Andrew Kopkind, who died of cancer a dozen years ago at age 59, was an acclaimed progressive journalist with bylines in such publications as The Washington Post and The Nation. He also had a long association with Vermont, beginning in 1970 on a Guilford commune called Mayday. About 2 miles away as the jeezum crow flies, Treefrog Farm became his getaway home a bit later in the decade. The 100-acre spread is now where the first annual Kopkind Grassroots Film Festival will take place, from August 10 through 12.
"When Andrew passed on in 1994, our friends and I decided to turn the farm into an artists' colony," explains Kopkind's partner of 20 years, filmmaker John Scagliotti. "Our emphasis has been mostly gatherings for journalists and activists, but we always have a movie night. That became so popular, we joined forces with the Center for Independent Documentary in the Boston area. This festival is a great opportunity for networking and political discussions."
The free event also provides summer fun. "We set up a projector in our big barn and serve big meals. People can go for a swim. We call it radical relaxation," says Scagliotti.
The fest -- on the heels of a weeklong, invitation-only seminar and retreat for seven filmmakers from around the globe -- will present five handpicked selections:
--Anti-Nuclear Films From an Anti-Nuclear Family incorporates excerpts from three earlier works about the dangers of nuclear power by Daniel Keller and Charles Light of Green Mountain Post Films in Massachusetts. "That subject is of interest to us, being so close to Vermont Yankee," says Scagliotti, 55. Guilford lies approximately halfway between Brattleboro and Vernon, where the plant is situated.
--Cruel and Unusual by Janet Baus and Dan Hunt concerns transgender women in a men's prison.
--Robbie Leppzer's The Peace Patriots chronicles a New England community protesting the imminent invasion of Iraq in 2003.
--The Devil's Miner, a docudrama by Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani, focuses on an adolescent boy working in a Bolivian silver mine. "It looks at child slave labor," Scagliotti notes.
--"Beauty of Our Hands" is Rick Borutta's short about empowerment groups for South African women.
"People really want to see films that are serious and thoughtful," suggests Scagliotti, whose Before Stonewall and After Stonewall were landmark docs, in 1984 and 1999, respectively, about the origins of the contemporary gay-rights movement.
The Kopkind screenings, at 7 p.m. each evening and 3 p.m. Saturday, will be followed by chats with guest speakers. Be forewarned: The big barn only seats 100, so call ahead (254-4859) or email email@example.com.
"You can't even get here without directions," Scagliotti points out. "They're, like, 'Take a left at the apple tree.'"
Cedric Klapisch's quirky L'Auberge Espagnole was set in a Barcelona apartment shared by young people from several European countries. Good news for the many fans of that 2002 feature: A sequel, entitled Russian Dolls, opens August 11 at the Palace 9 in South Burlington. The same French chief protagonist, Xavier (Romain Duris), has written an as-yet-unpublished book about those experiences in Spain five years before. Now 30, he's a struggling writer back in Paris, having ditched his previous goal of a bureaucratic career. But Xavier's philandering sex life is still rather messy.
One of his former Auberge roommates, Wendy (Kelly Reilly), returns as the British coauthor on the pilot episode of an English-language soap opera that Xavier is cranking out for some much-needed cash. Whenever they're together in London, the soundtrack music warns of heartbreak, once the relationship inevitably turns from platonic to passionate.
Another Barcelona pal, Belgian lesbian Isabelle (Cecile de France), lets Xavier crash at her place while he's between homes. She also agrees to pose as his fiancee to please his 98-year-old grandfather.
Meanwhile, Xavier's ex, Martine (Audrey Tautou of Da Vinci Code fame), remains a friend. She now has a young son but no husband.
Wendy's wacky brother William (Kevin Bishop) lures most of the other characters to St. Petersburg, where he is marrying a ballerina. The new locale allows writer-director Klapisch to expand his dual exploration of culture clash and romantic entanglement. He does this with familiar panache, using multiple images on a split screen, occasional dreamscapes and Xavier's ironic narration. Although not quite as charmingly philosophical as its predecessor, Russian Dolls offers a whimsical slice of modern love in a shrinking world.