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Port Jefferson Documentary Series

Photo courtesy of PJDS

Port Jefferson Documentary Series presents:

UNDER THE WIRE

Monday, March 11

7:00 PM Charles B Wang Center
Stony Brook University, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook

Guest Speakers: Catherine Colvin, Marie Colvin’s sister; Paul Conroy, Photojournalist (via Skype)

UNDER THE WIRE is a chilling and inspiring documentary about Marie Colvin, the celebrated Sunday Times correspondent, and photojournalist Paul Conroy as they enter war-ravaged Syria in February of 2012 to cover the plight of trapped and slaughtered civilians in Homs, a city under siege by the Syrian Army. For Colvin, who constantly tested her limits in conflict zones across the globe, this was to be her last mission. Deliberately targeted by Syria’s top leaders, she was killed in a rocket attack that also gravely wounded Conroy, who eventually managed to escape. As he recounts in his memoir, Under The Wire, he reluctantly left behind many others in desperate need, but was urged to “go out and tell the world.” Using contemporaneous footage, much shot under siege and on the run, Colvin, Conroy and others recall in the film the terrors they endured, the events leading up to Colvin’s death and Conroy’s hair-raising and courageous escape. It is a powerful reminder that journalists who put themselves in harm’s way to expose the truth about war and genocide are not the enemies of the people but are their voices and champions.

Time: 95 minutes

Co-sponsored by the Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism’s Marie Colvin Center for International Reporting

Tickets are $8 per person at the door (no credit cards please). For more information, call 631-473-5200 or visit www.portjeffdocumentaryseries.com. 

‘Come for the film, stay for the talk’

By Kevin Redding

It began more than 15 years ago with a group of film lovers gathered around the television on Oscar night. Lyn Boland, a former lawyer and adjunct professor from Setauket, was among them, and as she and her friends gushed over clips from the year’s Best Documentary Feature category, she wondered: Why can’t we ever see any of these powerful films?

‘Horn from the Heart: The Paul Butterfield Story’ will be screened at Theatre Three on May 20.

Around this time, she was called on by her law partner, and a fellow cinephile, to help rebuild the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council’s faltering film program. Boland had just recently watched “Spellbound,” the Academy Award-nominated doc about a group of eight young students competing in the Scripps National Bee; it was exciting, artistic, moving and it made Boland cry. It seemed obvious what to do with the local cinema program.

“Let’s make it a documentary series,” she recalls saying to her friend. While the initial concept was to hold screenings around the work primarily of local filmmakers, this proved to be difficult and limiting. So, members of the program’s board decided to pluck documentaries straight from the source: high-profile film festivals, from the Hamptons International Film Festival to DOC NYC to Tribeca Film Festival to Stony Brook Film Festival, and more, where new, important works are debuted, and the voices of blossoming filmmakers are heard for the first time. 

And thus, in the fall of 2005, the first Port Jefferson Documentary Series was born. “The idea was to make a place where we can actually see these films while they’re still very current,” Boland, one of three co-directors of the now-14-year series, said. “I think that this particular area on Long Island has a well-educated population, people who want to stay up-to-date, and, for some people, watching a documentary is a great way for them to go into depth on an important issue for a couple hours.”

She continued, “We used to travel to Cinema Arts Centre [in Huntington] to see documentaries, and it seems like there was this giant hole in our ability to see independent films like these in this area. Our criteria now is that the film is new and not available elsewhere, has critical acclaim, and tells an important story.”

Sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council and the Suffolk County Office of Film and Cultural Affairs, the spring 2019 season of the award-winning documentary series begins March 4 and will run until May 20. The seven-film lineup will be spread across several local venues, including Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson; the Charles B. Wang Center at Stony Brook University, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook; the Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook; and Robert Cushman Murphy Junior High School, 351 Oxhead Road, in Stony Brook. 

Each of this year’s emotional and thought-provoking films will be followed up by  a Q&A session with guest speakers involved in the documentary, like directors, producers, the movies’ subjects and outside experts. 

They include the compelling journalism-focused “The Panama Papers”; “Under the Wire,” about a heroic Sunday Times correspondent who was killed while covering the war in Syria; “Weed the People,” in which medical cannabis is posed as “a human rights issue”; as well as “Liyana,” “City of Joel,” “Horn from the Heart: The Paul Butterfield Story” and “Emanuel,” about the Charleston church shooting.

As is the case every year, the documentaries are selected by the series’ seven-member film board, or “The Film Ladies,” as they are called — made up of Boland, fellow co-directors Barbara Sverd and Wendy Feinberg, as well as board members Honey Katz, Phyllis Ross, Lorie Rothstein and Lynn Rein. 

Each member sees upward of 100 documentaries during the preliminary film festival blitz, and whittle their favorites down to 10 or less to present to the board. Out of that batch, seven films, one from each person, are selected to be screened. From the get-go, the board member assumes responsibility for “her” film, presenting it to the board, writing press releases and making sure the venues have all the right equipment for a proper screening. 

“The earlier we get the film, the better it is for us because then we can actually help the filmmakers and expose their film    we like getting them early in their emergence,” said Boland. 

“There’s also the discovery aspect of it. For example, we just saw a film we’re considering for the fall that hasn’t been anywhere, no film festivals so far, but we saw it and it was great. The idea that you could see somebody’s first documentary, really help them along in the huge process [is rewarding],” she said. 

Because of the series’ longevity, its members have developed a relationship with the many distributors of the films, as well as their directors, most of whom are just pleased to have more eyes on their work. 

Last summer the Port Jefferson Documentary Series held a special screening of “RBG,” which focused on the life and career of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and which was recently nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards.  

In the early years of the series, they showed “Taxi to the Dark Side,” a film that went on to win the Oscar in 2008, and in 2017, Daniel McCabe, the director of “This Is Congo,” an immersive, and brutal, examination of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, discussed his film after the screening.

The board, supported by ticket receipts and a grant from Suffolk County, routinely pays filmmakers to come out and discuss the film in their Q&As, but McCabe actually donated his fee back to them that night, saying “You are the people that really make this happen … You’re the ones who really deserve this money.” 

“We have a responsibility to curate really well,” Boland explained. “Because we get public funds, we can’t just run anything … it’s a high bar to get to be one of the seven documentaries we select.”

Among the upcoming films, Boland is particular excited about “The Panama Papers.”

“Our series reflects the value of journalism,” she said. “[The director] is very good at taking a complicated topic and turn it into a very exciting film. It has you on the edge of your seat in anticipation of what’s going to happen next.”

