And the Winner Is … Ashfield FilmFest

Notes from Nan: Ashfield FilmFest 2009
By Nan Parati, HF Contributing Writer

September 26th, 2009: Ashfield FilmFest

What a great time was had by over 400 people last Saturday night at the Third Annual Ashfield FilmFest at Town Hall! Fifteen films were entered, the rules being that the films had to be no longer than five minutes, and have some connection to the town of Ashfield (um Massachusetts, not the one in England, I don’t think.)

Red Gate Farm had held workshops in filmmaking and there were a number of entries from kids that were quite fun. Nancy Hoff at the Hardware Store had a brilliant idea in recreating the “Dancing Queen” scene from Mama Mia and orchestrated hundreds (yes? hundreds?) of Ashfield women in giving up their daily toil to join in a rousing musical dance down Main Street ending with a plunge in Ashfield Lake. (I remember that day and it was cold! More kudos to everyone connected with that film for staying in character and following through!) There was a hilarious mockumentary on Big Foot sightings in Ashfield by Jason Mazzarina and Elijah Rottenberg. I’d like to see that one again. There were thoughtful films on the best of Ashfield and its caring for each other, documentaries of daily life and events in Ashfield, and just plain funny ones on summer interning at Red Gate Farm, haunted barns at Red Gate Farm and then, on the pancakes at Elmer’s.

When Gayle Kabaker came to me in early summer to say she wanted to make a film about Elmer’s pancakes, I backed away saying, “I don’t think I want to be involved with this,” a project I feared was somehow going to be a five-minute infomercial on our pancakes. I do love our pancakes, but I couldn’t see myself standing there pitching them or standing proudly by while someone else did. I wasn’t sure what she had in mind and did everything I could to dissuade her from the idea.

Then she brought me the script and it was SO goofy and downright funny—AND I would get to wield a gun and smoke a cigar; the casting was very well-thought out, and it featured three of my favorite people in cameo roles, so I agreed and even did my own hair and makeup for the shoot.

One great thing about the FilmFest is that idea that so many people wanted to come out and see locally-made films, support their friends’ work, dress up in magnificent fashion, clap, cheer and whistle, that over eighty people were actually turned away from the event due to space limitations. I understand that much of the turned-away crowd ended up at Elmer’s for an impromptu alternate party that culminated in patrons doing the final clean-up so that poor Mary, who had not expected to be there by herself (we had thought we’d stay open until seven or so) that night could finally close and go home to sleep before coming back the next morning to cook breakfast. It was a night of community fun and togetherness, something this town is known for and yearns for again after our summer of rocky and uncomfortable division.

When the awards were announced (and rewarded with beautiful individually-created ceramic plates by Dawn Fessenden, as beautiful as any gold-plated statue!) it came out thus:

  • First Prize for Youth: Galen Knowles for History in a Free Fall
  • First Prize for Adult: Nancy Hoff for Dancing Queen
  • Ashfield History Prize (sponsored in part by the Ashfield History Project): Tamsen Merrill for Stocking the Food Pantry
  • Ashfield Resident Prize: David Fessenden for Locavore
  • Grand Prize: Gayle Kabaker for The Great Ashfield Pancaper
  • The well-deserved and roundly applauded Audience Choice Award (for their favorite film, voted on directly after the showing of all the films) was Nancy Hoff’s Dancing Queen.

Congratulations to all who participated, actually getting it together to make a whole film, finish it and get it in! Keep that creative momentum and let’s do it again next year!


Nan Parati - Elmer's StoreNan Parati

Nan is the proprietor of Elmer’s Store in Ashfield, MA. A New England transplant from the Deep South, Nan shares her southern wit, wisdom and charm every week in her column, “Notes from Nan.” Share dinner with her every Friday at Elmer’s. Menu’s are posted with her column.

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