Opening night of the Black Bear Film Festival on Friday, Oct. 15, is a major milestone for Milford, and one that is causing a tremendous amount of anticipation and excitement. That’s because it will be held at the newly renovated Milford Theater.
It could be possible only due to the confluence of energy and passion of three local film aficionados: Bill Rosado, Beth O’Neil, and Max Brinson.
Rosado, a patron of the arts, is also an independent film producer of documentaries with a very special vision for enhancing the town. He executive-produced “My Brother, My Hero Forever,” one of the films in this year’s festival.
Beth O’Neil, the theater’s artistic director, is a professional theater and film producer. She grew up in Milford, moved to New York City for 15 years for her career, and during the pandemic moved back with her husband and daughter. She has always loved the festival. Not only was she a festival volunteer when growing up in Milford, but also her critically acclaimed film, “Jack Goes Boating,” starring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, was a Main Stage feature a few years ago. Rosado picked O’Neil to be the first artistic director because he knew she shared his vision of making the theater a place that can “give the true artist a gateway.”
The theater has undergone an amazing transformation that really only began in January. It has been fully renovated to include comfortable seats with more leg room, surround sound, Wi-Fi, the latest heating and cooling system, and a cash bar that will be open before, during and after performances. The old iconic “Milford” sign atop the theater’s entrance will remain, perhaps as an homage to its storied past. O’Neil said her programming plans include “family movies, an educational film series, live theater, and a monthly concert series with headliner performers from a variety of genres.” The Nov. 20 concert of Vanessa Carlton, a platinum-certified singer-songwriter and pianist who also grew up in Milford, is already sold out. O’Neil is about to announce a full holiday schedule.
She is excited to have Black Bear as the theater’s premier event, especially after so many of us have been locked away because of the Covid-19. “The arts can heal people,” she said..
Get your vaccine, grab your mask
There will be a strict protocol for gaining admission to the film festival. Patrons will be asked to show proof of vaccination and to stay masked, both while inside the theater and under the tent outside, where food and drinks will be available, except when eating or drinking.
Max Brinson, the film festival president for the past three years, has, with his very hard-working board of directors, led the festival to new heights. “For the past two years we have had to make tremendous adjustments because of Covid,” he said. “We have overcome difficulties and yet still have gone ahead with presenting good films.”
He’s been looking forward to a time when the festival could get back to normal. “We have a wonderful schedule of features and shorts that will bring us together again as community,” he said.
The opening night gala on Oct 15 starts with a 4 p.m. under the tent. Brinson encourages people to come early. Free popcorn and a cash bar will be offered in the theater, which will be open so that patrons may enjoy a drink before the Main Stage feature film, “Port Authority.” There will be a short Q&A after the film. People will then file back into the tent to enjoy a one-hour open bar stocked with liquor, wine, beer, and signature cocktails. There will be lots of amazing food catered by the Tom Quick Inn, including various food stations for brochette, antipasto, penne a la vodka, pulled pork, and other selections, as well as desserts and live music by Joe Ferry and The Big Ska Band.
There are numerous interesting and exciting films for the Saturday and Sunday rosters on the Main Stage in the theater. Free salons will be held at nearby Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, at 110 West Catherine Street.
To buy tickets for the gala and all other events, go to: events.eventgroove.com/event/2021-Black-Bear-Film-Festival-54875 .
Tickets can be for the entire weekend or for individual films. Space is limited for the opening gala and film. There is also a description of each of the films at the website, blackbearfilmfestival.squarespace.com.
One thing is certain, this event will be beyond our expectations for the festival, the theater, and the healing of the community.
“We have a wonderful schedule of features and shorts that will bring us together again as community.” Max Brinson