Polis Is This: Charles Olson and the Persistence of Place, a film described by the great novelist Jim Harrison as “sublime…simply stunning,” will open Kopkind’s Fourth Annual Grassroots Film Festival this year, a free film series from August 6 through 8, beginning at the Hooker Dunham Theater in downtown Brattleboro and continuing on at the Organ Barn at Tree Frog Farm in Guilford.
Charles Olson, the “big fire source” for a restless generation of poets known as The Beats, believed that “human beings must rediscover the earth or leave it.” He lived in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and this gorgeous film, by Henry Ferrini, explores both Olson’s poetry and his world, where the ordinary landscapes of daily life become extraordinary portals to truths about the places in which we live. As Olson brought Gloucester alive in poetry, he also fought a losing battle with so-called development, as bulldozers rumbled through Main Street and dynamite brought down Gloucester’s historic buildings. The film, itself a work of poetry in motion, includes performances by John Malkovich, Robert Creeley, Amiri Baraka, Pete Seeger, the Miami Dolphins and many others. The Boston Phoenix declared it “the best film about an American poet ever made.” Director Ferrini will be on hand on Thursday, August 6, for a discussion following the 7 PM screening at the Hooker Dunham, 139 Main Street in Brattleboro. Seating is limited; reservations may be made by calling the theater at (802) 254.9276.
Friday night, August 7, the film festival will move to the Organ Barn in Guilford, with a showing of Straightlaced, by Academy Award‐winning filmmaker Debra Chasnoff. Featuring unscripted, surprisingly candid and entertaining dialogue of high school students from around the country, the documentary explores the effects of gender roles and homophobia on today’s youth. From girls who dumb-down so as not to intimidate boys, to boys who are hypersexual just to prove they aren’t gay, to nonconforming teens who face relentless bullying, the students demonstrate how gender expectations have an unhealthy and often dangerous impact on their lives. Director Chasnoff will also be on hand for a discussion following the 7 PM screening at the Organ Barn, 158 Kopkind Road in Guilford.
The festival will conclude on Saturday, August 8, with a special sneak preview of a work-in-progress by Vermont filmmaker Liz Canner on designer vaginas and other true-life tales of the commodification of women’s pleasure centers. This humorous, infuriating, informative documentary explores the corporate greed and outright quackery that women confront in a quest for beauty and sexual pleasure. Over the past decade, the media, in bed with the pharmaceutical industry, have been promoting the idea that 43 percent of US women suffer from “female sexual dysfunction.” Is this a real disease or a fiction in a marketing campaign created by money-hungry companies? With unique access to corporate hacks and flaks, Canner answers that question as she follows medical hucksters peddling dicey “treatments” and drug companies in their race to be the first to win FDA approval for their pill, cream, patch or nose spray intended to help women reach sexual nirvana. The film will also be shown at the Organ Barn at 7 PM, and director Canner will join us afterward for questions.
This is the tenth anniversary for the Kopkind Colony, a living memorial to the great journalist and Guilford resident Andrew Kopkind, who tracked politics and culture for thirty years for publications from Hard Times to The New York Times, The Nation to Esquire, until his death in 1994. The project, which held its first summer session in 1999, puts on seminars and workshops for its resident participants, and free events for the public. The film festival concludes Kopkind’s third session this year, a workshop/retreat for documentary filmmakers put on jointly with the Center for Independent Documentary.
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