Sverd’s favorite is “Under the Wire,” which will be shown at Stony Brook University and will involve the college’s School of Journalism. 

“Over the years, the documentary has become an extremely important and effective tool for information and social change,” she said. “All of these are very special films to whoever chooses them.”

Feinberg, a retired teacher who joined the board in fall 2014, recognized a highlight for her this year: the closing night music film “Horn from the Heart: The Paul Butterfield Story,” an “interesting, educational, heartbreaking”  film about a blues harmonica player who formed an interracial band. 

“Other than being a cinephile, I love music and love music of such varying genres,” Feinberg said. “I try to always push for one music documentary, and I’m usually successful when I see that the audience really responds to the film. I remember we had one gentleman say to me, ‘Every time you screen a film, every one is better than the one before, I don’t know how you do that.’ Feedback like that warms my heart, and confirms that we’re doing something good and lasting.”

Boland agrees and encourages community members to show up and help grow the series. “These films compel us and can introduce you to a powerful, personal story you might not ever have heard,” she said. 

The Port Jefferson Documentary Series will be held at 7 p.m. on select Monday nights from March 4 to April 15 and at 7:15 p.m. on May 20 (see sidebar for locations). Tickets, which are sold at the door, are $8 per person. (No credit cards please.) If you would like to volunteer, please call 631-473-5200. For more information, visit www.portjeffdocumentaryseries.com.

Film schedule:

The spring season will kick off with “The Panama Papers” at Theatre Three on March 4. Leaked by an anonymous source to journalists in 2015, the Panama Papers were an explosive collection of 11.5 million documents, exposing the use of secretive offshore companies to enable widespread tax evasion and money laundering. Director Alex Winter speaks to the journalists who worked to ensure the release and examines how it reshaped our understanding of corruption in the highest tiers of government.  Moderated by Tom Needham, host of “The Sounds of Film” on WUSB, guest speaker will be Kevin Hall, chief economics correspondent and Pulitzer Prize-winning senior investigator for McClatchy newspapers in Washington, D.C.

“Under the Wire,” the chilling and inspiring documentary about Marie Colvin, the celebrated Sunday Times correspondent, and photojournalist Paul Conroy as they enter war-ravaged Syria in February of 2012 to cover the plight of trapped and slaughtered civilians in Homs, a city under siege by the Syrian Army, heads to the Charles B. Wang Center at Stony Brook University on March 11. Deliberately targeted by Syria’s top leaders, Colvin was killed in a rocket attack that also gravely wounded Conroy, who eventually managed to escape. Co-sponsored by the Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism’s Marie Colvin Center for International Reporting, guest speakers include Catherine Colvin (Marie Colvin’s sister) in person and Paul Conroy, photojournalist (via Skype). 

The season continues on March 18 at The Long Island Museum with “Weed the People.” Through the emotional stories of children fighting cancer, the documentary educates mainstream audiences about medical cannabis as a human rights issue and begets the unsettling question at the heart of the film: If weed is truly saving lives, why doesn’t the government want people to access it? Guest speakers include  director Abby Epstein and cancer survivor and co-founder of NYC Botanics, Jill Fagin. Screening will be held in the museum’s Gillespie Room, located in the Carriage House Museum. 

“Liyana,” which will be screened at Robert Cushman Murphy Junior High School on April 1, is a touching and unique film set in Swaziland (now Eswatini). Told by five children who were orphaned by the AIDS epidemic, this extraordinary film uses animation and narrative to illustrate their plight. Ultimately hopeful, this is a visually beautiful and unforgettable film presented in a poetic and creative style.  “Liyana” has recently been nominated for the prestigious 2019 Cinema Eye Honors Award for Nonfiction Filmmaking for the Outstanding Achievement in Graphic Design or Animation Award. Guest speaker will be executive producer Susan MacLaury.

The series continues with “City of Joel” at Theatre Three on April 8. The town of Monroe, which lies 50 miles north of New York City and deep within the Hudson Valley, is one of the fastest-growing Hasidic communities in the country. Shot over several years with seemingly boundless access, Emmy-winning director Jesse Sweet’s documentary observes the simmering tensions that have come to define the community, and the myriad ways in which the town’s divide echoes the country’s as well. Co-sponsored by Temple Isaiah of Stony Brook, the guest speaker will be the film’s subject, B.J. Mendelson.

In collaboration with the Long Island Museum’s Long Road to Freedom: Surviving Slavery on Long Island exhibit, “Emanuel” will be screened on April 15 in the museum’s Gillespie Room. The documentary highlights the mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015 and is a poignant story of justice, faith, love and hate. Featuring intimate interviews with survivors and family members, this film examines the healing power of forgiveness. Sponsored by The Law Offices of Michael S. Ross in Smithtown,  Building Bridges in Brookhaven, the Bethel AME Church and the Multicultural Solidarity Group, guest speaker will be producer Dimas Salaberrios.

The series concludes with “Horn from the Heart: The Paul Butterfield Story” at Theatre Three at 7:15 p.m. on May 20. The documentary follows the complex story of a man many call the greatest harmonica player of all time. The film features Butterfield’s music and words, along with firsthand accounts from his family, his band mates and those closest to him, with appearances by David Sanborn, Bonnie Raitt, B.B. King, Bob Dylan and more. Co-sponsored by the Long Island Blues Society and the Long Island Music Hall of Fame, the evening will be moderated by  WUSB’s Tom Needham with guest speaker executive producer/producer Sandra Warren. A prefilm blues concert with Kerry Kearney, Frank Latorre, Gerry Sorrentino and Mario Staiano will be held at 6 p.m. (Combo concert, film and Q&A ticket is $15.)

‘Love, Gilda’ will be screened on Sept. 17 at Theatre Three

By Heidi Sutton

Fresh off its special summer screening of the blockbuster documentary “RBG” to a sold-out crowd at Theatre Three, the award-winning Port Jefferson Documentary Series kicks off its fall 2018 season on Monday, Sept. 17. Seven notable and acclaimed documentary films will be showcased, exploring everything from science fairs, ovarian cancer, poaching, disco, baseball and more.

‘Love Gilda’

Sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council and the Suffolk County Office of Film and Cultural Affairs, the first six films will be screened at Theatre Three while the final documentary will be presented in Earl L. Vandermeulen High School’s auditorium. Both venues are located in the Village of Port Jefferson. Each screening will be followed by a Q-&-A session with guest speakers.

The documentaries are chosen by a seven-member film board, affectionately known as “the film ladies,” who each choose one film to present to the audience. This fall’s picks were selected after the members attended screenings at the Tribeca Film Festival, DOC NYC and the Hamptons Film Festival.

