MIDDLEBURY—The Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival is pleased to share a first look at several of the outstanding feature films that will be available during the upcoming MNFF6: ONLINE Festival Aug. 27-Sept. 3. The full lineup will be released on the MNFF website, middfilmfest.org, on Aug. 1, coinciding with the launch of festival pass sales.
“The Accused: Damned or Devoted?”
Directed by Mohammed Naqvi, MNFF Returning Honoree
In Pakistan, the blasphemy law prescribes a compulsory death sentence for disrespecting the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and life imprisonment for desecrating the Holy Quran. “The Accused: Damned or Devoted?” follows the stories and fate of four people accused of blasphemy. The most famous of them is Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who claims she was falsely accused by her Muslim co-workers after a disagreement. As the world awaits the outcome of Asia Bibi’s trial, cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi Rizvi uses the draconian blasphemy law as a key element in his run for prime minister of Pakistan in the upcoming elections. Amidst the hysteria, those who oppose him and even his own followers become pawns in his ultimate quest for power.
Directed by Armando Capo
Cuba, summer 1994. In the midst of “período especial,” one of the greatest crises in the country’s history, thousands of Cuban rafters try to reach the United States illegally, never sure if they’ll make it there alive. With holidays starting, Carlos plunges into a carefree August, wandering around with his friends and falling in love for the first time. Little does he know about the country’s uncertain future, until one by one, neighbors and friends leave in search of a better life, friendships break apart and families split up. In this hot summer, Carlos’ world will turn upside down.
Directed by Barbara Kopple, MNFF Returning Honoree
In April 1980, the U.S. government launched Operation Eagle Claw, its response to the American hostage crisis that was happening in Iran at that time. Helmed by then-President Jimmy Carter, the Delta Force tried unsuccessfully to rescue the 52 hostages that were held captive in the U.S. Embassy and Iranian Foreign Ministry buildings in Tehran. “Desert One” powerfully explores the different aspects of the failed mission through interviews with the hostages, soldiers, commanders and President Carter himself.
Directed by Jiayan “Jenny” Shi
Yingying Zhang, a 26-year-old Chinese student, comes to the U.S. to study at the University of Illinois in Champaign. Within weeks of her arrival, Yingying disappears from the campus. Through exclusive access to Yingying’s family and boyfriend, “Finding Yingying” closely follows their journey as they search to unravel the mystery of her disappearance and seek justice for their daughter while navigating a strange, foreign country. But most of all, “Finding Yingying” is the story of who Yingying was – a talented young woman loved by her family and friends.
“For the Love of Rutland”
Directed by Jennifer Maytorena Taylor
In 2016, Stacie Griffin is barely scraping by in the small city of Rutland, Vermont. Manufacturing jobs have moved out, the opioid crisis has moved in – Stacie collects bottles to stretch her husband’s unemployment benefits, while she raises her kids and keeps herself off heroin. So when Rutland’s mayor takes the controversial step of accepting 100 Syrian refugees as part of his economic diversification plan, Stacie and many other residents of her neighborhood are torn. Nuanced and passionate, this fascinating look at a town divided reveals an unlikely hero caught in a flashpoint.
Directed by Kate McLean & Mario Furloni
An aging pot farmer suddenly finds her world shattered as she races to bring in what could be her final harvest, fighting against the threat of eviction as the ensuing legalization of the California cannabis industry rapidly destroys her idyllic way of life. An atmospheric and beautifully shot drama, “Freeland” lives at the crossroads of unbridled freedom and imposed conformity.
“Jimmy Carter: Rock and Roll President”
Directed by Mary Wharton
If it hadn’t been for a bottle of scotch and a late-night visit from musician Gregg Allman, Jimmy Carter might never have been elected the 39th president of the United States. This dynamic documentary charts the mostly forgotten story of how Carter, a lover of all types of music, forged a tight bond with musicians Willie Nelson, the Allman Brothers, Bob Dylan and others that helped propel the man from Plains, Georgia to the White House and illuminates the significant role that music has played in President Carter’s life and work.
“The Rabbi Goes West”
Directed by Amy Geller & Gerald Peary
A fish out of water documentary about a young and charismatic Hasidic Chabad rabbi who moved from Brooklyn, New York to Bozeman, Montana to bring his brand of Judaism to the American west. As he travels across this “Big Sky” landscape, he confronts threats to Jews from neo-Nazis and strong objections to his proselytizing from members of the Jewish community.
Directed by Heather Young
Donna has recently been convicted of Driving While Impaired and is ordered to perform community service at the local animal shelter. When an elderly dog is scheduled to be euthanized, Donna decides to take the dog home and quickly realizes his companionship can ease her loneliness. In a futile attempt to fill the ongoing emptiness she feels, Donna begins to take home more and more animals and she is soon in over her head in this poignant and affecting drama.
“WBCN and the American Revolution”
Directed by Bill Lichtenstein
Experience the amazing, untold story of the early days of Boston’s radical underground radio station WBCN, set against the dazzling and profound social, political, and cultural changes that took place both in Boston and nationally during the late 1960s – early 1970s. This engaging documentary provides the actual sights, sounds and stories of a compelling cast, set against the music, countercultural scenes, militant anti-war activism, civil rights struggles and the emerging women’s and LGBTQ-liberation movements of the period.