Aside From the Impressive Screenings and Events that Take Place During the Montclair Film Festival, the Festival’s Draw Highlights the Things that Make Montclair So Special
Montclair’s population usually runs just shy of 40,000 people. Montclair residents have given the township the title of “where the suburb meets the city.” It is not inaccurate branding.
This town is littered with journalists and other prominent media members. Chances are, if you walk down Valley Road, you’ll run into someone who either works in the media, whose spouse works in the media or used to work in the media in a past life. So it makes sense that members of the community would eventually start a film festival, right in town.
For the past seven years, around this time, Montclair becomes a very convincing double for Park City, Utah, as our town’s version of Sundance, the Montclair Film Festival, hits town. Since its founding by Bob Feinberg,
who also serves as Chairman of the Board, the Montclair Film Festival (MFF), has grown exponentially, boasting 170 films, parties, and special events. This year’s film festival welcomed more attendees than ever before in the festival’s history, and additionally hosted many filmmakers and special guests, as over 80% of the films shown also hosted an audience Q & A. Not only does the festival bring artistic voices to the big screen, it also partners with the community in amazing ways.
The MFF has brought international recognition to our little suburb. Thanks to local celebrities such as Patrick Wilson and Stephen Colbert, the town becomes host to the most talented of actors and performers, such as Rachel Weisz, Jeff Daniels, Nick Offerman, Taylor Mac, André Leon Talley and
Ethan Hawke (and that was just this year’s list). But even with this intense level of fame that hits Montclair in April and May, the festival still provides a hometown feel.
The MFF causes Montclarians and tourists to get out and about, lining the streets of Montclair’ town centers, where many of the events take place. Before and after film screenings, Q & As, and interviews, attendees will then hit some of the town’s many restaurants, creating even more business for eateries. The film festival really works to involve the entirety of Montclair. Sharon Sevrens, the owner of Amanti Vino, located on Church Street, spoke to The Montclair Dispatch “We are so fortunate to have the Montclair Film Festival and are thrilled to sponsor them! It is wonderful to attract such talent to Montclair. From a business perspective, it is awesome to see so many people enjoying movies and then sticking around to dine.”
With an influx of people to the town’s more densely populated areas, our municipal organizers and safety personnel must adjust to the popularity of the festival. The Montclair Dispatch spoke to Deputy Chief of the Montclair Police Department, Wilhelm Young about how his job is affected by the festival. “I must say, with the increase in our township’s population from Thursday – Sunday, due to our many restaurants, shows, arts attraction and so much more, we are well adept at handling the increase in pedestrian and vehicular traffic. I can’t say that there is a direct impact on our function at the Police Department. We do encourage officers to be aware of the festival as folks may ask for directions if they are lost or unfamiliar with the area. Other than that, I believe there is a positive impact on the businesses and the TWP economy with all the visitors to our beautiful town.”
The Montclair Dispatch was also lucky enough to speak with Steve McCarthy to discuss the partnership between the Montclair Film Festival and Montclair State University (MSU). Steve McCarthy teaches Journalism and Filmmaking at the School of Communication and Media at MSU and has had two films in the Montclair Film Festival – “The One That Got Away” (2015) and “Hayatuna” (2018). He’s currently working on an HBO film about journalism greats Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill. This year, Steve also worked with Bob Feinberg to help produce the opening promo for the MFF. It featured MSU and Montclair High School Theater and Dance students singing and dancing around town. We spoke with Steve about the special relationship between the festival and the university. “The Montclair Film Festival is truly an asset for the town of Montclair. The festival brings in top films, actors, and filmmakers but it still has a strong community feel thanks to the leadership and staff of the festival who have strong roots in the town. The volunteers also add a feeling of local participation. Montclair is a town that values art as a form of expression, creativity, and community. It’s a town full of creative people who support sharing art and educating young people about the arts. The relationship between the festival and Montclair State has really bloomed. With on-campus screenings, student short showings and University students working at the festival, the relationship is a strong one that mutually benefits the town and the University. Our film this year “Hayatuna” was produced with Montclair State students and shot in
Jordan and Sweden. We were embraced by the festival and the town.”
Few people know the ins and outs of the film festival better than Meredith Ladov, who serves as managing director of the Montclair Film organization. We spoke to Meredith about this year’s festival, as well as the influence that the festival has within the town.
“We just wrapped our 7th annual festival with an incredible selection of 160+ films and events over 11 days, filling over 20,000 seats. Dozens of independent filmmakers joined us to share their stories and connect with our audiences. Some of the larger themes this year included politics, women, faith, global, LGBTQ, black/African-America and New Jersey. Other special guests included Jeff Daniels, Ethan Hawke, Rachel Weisz, Stephen Colbert, Patrick Wilson, MacArthur Genius Award-winner Taylor Mac and Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons.
Although the 11-day festival is over, we are excited to continue welcoming audiences into our new home at Cinema505 located at 505 Bloomfield Avenue in downtown Montclair where we will continue to show films, have events and continue the conversations all year-round.”
As the Montclair Film Festival grows, it is bringing Montclair’s popularity with it. The film festival is truly a special time of year in which Montclair residents can come together and celebrate the wonderful creativity that seeps from every corner of the town.