The board members,  including co-directors Lyn Boland, Barbara Sverd and Wendy Feinberg along with Honey Katz, Phyllis Ross, Lorie Rothstein and Lynn Rein, along with volunteers Suzanne Velasquez, Elaine Friedman and Denise Livrieri, are celebrating the festival’s 13th year this month.

Lyn Boland is excited about sharing this new crop of films with audiences this season. “It’s a very interesting lineup,” she mused during a recent phone interview.

According to Boland, one of the more touching films this fall is “Love, Gilda,” an intimate portrait of the comedian, writer and actress Gilda Radner using personal recordings and journal entries along with interviews of her friends and family, including her husband, Gene Wilder. Radner died in 1989 from ovarian cancer at the age of 42. “For me, it was a revelation about who she was because … a lot of comedians have a dark side … but she was seemingly funny and charming and loved by everyone in her family and friend circle from the time she was a little girl,” explained Boland. “[Radner] was very endearing, very bright, very creative — it is a tragic story that she died so young.”

A scene from ‘When Lambs Become Lions’

Another film that will tug at the heart strings, especially for animal lovers, is “When Lambs Become Lions,” which documents the lives of a poacher and a park ranger in Kenya over the course of three years. “I’m very anxious to ask the director how he got this kind of cooperation. It’s just remarkable to see this story from both sides and it has a very intriguing ending,” said Boland.

The co-director’s personal favorite is the highly acclaimed “Roll Red Roll” where amateur blogger Alex Goddard uncovers evidence on social media about the sexual assault of an intoxicated teenage girl by football players at a preseason party in Steubenville, Ohio, in 2012. 

“The real crux of the story is that this blogger found these pictures online because the team was tweeting them and if it hadn’t been for her having the courage to follow up on it, this would’ve gone completely under the radar. It wasn’t reported to the police — just bragged about online,” explained Boland. “It’s one of those tales of personal courage and points out that small town ‘football team is everything’ way of thinking. It’s very well done and very suspenseful and winning a lot of awards.”

A scene from ‘Science Fair’

Perhaps the documentary that has received the most buzz in the news lately is “Science Fair,” which shadows nine teenagers working to win top honors at the acclaimed International Science and Engineering Fair. According to Boland, this is one of those films the entire family can enjoy. “It’s really one of those great stories of terrific talented kids doing their best and the different things that come into play when you are a teenager” no matter how smart you are.

For Boland, being a part of this committee for the last 13 years has been a true labor of love and one she is very proud of. It has also been the perfect outlet to share her love of documentaries to the community. “I really feel that documentaries are a very powerful way of communicating. When you finish watching a really good documentary, you sit there and say “Oh my god, what if I hadn’t seen this? What if I didn’t know? Because in 90 minutes you get a very well fleshed out description of a situation and it’s something that we all need to know more about.” The co-director encourages everyone to stay after the screenings for the Q&A, which can get quite lively.

The Port Jefferson Documentary Series will be held at 7 p.m. every Monday night from Sept. 17 to Oct. 22 at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson and at Earl Vandermeulen High School, 350 Old Post Road, Port Jefferson on Oct. 29. Tickets, sold at the door, are $8 per person. (No credit cards please.) If you would like to volunteer, please call 631-473-5200. For more information, visit www.portjeffdocumentaryseries.com.

Film schedule:

The fall season will kick off with “Love, Gilda” at Theatre Three on Sept. 17. Lisa D’Apolito’s exuberant and moving documentary portrait of Gilda Radner looks back and reflects on the comedian’s life and career. Weaving together recently discovered audiotapes, interviews with her friends, rare home movies and diaries read by modern-day comedians, the film offers a unique window into the honest and whimsical world of a beloved performer whose greatest role was sharing her story. Presented in collaboration with the Long Island Chapter of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, the event will be moderated by Tom Needham, host of “Sounds of Film” on Stony Brook University’s WUSB. Guest speakers will include producer Bronwyn Berry and executive producer Carolyn Hepburn.

■ “When Lambs Become Lions” heads to Theatre Three on Sept. 24. Exploring the violative African poaching trade, the film profiles an ivory dealer from Kenya and his cousin, a wildlife ranger who is tasked with hunting down poachers. Who are these hunters who will risk death, arrest and the moral outrage of the world? Guest speaker, director Jon Kasbe, followed the film’s subjects over a three-year period, gaining an extraordinary level of access and trust as he became part of their everyday lives.

The season continues on Oct. 1 at Theatre Three with “Roll Red Roll,” which examines the cover up of the infamous 2012 rape of a teenage girl by the star players of a Steubenville, Ohio, football team. As amateur crime blogger Alex Goddard uncovers disturbing evidence on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, questions arise around the collusion of teen and adult bystanders. The film documents the case in such a powerful fashion that your feelings of outrage will persist long after the movie is over. Guest speaker will be director Nancy Schwartzman.

■ “Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel,” to be screened at Theatre Three on Oct. 8, is a stirring story of sports, patriotism and personal growth which charts the underdog journey of Israel’s national baseball team competing for the first time in the World Baseball Classic. Director Daniel A. Miller will be the guest speaker. The film is sponsored by The Preserve at Indian Hills and Temple Isaiah. Enjoy a donut from Duck Donuts and take part in a raffle to win a Long Island Ducks gift basket.

A scene from ‘Skid Row Marathon’

The series continues at Theatre Three with “Skid Row Marathon” on Oct. 15. The inspiring and uplifting documentary follows Superior Judge Craig Mitchell over a period of four years as he starts a running club on L.A.’s infamous Skid Row. If club members stay clean, off the streets and out of jail, the judge will take them around the world to run marathons. The runners fight the pull of addiction and homelessness at every turn. Not everyone crosses the finish line yet second chances do exist.  Sponsored by The Law office of Michael S. Ross PC, guest speakers will include director Mark Hayes and producer Gabrielle Hayes.

■ “Studio 54” will be screened at Theatre Three on Oct. 22. Studio 54 was the epicenter of ‘70s hedonism — a place that not only redefined the nightclub but also came to symbolize an entire era. Located at West 54th Street, a then-seedy part of town, the nightclub was the brainchild of Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, two college buddy entrepreneurs from Brooklyn who, over the course of 33 months, became the kings of New York — and then lost it all due to greed. Now, 39 years after the velvet rope was first slung across the club’s hallowed threshold, we hear the whole unvarnished story for the first time, with a treasure trove of rare footage and celebrity interviews, the real story behind the greatest club of all time. Guest speakers include Myra Scheer, executive assistant to Rubell and Schrager; Marc Benecke, doorman; Gerard Renny, VIP doorman; Scottie Taylor, bartender; and Chuck Garelick, head of security.

