by Evan Bower of LighthouseNOW

Stories of natural disasters, famous gospel singers and the last wooden boatbuilder in the Lesser Antilles will be told at the Lunenburg Doc Fest this September.

The lineup for the second annual festival also includes the Canadian premiere of “Requiem For The American Dream,” a collection of interviews filmed with political commentator Noam Chomsky over four years.

Other screenings will include “Mavis!,” which follows the life of singer and civil rights activist Mavis Staples, “Lost & Found,” chronicling friendships forged in post-earthquake Japan, and “LUTAH,” a study of the life of American architect Lutah Maria Riggs.

The seven films coming to the festival were selected from a pool of 900 submissions from 97 countries. The selection process made for a lot of screen time for festival co-chairs Pamela Segger and Debra Beers.

“I think I personally watched 457 films [and shorts],” said Segger. “I was looking at my spreadsheet last night, and I made notes on all of them.”

Other than retina fatigue, Segger says the toughest part of the process is narrowing that number down to a selection of films that cover a wide variety of topics.

“Requiem For The American Dream” is coming to the festival by invitation, and its opening night viewing will be followed by a Q&A with producer and director Kelly Nyks.

Nyks is currently the Artist in Residence at Harvard University, and is making a special trip from Boston for the event.

“[The film] features Noam Chomsky, who is one of the great global thinkers of our time. It’s addressing the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few,” said Segger. “We want to incite conversation, interest, and maybe even action.”

It can be tough to draw high profile premieres to a non-profit festival with a limited budget, but Seggers says being in Lunenburg is a big advantage.

“Certainly we do mention that we’re a UNESCO [World] Heritage Site, but all they have to do is Google ‘Lunenburg’ and see the beauty,” said Segger. “I think all of that in itself is appealing for any visitor, and to a filmmaker in particular, who is thinking cinematically, it’s of particular interest.”

It also helps if a filmmaker comes to your town tracing the roots of his family tree. Though he’ll be visiting the area for the first time, Nyks’ mother’s family name is Corkum, and his grandfather was born just outside Lunenburg in 1903.

The festival is giving a free youth workshop, which will instruct students on filmmaking, and screen the films they make at the Pearl Theatre on the final day of the festival.

They’ll also be awarding a $1,000 bursary – and a pass to this year’s festival – to a student who lives in Nova Scotia and is planning to study film.

Seggers says the festival’s top priority is to celebrate documentary film, and for her, that means bringing in great work from around the world while ensuring great work can keep being made locally.

“I think it’s important to celebrate documentary, because these are real life issues that are generally more relatable than a fictionalized film or a Hollywood blockbuster,” said Seggers. “We have a very strong community here in Lunenburg, and we have a very strong arts culture, and to us it just seems to go hand in hand.”

The Lunenburg Doc Fest will take place September 25 to 27 at the Pearl Theatre.

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