Festival’s Tony Cox Screenplay Competition Award Ceremony, while open air conversations will feature Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino, Kelsey Grammer on his new film, THE SPACE BETWEEN; Gayle Tzemach Lemmon on The Daughters of Kobani, soon to be adapted for film by Hillary and Chelsea Clinton; Lesley Stahl and Chris Matthews on biography and political journalism; Elin Hilderbrand on her career as a powerhouse novelist; Blue Balliet on the appeal of ghost stories; Michael Ian Black on fatherhood; the Barnicle Brothers on their hit Netflix true crime series This Is a Robbery; and Ophira Eisenberg hosting a storytelling event at sunset.
“This year’s edition of the Nantucket Film Festival is a tribute to the creativity and tenacity of filmmakers, authors, and comedians alike. This past year has been isolating for so many of us, and we are overjoyed to have the opportunity to bring everyone together again, both in-person and virtually, to enjoy some of the year’s best cinema, along with colorful conversations from exceptional individuals across the entertainment and cultural spaces,” said NFF Executive Director Mystelle Brabbeé.
2021 Nantucket Film Festival Lineup
FEATURE FILM PROGRAM
OPENING NIGHT FILM
SUMMER OF SOUL (…OR, WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED)
Director: Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson
The untold story of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, featuring never-before-seen performances from Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly & The Family Stone, and scores of others. The unreleased footage that was shot that summer sat in a basement for over 50 years, keeping this incredible event in America’s history lost–until now. Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s film is a joyous musical celebration and the rediscovery of a nearly erased historical event that celebrated Black culture, pride, and unity.
PLAYING WITH SHARKS
Director: Sally Aitken
Valerie Taylor is a maverick who forged her way as a fearless diver, cinematographer, and marine conservationist. Her life’s work has become the basis for much of what we know about sharks today. Using stunning underwater archival footage, along with interviews with Taylor, filmmaker Sally Aitken follows her trajectory from champion spearfisher to advisor on the blockbuster classic JAWS to passionate shark protector.
CLOSING NIGHT FILM
Writer/Director: Siân Heder
Seventeen-year-old Ruby (Emilia Jones) is the sole hearing member of a deaf family–a CODA, child of Deaf adults. Her life revolves around acting as interpreter for her parents (Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur) and working on the family’s struggling fishing boat every day before school with her father and older brother (Daniel Durant). But when Ruby joins her high school’s choir club, she discovers a gift for singing and soon finds herself drawn to her duet partner Miles (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo). Encouraged by her enthusiastic, tough-love choirmaster (Eugenio Derbez) to apply to a prestigious music school, Ruby finds herself torn between the obligations she feels to her family and the pursuit of her own dreams. Cast: Emilia Jones, Eugenio Derbez, Troy Kotsur, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Daniel Durant, Amy Forsyth, Kevin Chapman, Marlee Matlin.
HOW IT ENDS
Writer/Director: Zoe Lister-Jones & Daryl Wein
On the last day on Earth, one woman goes on a journey through LA to make it to her last party before the world ends, running into an eclectic cast of characters along the way. Cast: Zoe Lister-Jones, Cailee Spaeny, Olivia Wilde, Fred Armisen, Helen Hunt, Lamorne Morris.
Writer/Director: Mei Makino
Teenage artist Angie turns to secret hookups with the heartthrob of her private school after her parents’ sudden divorce. Cast: Emma Galbraith, William Magnuson, Emily Garrett, Lizabeth Waters, KaiChow Lau, Thanh Phuong Bui, Shanshan Jin, Kelsey Buckley.
JACK LONDON’S MARTIN EDEN
Writer/Director: Jay Craven
Shot on Nantucket, this adaptation of Jack London’s autobiographical 1909 novel tells the story of a poor and unschooled sailor, whose unconventional relationship with a magnetic young woman of means and education upends both their lives. Cast: Andrew Richardson, Hayley Griffith, Annette Mahendru, Jeff Adler.