The series concludes on a high note with “Science Fair” at Earl Vandermuelen High School on Oct. 29. Directed by Christina Costantini and Darren Foster, “Science Fair” won the first ever Festival Favorite Award at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, beating out 123 other films. The film follows nine students and one mentor from around the globe as they navigate rivalries, setbacks and hormones, on their journey to compete against 1,700 students from 75 countries at the Intel Science Fair. Though all are participating for the love of science, we also learn there are underlying influences motivating them to pursue their dreams. With guest speaker Dr. Marnie Kula, director InStar Science Research/Science Chair at Ward Melville High School, Three Village school district.

From left, Tom Needham, Julie Cohen and Wendy Feinberg at the June 25 event. Photo by Lynn Rein

By Heidi Sutton

The film ladies of the Port Jefferson Documentary Series (PJDS) hosted a special summer screening of the blockbuster documentary “RBG” to an enthusiastic sold-out crowd at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson on June 25. Wendy Feinberg, co-director of the award-winning series, introduced the event and informed the audience that the film, which explores Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s exceptional life and career, is now the highest grossing film from Magnolia Pictures.

Feinberg had met one of the co-directors, Julie Cohen, at last year’s PJDS screening of “American Veteran.” “When she told me she was working on a film about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I immediately thought,  wow, she would be a great subject,” and invited Cohen to come back when the film was completed.

“The project started about 3½ years ago when myself and Betsy West, my directing and producing partner, started to notice that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was getting quite a bit of attention,” said Cohen. “We knew her story, we knew what an amazing woman she is … and we just said someone ought to make a documentary about her and why shouldn’t it be us?”

She continued, “We approached Justice Ginsburg with this idea, this ambitious plan to make a film about her life. Her answer to us essentially was ‘not yet.’ We looked carefully over her emails — we know the Justice is a woman who chooses her words very precisely and we know two words that were not in her emails were ‘no’ and ‘never’ so we decided to proceed. ”

 The film had its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and has been making the rounds ever since.

The evening was preceded by a Toast to Ruth Bader Ginsburg wine and cheese reception downstairs at Griswold’s Cafe and was followed by a Q&A with Cohen which was moderated by Tom Needham, host of “Sounds of Film” on WUSB.

Reached after the event, Feinberg said she couldn’t believe the wonderful turnout. “We knew that ‘RBG’ had already played at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington since early May, at the AMC Stony Brook 17, and at the Port Jefferson Cinemas, among others.” While the reception sold out in two weeks, the ticket sales on the day of the event was a record for the series. Feinberg attributed the evening’s success to the film’s subject, the political climate and the fact that Julie Cohen made a guest appearance. “What can top this?” she laughed.

“It really moved so many people — they just loved it,” added co-director Lyn Boland, “It was just very gratifying to feel the community together like that. The audience’s reaction was great and on point. It was an amazing night.”

The team at the Port Jefferson Documentary Series is now preparing for its exciting Fall 2018 series, which begins on Sept. 17 with “Love, Gilda” followed by “When Lambs Become Lions” and “Roll Red Roll,” among others. Visit www.portjeffdocumentaryseries.com for updates.

The PJDS would like to thank Theatre Three, Pindar Vineyards of Port Jefferson, Wild by Nature, Pasta Pasta, Nantuckets Restaurant, C’est Cheese, Z-Pita and La Bonne Boulangerie Bakery for making the evening possible.

‘The Judge’ offers a unique portrait of Kholoud Al-Faquih, above, the first woman judge to be appointed to the Middle East’s Sharia’a courts.
Popular film festival gives voice to stories that need to be told

By Heidi Sutton

Islamic law, autism, the stock market — these diverse subject matters and more will be explored at length as the Port Jefferson Documentary Series (PJDS) kicks off its spring 2018 season Monday evening, March 19.

Sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, the Suffolk County Office of Film and Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts, the PJDS will present seven award-winning documentaries on Monday nights through April 30, alternating between two venues — Theatre Three in Port Jefferson and The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook. Each screening will be followed by a Q&A with guest speakers.

The documentaries were handpicked by a seven-member film board that includes co-directors Lyn Boland, Barbara Sverd and Wendy Feinberg along with Honey Katz, Phyllis Ross, Lorie Rothstein and Lynn Rein. The “film ladies,” as they are affectionately known, each choose one film to present and then a seventh film is chosen unanimously by the group.

It is a system that has worked well since 2005. “I have learned that almost everybody [on the board] has their fingers on the pulse of some segment of our audience,” said Boland in a recent phone interview. “I think that we all have slightly different ways of judging the films that we are attracted to,” which the co-director says is a good thing. “You really want a balanced season that appeals to a lot of people.”

According to Boland, the goal of the festival has always been the same. “What we want most is to give our community the kind of access to important well-done documentaries that are fresh, shown the way they were created to be shown, on a big screen with a good sound system at an affordable price. A guest speaker will amplify the experience.”

This spring’s exciting lineup was selected after the members attended screenings at DOC NYC and the Hamptons Film Festival. When choosing the selections, Boland said she looks for a story “that really grabs me, that I think is dramatic, important, … a must see film,” adding “It is our hope that [the film selection] is really adding to the public discourse — that this is something people will talk about and think about.”

Kicking off the festival is the Long Island premiere of “The China Hustle.” “[This film] is one of those cool movies that is like a slow reveal — a financial mystery that you just start putting the pieces together as the film goes on and you really see what a ‘hustle’ the whole situation is with these fake Chinese companies that grabbed American investors,” Boland divulged. “It is absolutely fascinating.”

The co-director is most excited about sharing “The Judge” with festivalgoers. The documentary follows Kholoud Al-Faqih and her journey to be the first female judge in a Shari’a court in Palestine. “I think it is particularly appropriate to be screened now during Women’s History Month. [Al-Faqih] is a very mesmerizing figure — practical, smart, stubborn and just totally dedicated. That appealed to me,” said Boland. “[The film shows] how family disputes were negotiated in a Muslim religious court. As a former matrimonial attorney I was amazed how similar the issues were [to the United States] and how similarly they were handled.”

She is also enamored by “This Is Congo.” Skillfully directed by Daniel McCabe, Boland describes it as “an incredibly risky showing about what’s going on in Congo that nobody’s talking about, nobody’s writing about. This is a story that needs to be told and we have to do our part to get some of these things out.” Boland’s favorite part of the evening is the Q&A, which this year will feature for the first time six directors and one screenwriter.

