Berkshire Film Festival’s Kelley Vickery Paints the Town Red
“Parties are not the point of BIFF,” says Kelley Vickery, the hands-on founder of the Berkshire International Film Festival. “The programming is.” Nevertheless, every year BIFF ups the glamour factor for its parties, which is why Vickery negotiated with the Town of Great Barrington to use the old firehouse on Castle Street as party central in exchange for cleaning and painting it. Whether the town knew that Vickery planned to paint the interior fire-engine red is unclear. Nevetheless, two weeks ago, Vickery (left) and a crew of volunteers were rolling bright red paint onto the old brick walls that will be the backdrop for the opening night dinner for 225 guests (catered by Dan Mathieu’s MAX Ultimate Food) before the screening at the Mahaiwe of Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, which will be followed by a “Disco Inferno” Dance Party ($20) at the firehouse from 9 p.m. - midnight.
Parties are ephemeral, and so, alas, are many independent films. “Documentaries and shorts often don’t have a long shelf life,” says Vickery, who screened more than 500 entries this year. “One of the functions of a film festival is to show documentaries and shorts that may never have commercial runs.” This year’s documentaries include Climate Refugees, How To Hold A Flag, Sweet Crude, and Stone River.
To build a bigger audience, Vickery moved the festival from mid May to early June. “As silly as it sounds, we used to have BIFF at the same time as the Cannes Film Festival, which was a problem—it prevented us from getting certain films and talent,” she says. “We also seemed to be conflicting with college graduations and many second homeowners don’t start coming regularly until after Memorial Day, and we wanted them to be able to attend.” And why did she decide to screen films not only in Great Barrington but also in Pittsfield at the Beacon Cinema and the Berkshire Museum’s Little Cinema? “Why not?” says Vickery, who’s proud that BIFF banners now hang on lamp posts in both Great Barrington and Pittsfield. “We wanted to see if we expand and appeal to more filmgoers in north county.”
Vickery’s expansion plan seems to be working. One of the festival’s marquee events—Friday’s Tribute Night Achievement Award that is going to Patricia Clarkson this year—sold out last week. “She’s the quintessential indie actress,” says Vickery. “We’re screening her new film, Cairo Time , which doesn’t open until August, and she’ll be honored by directors Peter Hedges and Rubba Nadda and actors Lauren Ambrose and Chris Noth, who was at Yale with her.” BIFF has also sold out of all of its $150 and $250 all-inclusive Great Barrington passes, though all-inclusive passes for Pittsfield at $125 are still available and single tickets at $10 each are still available for many films.
5th Annual Berkshire International Film Festival
June 3 - 6
Great Barrington & Pittsfield, MA