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Film Series Makes a Family-Friendly Comeback in Middlebury

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My Octopus Teacher - COURTESY
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  • My Octopus Teacher

The Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival relaunches its monthly in-person film series on Sunday, October 17. Called MNFF Selects, it will be geared towards families this season and will take place at the Town Hall Theater in Middlebury.

This year’s theme is "Humans and Animals: Shared Experiences, Intersecting Worlds." Six of the eight films set to screen are rated either G or PG. 

The series, which was virtual in 2020, kicks off its in-person comeback with a free matinee screening of the Oscar-winning documentary My Octopus Teacher on October 17 at 2 pm. The visually stunning documentary takes viewers on an underwater journey discovering an unexpected friendship between an octopus and a filmmaker in South Africa.

Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street - COURTESY
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  • Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street

Festival producer Lloyd Komesar said that the series “got off to a rousing start" in 2019. Pre-pandemic, it averaged 150 attendees for each of its five films.

Previous seasons included a small portion of films dedicated to an all-ages audience. “This edition of MNFF Selects will be the first to concentrate so heavily on children and families,” Komesar wrote. 

The kid-friendly list includes Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street, a documentary that introduces audiences to the creators, artists and educators behind “Sesame Street,” (screening November 21); Shepherd: The Story of a Jewish Dog, a drama seen through the eyes of a dog about the unbreakable bond between a boy and his canine during 1930’s Germany when a law passed forbidding Jews from owning pets (screening December 30); From The Wild Sea, a documentary about marine wildlife rescue volunteers who save sea animals from oil, plastic and storms (screening January 16); Duma, a drama about an orphaned cheetah who becomes the best friend of a young boy living in South Africa (February 20); and Buck, a documentary about a horse whisperer who recovers from years of child abuse to become a well-known expert (screening March 24).

“These films suggest something profound – what can be learned by listening, observing and recognizing the grace and equanimity of our fellow creatures on Earth,” said Jay Craven, MNFF Artistic Director in a press release.

Komesar said, “the return of in-person screenings at Town Hall Theater is genuinely important because it signals a commitment to a degree of normalcy that many folks in the community want to embrace, in conjunction with a COVID protocol that is simple and effective.”

Though October’s screening is free, there's a charge for later screenings. Individual tickets are $16 for adults and $7 for children under 12. The festival also offers passes that cover the entire series.