The documentary series wouldn’t be possible without the support of numerous volunteers. Every season, help is needed for each part of the process, from distributing flyers and running the ticket booths to tracking down directors and even recommending new films. “We need volunteers not only to help the evenings go more smoothly but we would really love to have more people on the board,” said Boland. If you love documentary films and would like to volunteer, please call 631-473-5220.

The board was recently notified that the PJDS was chosen by Bethpage Federal Credit Union’s Best of Long Island survey as the Best Film Festival on Long Island, beating out the Stony Brook Film Festival, the Hamptons International Film Festival and the Gold Coast Film Festival for the second year in a row for “its devotion to documentaries — which are evocative, thought provoking, and shed light on often-unrepresented segments of our population.” To Boland, it is affirmation that the group’s tireless work is paying off. “I am just thrilled,” she gushed. “Every time we have our first meeting to start work on the next series … I am just amazed at how everybody hangs in there … just because they really love films and love to bring them to the community. That’s the bottom line.”

The Port Jefferson Documentary Series will be held at 7 p.m. every Monday night from March 19 to April 30 at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson or The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook. Tickets, sold at the door, are $7 per person. (No credit cards please.) New this year at the Long Island Museum’s screenings is the Cinema and Chardonnay program. For $5, participants can purchase a glass of chardonnay and/or a $1 bag of pretzels and then enjoy the wine and snack while watching the film. For more information, visit www.portjeffdocumentaryseries.com.

Film schedule

▶ The spring season will kick off with a special screening of “The China Hustle” at Theatre Three on March 19. The documentary exposes a new financial crime perpetrated by Wall Street where investors dumped their money into Chinese businesses that turned out to be fraudulent. The hook of the story is that everyone involved is guilty, including the investor who called out the fraud in the first place. Guest speakers will be Director Jed Rothstein by Skype and Juan Carlos Conesa, chair of Dept. of Economics, Stony Brook University.

▶ “Sammy Davis, Jr: I’ve Gotta Be Me,” to be screened at the Long Island Museum on March 26, is the first major documentary to examine Davis’ vast talent and his journey for identity through the shifting tides of civil rights and racial progress in 20th century America. With interviews from Billy Crystal, Norman Lear, Jerry Lewis, Whoopi Goldberg and Kim Novak along with photographs, television, film and concert. Moderated by Tom Needham, host of “Sounds of Film” on WUSB, guest speaker will be screenwriter and co-producer Laurence Maslon.

▶ The series continues with “The Judge” on April 2 at the Long Island Museum. The Muslim Shari’a courts in the Middle East have excluded women for centuries, and the influential religious legal system has never appointed a woman as a judge — until Kholoud Al-Faqih came along. The documentary follows the Palestine judge’s brave journey as a lawyer, her tireless fight for justice for women and her drop-in visits with clients, friends and family. Guest speaker will be Director Erika Cohn.

▶ “This Is Congo,” to be screened at Theatre Three on April 9, is a riveting, unfiltered immersion into the world’s longest continuing conflict and those who are surviving within it. Following four compelling characters: a whistleblower, a patriotic military commander, a mineral dealer and a displaced tailor — the film offers viewers a truly Congolese perspective on the problems that plague this lushly beautiful nation. Moderated by Shimelis Gulema, professor of Africana studies and history, SBU, the guest speaker for the evening will be Director Daniel McCabe.

▶ The series continues on April 16 at Theatre Three with an impressionist, fly-on-the-wall portrait of the life and glorious music of Israeli-born Itzhak Perlman, widely considered the greatest living violinist. Titled “Itzhak,” the documentary follows the virtuoso around the world for a year, portraying his huge passion and spirit. Wheelchair-bound from childhood polio, Perlman recounts overcoming obstacles with humor and talent. Featuring archival materials and performance clips, the guest speaker will be Director Alison Chernick.

▶ “Love, Cecil,” which will be screened at the Long Island Museum on April 23, brings to life the glamorous world of fashion/celebrity photographer and stage set designer, Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) through the use of archival footage, interviews and readings from his diaries by actor Rupert Everett. Guest speaker for the evening will be Director Lisa Immordino Vreeland.

▶ The final film for the spring 2018 season, “Mole Man” will be screened at the Long Island Museum on April 30 and follows Ron Heist, a 66-year-old autistic man who built a 50-room structure, consisting solely of scrap materials, on the land behind his parent’s home in Western Pennsylvania. His creation was built without the use of nails or mortar and keeps expanding, as he collects, classifies and displays objects from a deserted cluster of homes in the woods. This is the story of an extraordinary life, a family and the beauty of thinking differently. Director Guy Fiorita will be the guest speaker.

All photos courtesy of the PJDS

Frank Serpico

As part of the Fall 2017 Port Jefferson Documentary Series, Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present a screening of the documentary, “Frank Serpico,” on Monday, Oct. 9 at 7 p.m.

Director Antonino D’Ambrosio with Frank Serpico

As an NYPD officer in the hippie era, Frank Serpico blew the whistle on the corruption and payoffs running rampant in the department. He was shot in the face during a drug arrest that was rumored to be a setup and most famously became the subject of Sidney Lumet’s classic film SERPICO.

Forty-plus years later, Serpico talks about his Southern Italian roots, his time as an undercover officer, and his post-NYPD life. Adding their own recollections are his fellow officers, childhood friends, his West Side neighbors, and his admirers such as writer Luc Sante and actor John Turturro. With unprecedented access to his subject, Antonino D’Ambrosio creates a memorable, powerful portrait of an always-committed public servant who still walks the walk in his very own unique way.

Followed by a Q&A with director Antonino D’Ambrosio. Tickets are $7 at the door. For further details, please call 473-5220 or visit www.portjeffdocumentaryseries.com.

 

The season will open with a screening of ‘An American Veteran’ on Sept. 11. Photo from PJDS

By Heidi Sutton

The ravages of war, arranged marriages, police corruption, high fashion — these topics and more will be explored in detail as the Port Jefferson Documentary Series kicks off its Fall 2017 season on Monday, Sept. 11.

The series, which is sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson North Brookhaven Arts Council, the Suffolk County Office of Film and Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts, will present eight award-winning documentaries through Oct. 30, with the first and last to be screened at the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook and the rest at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson. Each film will be followed by a Q&A with guest speakers.

The documentaries were hand-picked by a seven-member film board which includes co-directors Lyn Boland, Barbara Sverd and Wendy Feinberg along with Honey Katz, Phyllis Ross, Lorie Rothstein and Lynn Rein.

