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This weekend, Narrowsburg will be bustling with moviegoers and filmmakers as the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance presents the Big Eddy Film Festival from Friday night through Sunday afternoon (September 14 to 16) at the Tusten Theatre (210 Bridge St). Now in its seventh year, the festival has grown a lot in its relatively short life. And I should know; I’m the festival director.
I usually start looking for films at the beginning of the year, when the Sundance Film Festival kicks off the annual festival season in January. I watch advance screeners of new films throughout the winter and spring, and when I have list of strong contenders, I share them with my selection committee for their feedback. Early in the 2018 process, I realized that almost every film on my list was a documentary—and all wildly different. The list included a personal doc about a group of young skateboarders in Illinois, an imaginative look at how families remember their loved ones through the possessions they leave behind, a nonfiction political thriller about the influence of anonymous campaign contributions and a beautifully constructed portrait of an American artist. At first I thought this might be a problem, showing all documentaries. Let’s face it, docs have a reputation of being a bit dry, a bit “too good” for you: the cinematic equivalent of steamed brown rice. But these documentaries were the opposite. They were powerful, vibrant, impactful stories that made me laugh, made me cry, and made me feel more connected to the human race.
Then I wondered if all these amazing documentaries might be a reflection of a broader cultural evolution? Are docs experiencing a surge in 2018 because filmmakers have greater access to distribution through streaming services like Netflix and Vimeo? Are more people feeling empowered to make films about their own experiences? As the notions of “fake” and “fact” get debated on the nation level, perhaps we as a culture are becoming more invested in the concept of truth?
Whatever the reason, there was no getting around the fact that the very best movies that came across my radar this year were nonfiction ones. And I’m proud that the Big Eddy Film Festival is celebrating documentary storytelling this weekend. In addition to the many film premieres, there will be filmmaker talkbacks and thematic discussions after the films, and some fun parties. The full schedule and tickets are at bigeddyfilmfest.com. I look forward to seeing you this weekend at the moves!