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“The Seagull,” showing at the Montclair Film Festival in the MKA Upper School on Sunday evening, May 6, attracks a flock of film fans for the fiction feature starring Annette Bening and other stars.
ADAM ANIK/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL

By GWEN OREL
orel@montclairlocal.news

Bob Feinberg, CEO and founder of the Montclair Film Festival, got up and danced, pelvis to pelvis, with another man when Taylor Mac told him to.

Mac told the entire Wellmont Audience on Friday, May 4 to dance with someone of their gender, during a performance of “A 24-decade of popular music history (abridged).” [Read our review of the night here.]

“I thought it was tremendously moving,” Feinberg said. “It was awkward. It took me out of my comfort zone. It was challenging, but ultimately, it felt great. We made connections with people in a way that I would otherwise not have made connections.

“That was the theme of this year’s festival, keep connecting.”

This year’s Montclair Film Festival, the seventh, was 11 days long, from April 26-May 6. Attendance was about 26,000 people, or 1,000 or so more than last year, Feinberg said.

That’s particularly notable since the closing of the Bellevue theaters this past autumn gave a perception of fewer seats.

In fact, because the Wellmont was used to screen films, and some were shown at the new Presentation Hall at the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University, there was no change in capacity overall.

Some events and films did sell out before they opened to the general public, through the membership. Having tickets be available early to members is one way Feinberg has tried to satisfy demand for hot tickets. In addition, even when events sold out, there were always some tickets available on the rush line, he said. “RBG,” a film about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, sold out early, he said. And “Eighth Grade” had a little surprise when director Bo Burnham decided to come in for the Q&A. If MFF had known in advance, they would have scheduled “Eighth Grade” at a larger venue than the Clairidge.

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Emmy Award-winner Jeff Daniels and Stephen Colbert appear at the “In Conversation’ series discussions of the Montclair Film Festival Saturday, May 5, In the Buzz Aldrin School Auditorium.
ADAM ANIK/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL

This year, all the conversations took place in the 600-seat auditorium of Buzz Aldrin Middle School.

The Taylor Mac performance was an example of the expanding scope of the film festival: “Clearly, it’s not a film,” Feinberg said with a laugh. With MFF’s conversation series, its new story slams in its home at Cinema505, and now live performances, the festival is expanding its reach beyond film and into the “art and entertainment of storytelling.”

MURPHY SPEAKS, MFF AWARDS ANNOUNCED

On Saturday, May 5, Governor Phil Murphy spoke at MFF before the Closing Night Screening of Don Argott’s “Believer.” Murphy pledged to sign legislation to lure the film industry back to NJ at the announcement of the Montclair Film Festival’s award winners on Saturday, May 5.

“We have the artists. We have the Art DNA. We have the Film DNA. And so I will tell you, we’re committed, and I’m going to sign a law in the new few weeks that will give the financial incentives back to make movies again in New Jersey,” Murphy said.

Prior to the Governor’s remarks the Montclair Film Festival announced the winners of the festival’s 2018 film competitions at the festival’s annual awards ceremony. This year’s festival featured four competitive categories: Fiction, Documentary, Future/ Now, and New Jersey Filmmaking. See the full list here.

Montclair Film Festival announced the winners of the festival’s 2018 Audience Awards, across four categories: Fiction Feature, Documentary Feature, World Cinema, and Short Film, on Monday, May 7.

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NewJersey Governor Phil Murphy speak at the Montclair Film Festival on May 5, 2018 in Montclair, NJ. COURTESY DAVE KOTINSKY/GETTY IMAGES FOR MONTCLAIR FILM FESTIVAL