Writer/Director: Natalie Morales
Writer: Mark Duplass
When Adam’s husband surprises him with weekly Spanish lessons, he’s unsure about where or how this new element will fit into his already structured life. But when tragedy strikes, his Spanish teacher, Cariño, becomes a lifeline he didn’t know he needed. Cast: Natalie Morales, Mark Duplass.
Writer/Director: Alex Camilleri
A struggling Maltese fisherman—whose traditional livelihood is imperiled by diminishing harvests, a ruthless fishing industry, and a stagnating ecosystem—considers an illicit black-market fishing operation in order to provide for his family. Cast: Jesmark Scicluna, Michela Farrugia.
MARVELOUS AND THE BLACK HOLE
Writer/Director: Kate Tsang
A teenage delinquent forms an unlikely friendship with a surly magician who helps her navigate her inner demons and dysfunctional family with sleight of hand magic. Cast: Miya Cech, Rhea Perlman, Leonardo Nam, Kannon Omachi, Paulina Lule, Keith Powell.
Writer/Director: Chase Palmer
Writer: David Matthews
An idealistic public defender burned out by the system and seeing signs of the universe collapsing around him decides to rob a multi-million drug deal. Based on the critically-acclaimed novel A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava. Cast: John Boyega, Olivia Cooke, Bill Skarsgård, Ed Skrein.
Writer: Johan Fasting
Director: Yngvild Sve Flikke
When Rakel finds out, way too late, that she’s six months pregnant after a not-so-romantic one-night stand, her world changes. Cast: Kristine Thorp, Arthur Berning, Nader Khademi, Tora Christine Dietrichson.
THE SPACE BETWEEN
Writer: Will Aldis
Director: Rachel Winter
Micky Adams, an eccentric has-been rock musician, has lost his grip on reality, prompting his record label to send Charlie, an ambitious young employee, to force Micky out of his contract—instead, an unlikely friendship develops. Cast: Kelsey Grammer, Jackson White, Julia Goldani Telles, Paris Jackson, Andy Daly, William Fichtner.
Writer/Director: Todd Stephens
An aging hairdresser escapes his nursing home and embarks on an odyssey across his small town to style a woman’s hair for her funeral, rediscovering his sparkle along the way. Cast: Udo Kier, Jennifer Coolidge, Linda Evans, Michael Urie, Ira Hawkins, Stephanie McVay.
ALIEN ON STAGE
Directors: Danielle Kummer & Lucy Harvey
When a British bus driver’s amateur stage adaptation of Ridley Scott’s ALIEN somehow makes it to a famous London theatre, will the homemade homage win over the crowd?
DEAR MR. BRODY
Director: Keith Maitland
A psychedelic journey into the heart (and bank account) of Michael Brody, Jr, the hippie-millionaire who, in 1970, offered the world peace for the price of a postage stamp.
Director: Stephanie Soechtig
This immersive look at ADHD debunks harmful myths and re-frames our understanding of this deeply misunderstood condition, providing much needed insight and hope.
Director: Peter Nicks
Oakland High School’s class of 2020 confronts the developing pandemic while fighting to eliminate the school district’s police force amidst nationwide demands for systemic change.
IN THE SAME BREATH
Director: Nanfu Wang
This deeply personal film by acclaimed US-based Chinese filmmaker Nanfu Wang recounts the origin and impact of COVID-19, exploring the parallel campaigns of misinformation waged by leadership of both China and the US.
Director: Giedrė Žickytė
Lithuanian sailor Simas Kudirka tells the legendary tale of his desperate jump to freedom from a Soviet ship to a US Coast Guard vessel near Martha’s Vineyard in 1970—an act that drew international media attention.
THE LONELIEST WHALE: THE SEARCH FOR 52
Director: Joshua Zeman
In this fascinating story about isolation and interconnection, the filmmaker and a team of intrepid scientists set out on a wild quest to find the 52 Hertz Whale, which has spent its entire life calling out at a frequency that is different from any other whale.
THE LOST SONS
Director: Ursula Macfarlane
In 1960s Chicago, a newborn baby boy is kidnapped from a hospital. Fifteen months later, a toddler is abandoned in New Jersey. Could he be the stolen baby?
