With award-winning movies, actors and actresses like William Sanderson, Rae Dawn Chong and Jessalyn Gilson, one may be quick to forget that the Monadnock International Film Festival, MONiff, could not have made such a splash in the Keene area without one of its main corporate sponsors—Keene State College.
The college staff and faculty said they were beyond proud to have sponsored the festival with help from the Office of the President, Office of the Provost, School of Arts and Humanities, Office of Diversity and Multiculturalism, Redfern Arts Center, as well as KSC’s Film Studies Department and Film Society.
Dean of Arts and Humanities at KSC, Andrew Harris, said it was truly a collaborative event between several KSC affiliations.
“As one of the largest higher education institutions in the region, we should be central to that, and be at the center of the festival both conceptually and practically,” he said, “That’s why it is so important that we host part of it on our campus.”
In addition to hosting portions of the film festival, student involvement soared throughout.
While KSC film professor Peter Condon had started on the board three years ago, he said that over 50 Keene State College students put in hard hours of volunteer work.
Whether they were working technology, promotions, transporting actors and directors to and from Boston airport, helping with seating or welcoming at the doors, “everywhere you turned there was a Keene State student,” Condon said.
Not only did the festival benefit from the students, but the students certainly benefited from the festival as well.
“At things like this, you make connections that could change your life,” Condon said. “They [students] got to hang out with these people at the after parties and actually get to talk to filmmakers and get to know them.”
Chief Officer of Diversity and Multiculturalism as well as psychology professor Dottie Morris also took part in MONiff.
Morris said one thing she did to partake in the event was write a letter of support asking for a grant for the event, to explain the value that the festival would bring to the Monadnock region.
“It’s important because the larger community is mutually beneficial to our students, since they were able to attend and engage in ways they would not otherwise be able to, so it was a part of the learning process,” Morris said.
What Morris also enjoyed about the event was the discussion format that took place after movie showings.
“Oftentimes, people go to see a film and leave without processing what they saw, so that was a great learning tool,” she said.
One in particular, Director Ken Burns’ “Central Park Five,” was so revealing that Morris said she’d like to show it on campus to connect in a deeper discussion.
“There are so many different directions we can go with that film. From a psychological approach, the way it was put together from a film studies perspective, a journalistic stand point, socio-political, that the educational standpoint can be very beneficial,” Morris added.
Such a big hit like “Central Park Five” also sparks the question, who chooses the movies, and why and how did they go about it? When it comes to ‘Hollywood,’ it’s all about connections.
Condon said that every country has films that go out in what is called the festival circuit. The festival circuit includes pre-released movies so that way they are first seen at the ever-popular film festivals.
“Planning is everything,” Condon said, and to plan the films accordingly to both attendance as well as release dates surely did not make it easy.
There were times when movie plans fell through, but Condon’s pre-established relationships certainly benefit.
Condon books many films for the college’s film society, leading him to various connections with studios and distributors.
His connections in Canada led him to “War Witch” director Kim Nguyen.
Before Condon knew it, calls were made ,and in one afternoon Nguyen and the screening of War Witch would be on their way to Keene, N.H., the first weekend of April.
While KSC donated a vast amount of time and energy, in such a huge event, money also plays a leading role. The college claimed itself as a corporate sponsor of the occasion, donating in both money and in kind (use of venues, etc.) of nearly $10,000 to MONiff.
“That’s the community coming together, to open more doors, and the student help made it a well-oiled machine, the success was beyond our wildest dreams,” Condon said.
“I take my hat off to Peter Condon,” Dean Harris said.
The Dean of Arts and Humanities also hopes the KSC film department can incorporate the experience of the festival into the classroom and that the creativity of the film department is not bounded in any way.
While the MONiff board catches their breath after a long weekend, planning for next year is certainly not put aside by any means.
The future for MONiff holds as many grains, if not more, as the sand on the beach.
Rebecca Farr can be contacted at