2018-06-07 / Around Town

Get Ready for Movies Under the Stars

By Loren King


NewportFILM opens with “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” director Morgan Neville’s portrait of children’s TV legend Fred Rogers. NewportFILM opens with “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” director Morgan Neville’s portrait of children’s TV legend Fred Rogers. NewportFILM, the free outdoor screening series that kicks off June 21, will bring top-notch new documentaries and special guests to audiences at venues around Aquidneck Island this summer. But the popular series is as much about the experience as it is about the movies.

“I see everyone I know at the screenings. It’s an incredible intersection of the community,” said Rebecca Bertrand, newportFILM executive director. “People love to bring picnics, relax with friends, listen to music and enjoy the sunset, and the films are a bonus.”

Now in its ninth year, newport- FILM opens with the much-anticipated, family friendly documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” about children’s television legend Fred Rogers. Director Morgan Neville, an Oscar-winner in 2014 for “20 Feet from Stardom,” will be in attendance. The screening takes place at Aquidneck Park, which is adjacent to the Newport Public Library.


Drive-in movie on First Beach, 2014. (Photo by J.Clancy Photography) Drive-in movie on First Beach, 2014. (Photo by J.Clancy Photography) Besides live music, food vendors and games for the kids, newport- FILM creates a memorable experience by cleverly matching film and venue. Nathaniel Kahn’s “The Price of Everything” (June 28), about the people who make, sell and buy art, takes place, fittingly, on the lawn of the Newport Art Museum.

Rachel Dretzin’s “Far from the Tree” (July 12) screens at The Elms. Based on the acclaimed book by Andrew Solomon (who will be at the screening), it’s an intimate look at various families who have loved ones with Down syndrome, autism, dwarfism, and the family of an 18-year-old boy now imprisoned for life for the murder of an 8-yearold boy.


Loren King is an arts and entertainment writer whose work appears regularly in The Boston Globe and other publications. Loren King is an arts and entertainment writer whose work appears regularly in The Boston Globe and other publications. The season’s lineup of films offers something for everyone, but this year there are an unusual number of films about “young people doing incredible things,” says Bertrand. “Science Fair” (Aug. 9), an award-winner at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, follows nine high schoolers from around the world as they compete against thousands of other students at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. “Chef Flynn” (Aug. 16) profiles 19-year-old culinary sensation Flynn McGarry.

The popular drive-in screening (Aug. 30), which takes place at Second Beach, also features a film about a resilient young person. “Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable” is director Aaron Lieber’s portrait of the surfer who returned to the sport following a 2003 shark attack that cost Hamilton her right arm at age 13.

Perhaps the series’ most popular event, says Bertrand, is the annual picnic contest, which will take place July 26 at the showing of “Two Trains Runnin,” Sam Pollard’s ambitious weaving of music and history in a story about the search for two forgotten blues musicians in 1964 Mississippi during Freedom Summer. Guest judges will wander through the crowd to select the most creative picnic on this year’s theme: the 1960s.

The summer outdoor screening series is newportFILM’s centerpiece, but there is programming all year, drawing about 10,000 people to 35 film events. In February, for example, director David Alvarado was at the Casino Theatre with “Bill Nye: Science Guy.” During the Volvo Ocean Race Newport stopover at Fort Adams in May, newportFILM presented daily showings of its curated program, “One Ocean Shorts,” short films about the environment.

Co-founder and artistic director Andrea van Beuren heads a small but committed team that just added a fifth member in marketing director Kathryn Allred, who recently moved to Newport from New York City, where she worked for three years on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“I’m new to the community, so this is a great way to be part of it,” Allred said.

Bertrand, who fell in love with Newport while at Salve Regina University and returned after graduate school, became executive director last year after serving as managing director. She stresses the collaborative spirit of the newportFILM staff, who are assisted by “amazing volunteers and interns” during the summer. Each screening requires 15 to 20 volunteers to keep things running smoothly, especially if rain pushes the event indoors.

But when the nights are clear and the crowd is assembled, one of the moments of magic, says Bertrand, is the rising of the inflatable screen just before sunset. A few minutes later, the film, via Blu-ray, is projected onto the screen.

“There’s a momentum that builds over the summer,” she said. “People are talking about what’s coming up; it’s a lot of word-of mouth. Putting on events is fun. It’s a great way to engage the community.”

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