This season will mark the series’ 12th year which is just fine for the film ladies, as they are affectionately called. “I think after 10 years I started to become a believer that it was actually going to have some staying power,” said Boland in a recent phone interview. “I was always holding my breath hoping that we would be there the next year … now I believe that the show will go on.”

Boland said working with the group is “an absolute pleasure. I’m really dumbfounded that everyone sticks around every year,” she laughed. “It seems like the amount of work that has to get done just gets bigger each time because we add things every year — the audience award, surveys, sponsors, concerts. We want to add something ‘special’ to each season.”

This fall’s dynamic line-up was selected after the members attended the Stony Brook Film Festival, DOC NYC, the Hamptons Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival.

The group as a whole is most excited about presenting “Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan,” a behind the scenes look at the New York City Ballet’s long-time principal dancer Wendy Whelan as she faces injury and retirement. “It just took everyone’s breath away,” gushed Boland. “The film just wins you over, plus if you love watching ballet, the ballet sequences are just the perfect length to see how great she was.” Whelan will appear in person at the screening.

Personally, Boland is looking forward to sharing “City of Ghosts” with the audience. “I think it is the most important film this season because it’s really an inside look at what is going on in Syria,” she said. “When you see it, it’s just so horrifying. We knew we had to get this story out — that people have to see this. What’s going on there is so devastating that you can’t believe it’s not on the news every night.”

Boland is also excited to share “House of Z” which traces dress designer Zac Posen’s career. “I think that the fashionistas and ‘Project Runway’ fans in the audience are going to love every minute of ‘House of Z’ because you really get to see behind the scenes [of the fashion industry],” she said.

One film that has garnered a lot of interest from music lovers, especially blues fans, is the series’ final film, “Sidemen: Long Road To Glory.” The documentary highlights the lives and legacies of Pinetop Perkins, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and Hubert Sulin, all Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf sidemen and will be preceded by a special blues concert with Scott Sharrard, lead guitarist for the Gregg Allman Band, who makes an appearance in the film.

 

The film ladies are grateful for the support of the local venues that host their films. “Theatre Three is our home, that’s where we started. It’s a great size, 400 seats, and we have a wonderful relationship with Jeff Sanzel,” said Boland. With 129 seats, the Long Island Museum’s Gillespie Room in the Carriage Museum “provides for a more intimate experience and the films screened there tie in to one of the museum’s exhibits.”

Boland relishes the positive feedback she receives after each screening. “I love it when someone is really ‘woke’ by the film, but I also love it when they just love the film and the subject.” For her, the goal of the PJDS is to provide “insight into something and in a very, very small way, cause disruption of people’s previously held ideas and open up a discussion.”

The Port Jefferson Documentary Series will be held at 7 p.m. every Monday night from Sept. 11 to Oct. 30 at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson or The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook. Tickets, sold at the door, are $7 per person. (No credit cards please). If you would like to volunteer, please call 631-473-5200. For more information, visit www.portjeffdocumentaryseries.com.

Film schedule

The season will open with a screening of ‘An American Veteran’ on Sept. 11. Photo from PJDS

▶ The fall season will kick off with a screening of “American Veteran” at The Long Island Museum on Sept. 11. Filmed over a five year period, the documentary follows Army Sergeant Nick Mendes, paralyzed from the neck down by an explosive device in Afghanistan, from the V.A. hospital bed where he spent 7 months, to the fully accessible home where he now lives with his wife Wendy. Winner of the Panavision Showcase at the Syracuse International Film Festival, the film is co-sponsored by Jim and Theresa Tsunis and The Northwind Group of Hauppauge. Guest speaker will be director Julie Cohen.

‘House of Z’

“House of Z,” which will be screened at Theatre Three on Sept. 18, chronicles the meteoric rise of fashion designer Zac Posen at the age of 21, his brand’s falling out of favor several years later and his challenge to rebuild his company and his reputation. The documentary peeks past the glamour of the runway and the red carpet to show audiences a true portrait of Posen as both an artist and businessman. Guest speaker, via Skype, will be director Sandy Chronopoulos.

‘Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story’

▶ Theatre Three will screen “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story” on Sept. 25. Produced by Susan Sarandon, this illuminating documentary explores Lamarr’s career as a 1940s Hollywood actress (Snow White was created in her image) and later as the secret inventor of secure wifi, bluetooth and GPS communications. The screening is co-sponsored by the Department of Technology and Society at Stony Brook University. Director Alexandra Dean will be the guest speaker for the evening.

‘A Suitable Girl’

▶ The fourth film, titled “A Suitable Girl,” will be screened on Oct. 2 at Theatre Three and tackles the subject of arranged marriages, an issue which has become increasingly controversial to the Western world as women have rightfully embraced their independence. Winner of the Albert Maysles New Documentary Director Award at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, “A Suitable Girl” follows several young, modern women in India looking to get married over the course of four years and intimately capturing their thoughts on arranged marriage, giving them a voice, and offering a unique perspective into the nuances of this institution. Guest speaker will be director Sarita Khurana.

‘Frank Serpico’

▶ The series continues on Oct. 9 with a screening of “Frank Serpico” at Theatre Three. As an NYPD officer in the hippie era, Frank Serpico blew the whistle on the corruption and payoffs running rampant in the department. He was shot in the face during a drug arrest that was rumored to be a setup and most famously became the subject of Sidney Lumet’s classic film, “Serpico.” Forty-plus years later, Serpico talks about his Southern Italian roots, his time as an undercover officer, and his post-NYPD life. The documentary gives a powerful portrait of an always-committed public servant who still walks the walk in his very own unique way. Guest speaker will be director Antonino D’Ambrosio.

‘Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan’

“Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan,” to be screened at Theatre Three on Oct. 16, offers an intimate portrait of prima ballerina Wendy Whelan as she prepares to leave the New York City Ballet after a record-setting three decades. One of the modern era’s most acclaimed dancers, Whelan danced ballets by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins as well as new works by modern standout choreographers with many roles made specifically for her. Co-sponsored by the Law Offices of Michael S. Ross, P.C. in Hauppauge; Backstage Studio of Dance in Port Jefferson Station; and Amy Tyler School of Dance in Port Jefferson. Guest speaker will be Prima Ballerina Wendy Whelan.

