Star-studded packed houses, standing ovations gave BIFF 2016 its luster

Berkshire International Film Festival (BIFF) poster 2016.

Berkshire International Film Festival (BIFF) poster 2016.

With the final events of last week’s Berkshire International Film Festival (BIFF) now history, the star-studded event is finally wrapped up. For a few days in June, the Berkshires were filled with luminaries such as Yo-Yo-Ma, Bruce Dern, Karen Allen, Meryl Streep, Ann Roth, Joan Anderson, Sheila Nevins, Mike Haley, Kent Jones, Noah Baumbach, Jake Paltrow, Gregory Crewdson Julie Goldman, Ethel Sheffer and Douglas Trumbull. They were among 40 filmmakers in attendance. In addition, the BIFF announced the winners of the annual BIFF Juried Prize Award and the BIFF Audience Award.

In the Juried documentary category, the winner was Untouchable written and directed by David Feige and in the Juried narrative category the Iranian entry, Wednesday, May 9 was awarded the prize. The Jury prize is sponsored by GWFF USA and was presented at a brunch Sunday at allium Restaurant in Great Barrington. Serving on the BIFF Jury were actors Mary Kay Place, and Peter Riegert, Josh Braun and Dan Braun of Submarine Entertainment, casting director Gretchen Rennell, film executive Bob Harper, and New York Film Festival director Kent Jones. The Audience Award Winner for best narrative feature was a tie between Year by the Sea directed by Alexander Janko and starring Karen Allen, and the French film Our Women directed by Richard Barry. The Audience Award Winner for best documentary feature was the Sundance hit film Life, Animated directed by Roger Rees Williams.

The winner of the Berkshire Bank “Next Great Filmmaker Award” was Lisa Grissom’s powerful short film Tattoo You taking a unique look at the issue of bullying from the adult perspective based on the award-winning play of the same name written by Grissom. After the ceremony, BIFF presented a sold-out screening of the Sundance hit Life, Animated directed by Roger Ross Williams about the remarkable story of how Owen found in Disney animation a pathway to language and a frame work for making sense of the world. Award winning director Julie Goodman was in attendance. The evening was also sponsored by Berkshire Bank. Prior to the screening, patrons were invited to a party at Hotel On North with chef Brian Alberg.

Highlights of the 4-day festival included the opening night screening of the Sundance audience award-winning film Music of Strangers: Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble. The film was greatly received with a standing ovation in a packed house at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, and the audience enjoyed a wonderful Q&A afterwards with the one and only Yo-Yo Ma and Sheila Nevins, president of HBO Documentary Films. The Opening Night party was held at the BIFF Tent with dinner and cocktails underwritten by The Annie Selke Companies and catered by Mezze. Saturday evening in Great Barrington, the BIFF celebrated Bruce Dern for his Achievement in Film. In conversation with Doug Trumbull, Dern regaled the audience with wonderful and funny stories from his more than 40 years in Hollywood and he generously praised the BIFF as being “the Sundance of the East.” This special evening was generously sponsored by GWFF USA and the dinner party was held at the BIFF Tent, with music by Andy Kelly jazz band and dinner was catered by Max Ultimate Food. The BIFF presented more packed screenings at the Mahaiwe including Year by the Sea, starring Karen Allen, who was in attendance for a Q&A following the screening with the author Joan Anderson and the director Alexander Janko; Becoming Mike Nichols followed by a conversation with BIFF honoree Mike Haley, Academy Award winning costume designer Ann Roth and Academy Award winning actress Meryl Streep. Closing out the 11th year, BIFF closing night presentation was De Palma followed by a conversation with directors Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow moderated by internationally acclaimed artist, Gregory Crewdson.

Screening 75 features, documentaries, and shorts, BIFF hosted over 40 filmmakers and offered free children’s programs, Berkshire filmmakers, and parties in the BIFF throughout downtown Great Barrington and Pittsfield including a delicious filmmaker cocktail party sponsored by the Red Lion Inn. Highlights of the weekend included Art and Heart: The World of Isaiah Sheffer with the director Catherine Tambini, Ethel Sheffer and Beryl Jolly in attendance; Everybody Knows…Elizabeth Murray with Oscar Nominated production designer Kristi Zea; Harry Benson: Shoot First with Harry Benson in attendance for a Q&A with directors; Hitchcock/Truffaut followed by a Q&A with director and New York Film Festival Director Kent Jones; Peter and the Farm with Hudson filmmaker Tony Stone and producer Melissa auf der Maur; Forgotten Farms with Berkshire filmmaker Dave Simonds and producer Sarah Gardner; and Rebel Citizen, with award winning filmmakers Pamela Yates and Paco de Onis.

In its eleventh year, BIFF proudly presented the fifth annual Filmmakers Summit, a two-day talent academy offered to the 2016 film selection filmmakers. Chrysler Capital and Momentary Pictures sponsored this years’ summit. Offering a diverse, multi-dimensional program of panel discussions, lectures, and special events, lead by known industry professionals, the BIFF Filmmakers Summit is designed to celebrate and support the advancement of filmmakers and recognize film as a relevant and important medium. Highlights of this years festival was a studio visit with Douglas Trumbull and the keynote address by Sheila Nevins.

Premiere Sponsors of the 2016 BIFF include the Triplex Cinema, the Beacon Cinema, GWFF USA, The Annie Selke Companies, Max Ultimate Food, Studio Two, The Red Lion Inn, Berkshire Bank and Townvibe. Presenting Sponsors include Karen Allen Fiber Arts, Jane Iredale Companies, Berkshire Mountain Distillers, Stella Artois, Haven Cafe, Stonover Farm, Abbott’s Livery, Blantyre, Greylock Federal Credit Union, The Barrington, Fairfield Inn and Suites and Carlo Huber Selections.

BIFF will present TWO FREE family films this summer on Tuesday, July 12th, BIFF will screen the classic family baseball film, Field of Dreams and on Tuesday, July 26th the heart-warming family favorite, Babe will be shown. Films will be in Lilac Park in Lenox at 8PM. Bring a picnic and a blanket and watch the film under the Berkshire stars. Popcorn is free as is the film.

SAVE THE DATE: BIFF presents the first ever House Party on Saturday, September 3 at 6PM. This year’s theme is Haute Hoedown and will be hosted at a private Richmond Estate with outstanding views of the surrounding counties. Cocktails and hors d-oeuvres, an elegant seated farm to table dinner by MAX Ultimate Food plus games, live band, mechanical bull, line dancing and live auction! Wear your denim or drip in diamonds or be glad to wear plaid…anything goes! For more information, call 413-528-8030.

With nearly 800 film submissions this year, the Berkshire International Film Festival has quickly become a destination festival that filmmakers seek due to the enthusiastic audiences it attracts.

BIFF 2016 will be held June 1 – 4, 2017 and passes and submissions will open October 1, 2016.

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