Lights, Camera, Action: NH Film Festival Returns Thursday
The curtain goes up on the 20th New Hampshire Film Festival Thursday after two years off, with over 140 films over four days, along with panels and parties.
Festival executive director Nicole Gregg, her team, and the volunteers are excited to return with an all-in person event after a hiatus forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We really want to have fun this year. It's been three years, and we're just so excited people can come out and be in person. We're not doing any virtual events. Everything is in person. We have lots of filmmakers attending for Q&A. It's just time to reengage and get back to life as usual," Gregg told Seacoast Current.
Leading off the festival Thursday night will be the premiere of "God's Country," the first feature film by New Hampshire filmmaker Julian Higgins, starring Thandiwe Newton. The film is about a tense battle of wills between land owner Newton and two hunters trespassing on her western Montana property.
Spotlight on New Hampshire
Friday night's featured showing is the comedy-drama "The Lost King", starring Sally Hawkins and produced and written by English actor Stephen Coogan. It's about the woman who discovered King Richard III's remains beneath a Leicester, England, car park. Gregg calls it a "real crowd-pleaser for everyone."
Gregg is also excited about two films that spotlight New Hampshire.
"Lily Topples The World" is about Sandown's Lily Hevesh, an acclaimed 20-year-old domino artist also known on YouTube as Hevesh5. The coming-of-age film features appearances by Jimmy Fallon, Katy Perry, Will Smith, and YouTuber Casey Neistat.
"And then also we have a really great short film about the Portsmouth high hockey team and the St. Thomas hockey team, the rivalry, and the story about how the two of them went off face to face in the championship," Gregg said.
Venues New and Old
A comedy panel hosted by Portsmouth comedian Juston McKinney will include Laura Silverman, Gary Valentine, Josh Meyers, Aaron Lee, and Robert Kelly.
Screenings and panels will be in several venues both familiar and new, including the Music Hall Lounge (formerly the Loft), Jimmy's Jazz & Blues Club, MONA, the return of the Seacoast Repertory Theater, and the recently renovated Parish Hall at St. John's Episcopal Church.
"It's a really great opportunity for us to really weave all of these venues together, in all over Portsmouth and create this amazing synergy around the city, bringing all these venues together for one common cause, the New Hampshire Film Festival," Gregg said. "So it's gonna feel really fresh and new. And we have lots of films and lots of parties. We're just really excited."
Recovering From Pandemic Restrictions
The movie industry has had a tough time recovering from the pandemic as restrictions on indoor gathering sizes kept many theaters closed and ultimately put many out of business. The Cinemagic chain shutdown its locations in New Hampshire and Maine, many of which have been taken over by Apple Cinema.
Gregg said festival ticket sales have been strong, and that nothing can replace the experience of seeing a movie in a theater instead of a home theater or one's phone. She credits Tom Cruise's "Top Gun Maverick" for reminding people of that .
"I think the theatre industry will be take some time to recover and bounce back. But you know, from what we're seeing, people are really excited to come back and be at the festival," Gregg said.
Tickets for the festival are available online at nhfilmfestival.com or the Music Hall box office. A VIP Pass will allow you to see as many films as you like during the course of the four-day festival.