‘City of Ghosts’

“City of Ghosts,” which will be screened at Theatre Three on Oct. 23, follows the efforts of “Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently” (RBSS), a handful of anonymous activists who banded together after their homeland was taken over by ISIS in 2014. With deeply personal access, this is the story of a brave group of citizen journalists as they face the realities of life undercover, on the run, and in exile, risking their lives to stand up against one of the greatest evils in the world today. Directed by Matthew Heineman, “City of Ghosts” was the winner of the Grand Jury Award at the Sheffield Documentary Festival. Guest speaker TBD.

‘Sidemen: Long Road to Glory’

▶ The final film for the Fall 2017 season, “Sidemen: Long Road to Glory,” will be screened at the Long Island Museum on Oct. 30. An intimate look at the incredible lives and legacies of piano player Pinetop Perkins, drummer Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and guitarist Hubert Sumlin, all Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf sidemen, the film captures some of the last interviews and their final live performances together before their deaths in 2011. Co-sponsored by the Long Island Music Hall of Fame and the Long Island Blues Society. A Q&A will be conducted by Tom Needham of the Long Island Music Hall of Fame and WUSB with guest speakers director Scott Rosenbaum and lead guitarist for the Gregg Allman Band, Scott Sharrard. A pre-film blues concert will be held at 6 p.m. featuring Scott Sharrard. Tickets for both the concert and film are $14.

Above, a scene from ‘Sour Grapes’ Photo courtesy of PJDS

The Long Island Museum, located at 1200 Route 25A in Stony Brook, along with the Port Jefferson Documentary Series, will host the 2nd Summer Thursday event on Thursday, July 6, with a film screening of the 2016 documentary “Sour Grapes,” followed by a Q-and-A with the film’s co-director and free admission to the Long Island Museum’s newest exhibition, Midnight Rum: Long Island and Prohibition. The festivities begin at 4:30 p.m.

Set in the super-fast, super-rich world of LA and New York during the financial boom of the early 2000s, in the lead up to the 2008 financial crash, and featuring the obsessive collectors, outraged wine producers, suspect auction houses and specialist FBI sleuths, “Sour Grapes” is an “Emperor’s New Clothes” fable for the modern age.

The film traces the story of the millions of dollars made from the sale of fake vintage wine, which flooded a susceptible luxury market with counterfeits that still lie undetected in cellars across the world. The film was awarded Winner of Best Documentary at the Key West Film Festival. Critics have called the film “highly entertaining” (The Guardian) and “real-life comic mystery fit for Hercule Poirot” (Variety).

In addition to the film, there will be a wine reception (courtesy of Pindar Vineyards Port Jefferson Wine Shop) and a chance to meet Reuben Atlas, who co-directed the film, from 5 to 6 p.m. Advance tickets to the film and reception, which are selling out fast, are available for $12 at www.portjeffdocumentaryseries.com through July 5. Tickets for the film only will be available at the door for $7 (no credit cards please). Ticket holders will receive complimentary admission to the Midnight Rum exhibition from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in the Visitors Center. The reception begins at 5 p.m. in the Carriage Museum’s Gillespie Room and the film begins at 6 p.m.

For more information and to purchase tickets, please call 631-473-5220.

‘Abacus: Small Enough to Jail’ will be screened on March 27.

By Heidi Sutton

Soul music, Asperger’s syndrome, circus life, terrorism, race in America — these diverse subject matters and more will be explored at length as the Port Jefferson Documentary Series (PJDS) kicks off its spring 2017 season Monday evening, March 13. Sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, the Suffolk County Office of Film and Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts, the PJDS, now in its 11th year, will present seven award-winning documentaries from March 13 to May 1, alternating between two venues — Theatre Three in Port Jefferson and The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook. Each screening will be followed by a Q-and-A with guest speakers.

‘Circus Kid’ will be screened on April 17 at Theatre Three.

The documentaries are chosen by a six-member film board, affectionately known as “the film ladies,” who each choose one film to present and then a seventh film is chosen unanimously by the group. The ladies, who include co-directors Lyn Boland and Barbara Sverd, Wendy Feinberg, Honey Katz, Phyliss Ross and Lorie Rothstein, recently found out that the PJDS was chosen by Bethpage Federal Credit Union’s Best of Long Island survey as the Best Film Festival on Long Island for 2017. The series beat out the Stony Brook Film Festival, the Hamptons International Film Festival and the Gold Coast Film Festival.

“Ecstatic would not be too mild a description,” said Boland. “We were really delighted [about the news].” Sverd added, “We never found out who had nominated us, but we are very grateful to that person!”

According to Sverd, the group started out 11 years ago sitting around a dining room table at the late Sondra Edward’s home “brainstorming about how to improve the Greater Port Jefferson/Northern Brookhaven’s existing film series. It was there that the idea of a documentary series began to emerge.” Back then, Sverd said, “We knew that documentaries were an emerging art form and that our community was missing opportunities to see them, as they mostly played in New York for a limited time. We now face new challenges in an age of streaming and HBO, but our mission [to present new documentaries] has remained the same.”

This past fall, the group traveled to the Tribeca Film Festival and the New York Documentary Film Festival in Manhattan and attended the Stony Brook Film Festival, searching for documentaries that generated a lot of interest and offered wide appeal.

‘I Am Not Your Negro’ will be screened on April 3 at the Long Island Museum.

This season, both Boland and Sverd are most excited about presenting “I Am Not Your Negro,” which is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. Based on the writings of James Baldwin, it tells the story of race in modern America. One of the scheduled guest speakers, Prof. Michael Theiwill, was a colleague and friend of Baldwin. “It’s an exciting film, it’s very, very sophisticated and it’s so on point,” said Boland. “It’s a little demanding in terms of what it asks the audience to listen to and to be aware of, but it is very on point for what’s going on. You realize how you thought everything was changing, but there is still this basic unyielding racism that we find very difficult to understand.”

Boland is also looking forward to showing “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” on March 27. “It’s such a great story about this little bank in Queens that the district attorney decides to pick on for financial irregularities” and how the family that owned the bank fought back and won.

The co-directors encourage the audience to stay after the screenings for the Q-and-A part which can get quite spirited. “A documentary is like taking a college course,” said Sverd, adding, “I believe that the reason documentaries have become so popular is because people love to learn about other people, places and things. Having a director for an up-close and personal Q-and-A after each screening makes it an even more special classroom experience.” “For me it is much more exciting to get a little bit of the backstory after the movie. Having the director or someone from the film there to answer questions right away was something that we really wanted,” said Boland. The group is always looking for volunteers to help distribute posters and flyers, taking tickets and program assistance. To sign up, please call 631-473-5200.