Director: Hogir Hirori
With just a mobile phone and a gun, Mahmud, Ziyad, and their group risk their lives trying to save Yazidi women and girls being held by ISIS as sex slaves in the most dangerous camp in the Middle East, Al-Hol in Syria.
Director: Jeff Daniels
The improbable behind-the-scenes story of the 1983 apocalyptic made-for-TV film The Day After, through which a Hollywood screenwriter tried to end nuclear proliferation and unseat a US president.
Director: Debbie Lum
This humorous and heartfelt look at the reality of the American college application process focuses on San Francisco’s top public high school and its majority Asian American student body, where the seniors are stressed out, keenly aware of the intense competition for the few open spots in their dream colleges.
UNITED STATES VS REALITY WINNER
Director: Sonia Kennebeck
A state of secrets and a ruthless hunt for whistleblowers–this is the story of 25-year-old NSA contractor Reality Winner, who disclosed one document about Russian election interference to the media and became the number one leak target of the Trump administration.
WRITING WITH FIRE
Directors: Rintu Thomas & Sushmit Ghosh
In a cluttered news landscape dominated by men emerges India’s only newspaper run by Dalit (untouchable) women. Armed with smartphones, Chief Reporter Meera and her journalists break traditions, be it on the frontlines of India’s biggest issues or within the confines of their homes, redefining what it means to be powerful.
SHORT FILM PROGRAM
NARRATIVE SHORTS PROGRAM: CROSSROADS
Characters facing the facts, their choices, and the consequences.
WICHITA | Writer: Bo Price | Director: Sergine Dumais
MONUMENT | Writer: Anthony Nicolau | Directors: Joshua James Johnson & Tim Maupin
GUIDE ON | Writer/Director: Paige Compton
SEASICK | Writer/Director: Lindsay Ryan
HELLO FROM TAIWAN | Writer/Director: Tiffany Frances
WAVES | Writer/Director: Agazi Desta
UNDERCUT | Writer/Director: Kelly Pike
DESERT HEART | Writer/Director: Carnie Bezalel
NARRATIVE SHORTS PROGRAM: FOR THE LOVE OF
An exploration of relationships of all kinds.
THE BEAST | Writer/Director: Luke Howe
BJ’S MOBILE GIFT SHOP | Writer/Director: Jason Park
CANDLEPIN | Writer/Director: Gautam Chopra
LUV U CUZ | Writer/Director: Eric Pumphrey
MOTHER TONGUE | Writer/Director: Jessica Li
TAPE | Writer: Shuhan Fan | Director: Jojo Erholtz
LOVE IS JUST A DEATH AWAY | Writer/Director: Bára Anna Stejskalová
DOCUMENTARY SHORTS PROGRAM: BEDROCK
Stories about impacting the community, preserving legacy, and acknowledging your roots.
ONE ALL THE WAY | Director: David Baram
AGUILUCHO: DANCE OF THE HARPY EAGLE | Director: Daniel Byers
RED HORIZON | Director: T.C. Johnstone
DOCUMENTARY SHORTS PROGRAM: STAND UP, STAND OUT
An intimate look at unique individuals who stand out in a crowd and stand up for themselves.
THE BEAUTY PRESIDENT | Director: Whitney Skauge
CODED | Director: Ryan White
MAKE HIM KNOWN | Director: Rudy Valdez
WHEN I’M HER | Director: Emily Schuman
SNOWY | Directors: Kaitlyn Schwalje & Alexander Lewis
Stories for our youngest audience members. Suitable for ages 6 and up.
