Let the Season Begin! Launch Party at Koto Grill Kicks off SFF 2016
By Shelley A. Sackett
About fifty volunteers and sponsors of Salem Film Fest 2016 schmoozed, boozed and snacked at Koto Grill on Washington Street at the traditional launch party that signals the festival’s imminent arrival. A large screen projected a continuous loop of trailers from all 35 feature documentaries that make up this year’s line up as Annie Liu, who owns Koto Grill with her husband Leo , refreshed platters and served drinks.
“We have so many films that will knock your socks off,” promised Jeff Schmidt, SFF Program Director. Although he said trying to name a favorite film was like “naming a favorite child”, Schmidt did say that “Driving with Selvi” stood out both as a film and because Selvi will attend the screening at PEM Morse Auditorium. “This is very special,” he said.
Acknowledging that 2017 will mark SFF’s tenth anniversary, Rinus Oosthoek, Executive Director of the Salem Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the party, joked that he didn’t want to think about that until after this year’s ninth was over.
Oosthoek and Schmidt thanked all the volunteers and festival sponsors who “have gone the distance this year” in donating their time and money to make the festival happen year after year. The Lius generously hosted the launch party this year.
SFF is known for inviting filmmakers to spend time in Salem and join the festival community while they’re here. With a long list of parties, galas and meet-and-greets, SFF 2016 promises both exceptional films and the opportunities to meet filmmakers and hang out with fellow film lovers in intimate and fun settings. The A-Beez featuring Sarah Seminski will rock the Saturday night dance party at Sea Level. For those able to rise at 10:00 am Sunday morning, there’s a filmmaker breakfast at Caffé Graziani where film lovers and filmmakers from all over the world can continue the discussions of the night before.
New this year, Mary Beth Bainbridge has curated a special exhibit at the CinemaSalem Gallery featuring images from the documentary KEDI, a film that views Istanbul through the eyes of the millions of cats (and their caregivers) who live there. “It doesn’t mean you have to hate dogs,” she said with a laugh.
Oosthoek reminded everyone to attend — and bring their friends — to the Salem Film Fest Kickoff Reception at Old Town Hall on Thursday, March 3 from 5:00 – 7:00 pm, where the coveted official SFF 2016 program book will be available for the first time this season. After the Kickoff Reception, the opening night film, CURIOUS WORLDS: THE ART & IMAGINATION OF DAVID BECK will screen at the PEM Morse Auditorium.
Before the official presentations ended, and the partygoers returned to the conversation, food and drink, Schmidt looked out at the group and thanked them again. “We’re blessed to have community and industry involvement,” he said.