The Port Jefferson Documentary Series will be held at 7 p.m. every Monday from March 13 to May 1 at Theatre Three, 412 Main Street, Port Jefferson or The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook. Tickets, sold at the door, are $7 per person (no credit cards please). For more information, visit www.portjeffdocumentaryseries.com.

Film schedule:

▶ The spring season will kick off with a screening of “Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing” at Theatre Three on March 13. The dramatic story of the April 2013 terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon is recounted through the emotional experiences of individuals whose lives were forever impacted. The film follows events as they unfolded that day and over the next two years, to the death penalty sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Winner of the Audience Award Best Documentary at the Woodstock Film Festival, “Marathon” shows how cities and communities come together and find strength through dark times. Guest speakers will be directors Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg.

“The Uncondemned,” the second film in the series, will be screened at Theatre Three on March 20. Both a real-life courtroom thriller and a moving human drama, the documentary tells the gripping story of a group of young international lawyers and activists who fought to have rape recognized as a war crime and the Rwandan women who came forward to testify and win justice for the crimes committed against them. The film won the Brizzolara Family Foundation Award for a Film of Conflict and Resolution and the Victor Rabinowitz and Joanne Grant Award for Social Justice at the Hamptons International Film Festival. Co-sponsored by the Africana Studies Department at Stony Brook University. Guest speaker will be director Michele Mitchell.

▶ On March 27, The Long Island Museum will host a screening of “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail.” Directed by Steve James and produced by Julie Goldman and Mark Mitten, the film tells the fascinating David and Goliath story of the government’s decision to prosecute a small, immigrant-owned financial institution, Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown owned by the Sung family, of mortgage fraud while overlooking far more egregious behavior at much larger institutions. The Sung family spent over $10 million in a five-year battle to save the family business, their honor and to stand up for their community. Producer Julie Goldman, Associated Producer Sean Lyness and bankers Jill and Vera Sung will be the guest speakers for the evening.

▶ The fourth film, titled “I Am Not Your Negro,” will be screened at The Long Island Museum on April 3. Built around James Baldwin’s unfinished 1979 book about the lives and successive assassinations of his friends Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, the film, directed by Raoul Peck, delves into the complex legacy of those three lives and deaths that permanently marked the American social and political landscape complimented by archival footage, photographs and television clips. Winner of the Audience Award at the Chicago International Film Festival, Best Documentary at the Hamptons International Film Festival, People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, short-listed for the Academy Awards and countless other accolades, “I Am Not Your Negro” has been called “One of the best movies you are likely to see this year” by the New York Times. Guest Speakers will include Prof. Zebulon Miletsky, African American Studies, SUNY, and Author/Prof. Michael Thelwell, U. Mass, Amherst. Co-sponsored by the Africana Studies Department at Stony Brook University.

Director Lorenzo Pisoni will be the guest speaker on April 17.

▶ The series continues on April 17 at Theatre Three with “Circus Kid.” A ring of daring, danger, spirit and lunacy can lead many a young child into a romantic fantasy of running away to join the circus. But for Lorenzo Pisoni, director of this autobiographical documentary, and guest speaker for the evening, the reality of growing up as the golden child in his family’s cult classic Pickle Family Circus, his dreams were about running away from it. Archival footage of vaudeville-style acts and interviews include Pickle Family participants, including parents Larry and Peggy, daughter Gypsy and Pickle member Bill Irwin.

“Bang! The Bert Berns Story” will be screened at Theatre Three on April 24. Music meets the Mob in this biographical documentary, narrated by Steven Van Zandt, about the life and career of songwriter and record producer Bert Berns whose hits include “Twist and Shout,”“Tell Him,” “Hang on Sloopy,” “Here Comes the Night” and “Piece of My Heart.” Berns helped launch the careers of Wilson Pickett, Van Morrison and Neil Diamond and produced some of the greatest soul music ever made. Filmmaker Brett Berns, who will be the evening’s guest speaker, brings his late father’s story to the screen through interviews with Ronald Isley, Ben E. King, Solomon Burke, Van Morrison, Paul McCartney and Keith Richards and rare performance footage. Co-sponsored by the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.

▶ The final film for the spring 2106 series, to be screened at Theatre Three on May 1, will be “Off the Rails,” the remarkable true story of Darius McCollum, a man with Asperger’s syndrome whose overwhelming love of transit has landed him in jail 32 times for impersonating New York City bus drivers and subway conductors and driving their routes. Winner of Best Documentary at the DocUtah Film Festival, the Newport Beach Film Festival, the Woods Hole Film Festival and the Buffalo International Film Festival, to name just a few. Director Adam Irving will be the guest speaker via Skype.

Front row, from left, Wendy Feinberg, co-director PJDS; Honey Katz, board member PJDS; Lyn Boland, co-director PJDS; Allan Varela, chairman, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council; Barbara Sverd, co-director PJDS; and PJDS board members Phyllis Ross and Lynn Rein; back row, from left, Doug Quattrock, director of development, group sales and special events coordinator at Theatre Three; Vivian Koutrakos, managing director at Theatre Three; Julie Diamond, director of communications at the Long Island Museum; and Jeffrey Sanzel, executive artistic director at Theatre Three. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Heidi Sutton

It’s official! Bethpage Federal Credit Union and the Long Island Press recently announced the 2017 winners of their Best of Long Island survey, now in its 11th year. Among the elite few was The Port Jefferson Documentary Series, which won for Best Film Festival.

“We were surprised and delighted when we were nominated in the early fall of last year. We had never been nominated before and the other nominees were all big names on the film festival scene. We never expected to actually win!” said Lyn Boland, co-director of the Port Jefferson Documentary Series, adding “This award means so much because it tells us that people appreciate what we are trying to create — a way to enjoy great, new documentaries, on the big screen, in our community. A big thank you to everyone who voted for us!”

Sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council, the Suffolk County Office of Film and Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts, the series has presentend award-winning documentaries in the fall and spring for 11 years, with screenings most recently held at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson and The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook.

“The series has made an extraordinary contribution to the arts community for over thirty years. It has been our honor at Theatre Three to even be a small part of this vital institution,” said Jeffrey Sanzel, executive artistic director at Theatre Three.

Neil Watson, executive director at the LIM, concurred, stating “The museum is thrilled to partner with the Port Jefferson Documentary Series on these ongoing presentations. This collaboration strengthens and expands our connection to the community, and offers another rich layer of programming for our growing audience.”

The series kicks-off its Spring 2017 line-up on Monday, March 13 at Theatre Three with a screening of “Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing.” For more information and the full schedule of films, visit www.portjeffdocumentaryseries.com.

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