THE PROMISE | Writer/Director: Chi Thai | Writer: Nicola Davies
THE BOY AND THE MOUNTAIN | Writers/Directors: Santiago Aguilera & Gabriel Monreal | Writers: Pablo Aguirre, Kylie Trupp, & Aarón Navia
IN THE SHADOW OF THE PINES | Writer/Director: Anne Koizumi
ME, A MONSTER? | Writer/Director: Belinda Bonan
LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE (A SNAIL ODYSSEY) | Writer/Director: Sol de Glanville | Director: Ben de Glanville
A HAND TO HOLD | Writer/Director: Stacey Davis | Director: Ali Clark
LOUIS’ SHOES | Writers/Directors: Theo Jamin, Kayu Leung, Marion Philippe, & Jean-Geraud Blanc
APPLE TREE MAN | Writers: Lusine Vartanyan & Andrey Gorshkov | Director: Alla Vartanyan
REHAK | Writer/Director: Pierre B.
NFF GARDEN SERIES
IN THEIR SHOES…® CONVERSATIONS AND MORE
Everyone’s got a story to tell—especially after this past year. Join us for a series of intimate open air conversations and events hosted at private homes on Nantucket.
The Making of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and More
With Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino
An in-depth conversation with the writers, directors, and executive producers of acclaimed series including The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Gilmore Girls, known for their whip smart comedy and sophisticated dialogue. Amy and Daniel will be the recipients of the NFF Excellence in Television Writing Award.
With Kelsey Grammer
Beloved actor Kelsey Grammer, at NFF with his latest film, THE SPACE BETWEEN, is joined in conversation with comedian Ophira Eisenberg for a free-wheeling conversation about his career—with a little music thrown in. Kelsey will be the recipient of NFF’s Compass Rose Award for Acting.
Journalism, Biography, and the World of Television News
With Chris Matthews and Lesley Stahl
Join political historian and pundit Chris Matthews in conversation with Emmy Award-winning correspondent Lesley Stahl as these veteran journalists share their unique take on the relationship between American politics and the media.
Queen of Beach Reads
with Elin Hilderbrand
Elin Hilderbrand, author of 27 best-selling novels—most set on Nantucket—discusses her prolific pace and the transition of her books to screen, with 28 Summers shooting this summer and four other books in film development.
Women Warriors Rewrite the Rules and Take on ISIS
With Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
New York Times bestselling author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon speaks about her latest book, The Daughters of Kobani, the extraordinary story of the women taking on the Islamic State, that is currently in development for a film adaptation by producers Chelsea and Hillary Clinton.
A Better Man…
With Michael Ian Black
Michael Ian Black discusses his book, A Better Man: A (Mostly Serious) Letter to My Son, a project inspired by his influential 2018 New York Times op-ed about toxic masculinity, and featuring the warmth and humor that NFF audiences have come to expect from the comedian.
What is a Ghost?
With Blue Balliet
Join Edgar Award-winner and bestselling New York Times author Blue Balliett in an evening that will be part storytelling and part conversation about the psychology behind other-worldly experiences—and why we never forget them.
This Is a Robbery: The Art of the Heist
With Colin and Nick Barnicle
In the Netflix true crime documentary series This Is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist, the Barnicle Brothers take a deep dive into the daring, notorious, and still unsolved theft at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
With Ophira Eisenberg
Set against the magic of the “golden hour,” Ophira Eisenberg (NPR’s Ask Me Another) returns to host an evening of entertaining live stories by some of the cleverest people we know.
NOW: AT HOME SPECIAL PROGRAMMING
IN THEIR SHOES…® CONVERSATIONS AND MORE
Exclusive to NFF’s online platform, these conversations and events bring inspiring figures into your own home.
A Conversation with Ethan Hawke
Celebrated actor, writer, and director Ethan Hawke will discuss his new novel, A Bright Ray of Darkness and his work in front of and behind the camera.
Up the Ladder, Down the Ladder
with Mark Duplass
Mark Duplass talks about climbing up the ladder as a writer, director, and actor from indie films to Hollywood and back down again.
A Touch of Magic
with Alice Hoffman
Alice Hoffman discusses the creative journey she took in her Practical Magic series of novels, which focus on the treatment of women across the ages.
Tony Cox Screenplay Competition Awards Ceremony
The announcement of the winners of NFF’s annual screenplay competitions, who will gather to share excerpts from their scripts.