Waitsfield is getting a new movie house that's actually been around for about a quarter-century. The Eclipse, which replaced the former Mad River Flick in 2002, will be given another, as-yet-undetermined name under different ownership: Claudia Becker, director of the MountainTop Film Festival that unspools there every January, plans to transform the site into a multipurpose venue with a strong emphasis on cinema.
Although renovations won't be complete until May, she hopes to host an initial introductory celebration in mid-December, followed by a second unveiling when her five-day fest begins. "We'll call it a Coming Soon Party," Becker explains. "There'll be a little model on display and architectural drawings of what to expect."
She envisions two screening rooms with 150 seats each. "One will be a regular theater, probably a lot like the Roxy," Becker says. "The other is for showing documentaries, smaller independents and retrospectives, but it can turn into a space for kids on weekdays or a cabaret for live performances and lectures."
In addition, she'll either restore the adjacent Starlight Lounge as a cafe or install a vintage 1930s diner from Rhode Island in the same spot. "This would be 'as is,'" Becker points out. "It comes with every original cup and spoon."
A mother of two very young children, Becker, 38, is a dynamo with an unwavering social conscience. The festival, which takes place January 11-15, addresses themes relating to war and human rights. Her partner in that endeavor, Kimberly Ead of Burlington, is also involved in the real estate project.
Becker's husband, Eugene Jarecki, directed Why We Fight, an award-winning doc about the history of American jingoism; it will enjoy a Vermont premiere at MountainTop just days before its nationwide release.
Other programming includes the currently Oscar-nominated Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, by Alex Gibney, who collaborated with Jarecki on The Trials of Henry Kissinger in 2002; Protocols of Zion, about the rise of anti-Semitism after 9/11, by Marc Levin; and Stephen Marshall's BattleGround: 21 Days on the Empire's Edge, which chronicles three weeks on the frontlines of the Iraq invasion.
For a segment on fundamentalism, Becker will present With God on Our Side, a consideration of the religious right in America by Calvin Skaggs and David Van Taylor; and Thierry Michel's Veiled Appearances, a look at contemporary Iran. The only feature, David & Layla by Jay Jonroy, is a comedy about a Jewish TV producer who falls for a Muslim immigrant.
Becker is trying to lure Morgan Spurlock, whose quirky Super Size Me delved into the insidiousness of Big Mac Attacks. Activist Ben Cohen is scheduled to join Jarecki, Gibney and others for a panel discussion on corporatism and democracy. Bread and Puppet founder Peter Schumann will offer a talk about fiddling.
Meanwhile, Becker may launch a competition to find the perfect moniker for her bricks-and-mortar venture. Right now she's leaning towards "Revolution."
Some say Vermont is where the '60s went. If so, Richmond must be a retirement community for the turbulent era. Longtime resident Roz Payne oversees a collection of documentaries about Vietnam, student protests, women's liberation, Green Mountain State communes, racism, Yippies, Black Panthers and similar issues created by Newsreel, the filmmakers' collective she helped establish almost 40 years ago.
This week, Payne is taking a compilation of clips that reflect the collective's work from 1967 to 1971 to the Association of Moving Image Archivists' annual conference in Austin, Texas. The Hollywood-based group awarded her a $1000 grant to attend the gathering, where she'll also participate in a symposium dubbed "Staying Indie: The Struggle to Maintain Independent Media from the Sixties to the Present."
"I want to talk about price," notes Payne, who teaches at Burlington College. "Most progressive distribution companies are expensive. They should make it easier for people to afford their material. Newsreel did these films as tools for changing the world, so they're available at the cheapest cost possible. I generally ask, 'What can you pay?' I'm not out for profit."
She recently charged a West Coast labor organizer only $35 for a doc about a 1969 union struggle that would normally be $155 to $175 if requested by, say, a TV network in need of such footage. The title -- "Richmond Oil Strike" -- refers to the Northern California town where the events unfolded, rather than the Chittenden County hamlet that Payne calls home.