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Publisher’s Note: We’ve supported the annual MountainTop Human Rights Film Festival, which takes place every Martin Luther King, Jr. week-end, since it’s inception. This year’s 2015 festival may be the best line-up of films and events ever. Here’s our interview, conducted by 2VR publisher Rob Williams, with MTFF founder Claudia Becker, owner of the Big Picture Theater and Cafe in Waitsfield, Vermont.
Q. How did the Mountain Top Film Festival (MTFF) come to be?
A. Twelve years ago, I approached the owners of the then-Eclipse Theater (now our Big Picture Theater and Café) to let them know about the Human Rights Watch Traveling Film Fest. When they didn’t follow up, I took it upon myself to find films I thought would educate and shake people up – it quickly grew into its own festival format. I strongly believe in the power of film and story telling as a means to share ideas, information and emotions. Once I knew that I had the films, it seemed natural to hold the festival on MLK’s birthday, which is a date to commemorate the ongoing need for political and social change, both here and in our global community. The festival is named after his famed “I have been to the mountaintop” speech.
Q. What are your goals for the MTFF – what do you hope to achieve every year with this event?
A. Vermont is a hotbed of awareness and activism. The festival shares growing concerns in regards to civil and human rights and it hoping to continue efforts of education and involvement by making people’s voices and stories heard through film and discussion.
Q. Tell us about this year’s films – what are you excited about?
A. We are very excited to have SELMA in the program, which is a dramatic film about Martin Luther King that is just coming out. It kind of frames the festival this year. Around that are 12 other films, including “Citizen Four” a real life thriller about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, and “Plastic Paradise” which addresses one of our big environmental challenges – the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and how flooded our everyday lives are with toxic plastic waste. Other films are “Fed Up,” dealing with our industrialized food production and its implication on health and wellbeing, “The Green Prince,” telling the true story of a Palestinian prisoner turned Israeli spy, and “E Team” – a film about an emergency group of an international human rights group that flies to all the hotspots in the world. Also showing are “Dear White People,” “How to Lose Your Virginity,” and “The Internet’s Own Boy.”
Q. Any special events or guests as part of this year’s MTFF?
A. On opening night, there will be reception with live jazz and special guest Hal Colston – 2014 Vermont of the Year who has devoted his last 25 years helping people in his Vermont community. Another special event is a screening of an interview with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in which he was beamed onto stage as a hologram from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London as part of the “Nantucket Project.” The festival is also proud to host a panel about “Race and Civil Rights in America Today” with Charles Ogletree, Harvard Law Professor and founder of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice. He will be joined by Vermont state attorney TJ Donovan and filmmaker/author Eugene Jarecki (The House I Live In, Reagan, Why We Fight). The Green Mountain Global Forum is co-presenting a screening of the short film “My Neighborhood” followed by a Q&A with Josh Reubner (author of “Shattered Hopes” and director the US Campaign to End Israeli Occupation). During the event “Vermont versus Monsanto,” Governor Shumlin will be hosting a reception and talk to raise funds and awareness for the pending lawsuit between the state of Vermont and Monsanto.
Q. Where can we find the MTFF schedule and buy tickets?
A. The films and the schedule are on the festival website at www.mountaintopfilmfestival.com Tickets and festival passes can be bought at the Big Picture Theater in Waitsfield, Vermont, which is hosting the festival in its 12th year. Also, look on Facebook for updates and announcements. There might be some surprises still up the festival organizer’s sleeve!