Montclair Film Festival Revs Up for New Normal With 10th Edition

After scrambling to reinvent last year's event at the height of the pandemic, organizers are looking forward to the 2021 fest from October 21–30.

Stephen Colbert and Julia Louis-Dreyfus chat during a fundraiser for Montclair Film. Courtesy of Neil Grabowsky/Montclair Film Festival

The organizers of the Montclair Film Festival are hoping this month’s 10th-anniversary edition will require a little less invention than last year’s installment.

“We had to reinvent everything and had to start over, but we feel now we can do everything,” says Tom Hall, director of Montclair Film, the nonprofit that runs the festival, which attracts about 25,000 people in a normal year. At the height of the pandemic last October, it still attracted 19,000 viewers virtually and with open-air screenings at an archery field in South Mountain Reservation.

The festival came about in 2012 after Montclair resident Bob Feinberg, vice president of WNET, attended Sundance and wanted something similar at home. He reached out to actor and producer Evelyn McGee-Colbert, who agreed to chair the Montclair Film board. McGee-Colbert’s husband, Stephen Colbert, has lent his star power to the group’s annual fundraisers at NJPAC, where he has led conversations with Meryl Streep, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jon Stewart and others.

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Over the years, Montclair Film moved into a building donated by Investors Bank and developed year-round programming and classes in filmmaking and other disciplines. In June, the organization leased the Clairidge Cinemas, across Bloomfield Avenue from its headquarters. Renovations are scheduled to be done in time for the October 21–30 festival.

Lela Meadow-Conner, head of the Film Festival Alliance, lauds the festival for the ways it relates to the Montclair community.

“Having so many people who live there and are involved in arts and culture, and understand the power of cinema, and appreciate independent film is definitely an advantage,” she says. “There are not a lot of bedroom-community film festivals as successful as that one.”

Program information can be found at montclairfilm.org.

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