Documentary Film Festival invites young filmmakers | Local News

NEWBURYPORT — Experienced documentarians and some newcomers will get a chance to see their work when a full, in-person Newburyport Documentary Film Festival returns this weekend with “Jack Has a Plan” on Friday.

Joanne Morris, who was the festival’s executive director for 10 years, said the return to in-person form comes after going fully virtual in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and then overcoming a few hiccups in 2021.

“We were ready to go entirely in person last year but as we got closer it became apparent that it wasn’t the comfortable thing to do,” she said. “So we organized our three night movies but we took precautions with masking and vaccinations but the rest was virtual.”

Twenty-six documentaries will screen over the weekend in both the State Street Screening Room and the Firehouse Center for the Arts in Market Square with most of the filmmakers also in attendance.

The festival has always been committed to providing opportunities for students and young adults to showcase their work, and organizers have taken the opportunity to create the Young Emerging Filmmaker’s Showcase (YES) awards program in 2021, Morris said.

The awards program features films that feature the work of current and recent college graduates who compete for a top prize of $500 per jury sponsored by Dietz & Lynch Capital.

Peter Carzasty, co-chair of the awards program, said this year’s edition saw documentaries from students or recent graduates from 24 universities and colleges.

Finalists from Vassar College, Endicott College, Massachusetts College of Art, UMass Amherst, Wheaton College and Montserrat College of Art finally got their films in competition to play at The Screening Room at 3 p.m. Friday.

High school students will also have the opportunity to explore film and production with the RAW Works Art Therapy Youth Program at the Newburyport Public Library on Saturdays from noon to 1 p.m.

“This is a non-profit organization in Lynn that has an amazing program for high school kids to learn about filmmaking,” Morris said.

Guest filmmakers are expected to join program director James Sullivan for a filmmakers roundtable at The Port Tavern on Saturday from 5:30-6:30 p.m.

“Jack Has a Plan,” directed by Bradley Berman and Ben Flax, chronicles the three-year journey a man with a terminal brain tumor takes to end his own life that culminates in a birthday party. permanent departure. The film will screen at the Firehouse Center for the Arts on Friday at 7:30 p.m. with a reception at 6:30 p.m.

The film will be followed by a Q&A with Berman and Flax and an after-party will take place at NU Kitchen.

“Deconstructing Karen,” a documentary directed by Emmy Award-winning Patty Ivins Specht, premieres Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Firehouse Center for the Arts. The film features a group of well-meaning white women confronting their own role in standing up for racism.

Amesbury filmmaker Tim O’Donnell, director of the award-winning film ‘Not a War Story’, will close the three-day festival with his most recent film, ‘The House We Lived In’. The film, which is about a man who survived a traumatic brain injury, will screen at the Firehouse Center for the Arts at 6 p.m.

Daytime movie tickets are $12, $10 for seniors and $20, $18 for seniors for Friday and Saturday night events.

The winners of Best Feature, Best Short, Best New England Film, Best Newbie Filmmaker, People’s Choice Award and David Kleiler Award will be announced on Monday.

Most of the documentaries will be available to stream after the festival closes on Sunday evening and until September 25.

“Anyone can see any movie at any time,” Carzasty said.

The recent shift to virtual screenings has also given the documentary film festival a chance to reach a much wider audience, according to Carzasty.

“I got some of the demographics from our YouTube platforms and 87% of the audience is national. Of that, only 12.5% ​​is Boston and Newburyport. The rest is national,” he said.

To see the full film lineup and buy tickets, go to:

Writer Jim Sullivan covers Newburyport for The Daily News. He can be reached by email at or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.