Salem Film Festival Returns for Week of Quirky, Moving Documentaries

One of New England's largest documentary film fests is back with dozens of screenings all week long.

salem film festival 2014

Derby Crazy Love Image via

This week, Salem hosts the 7th annual Salem Film Festival, one of New England’s biggest all-documentary film festivals. Dozens of screenings and events are planned between today and next Thursday, when the town best known for its fall Halloween festivities will embrace its indie artsy side on screen.

The festival kicks off this evening with a reception and screening of A Fragile Trust, about the infamous plagiarist Jayson Blair and the New York Times scandal—dubbed “The Blair Affair”—of 2003.

From there, it’s up to you how to enjoy the rest of the week. Here are a few recommendations:

Web: Children from remote locations around the world log on to the World Wide Web for the first time. Here’s a look at how the One Laptop Per Child program was implemented, with commentary from Internet pioneers like Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

Everybody Street: To properly document the active streets of NYC, you need top street photographers to capture the magic. This film spotlights some of the best in the business.

Magical Universe: An 88-year-old recluse in Maine makes elaborate Barbie doll dioramas. Sound creepy? Hold on to your criticism folks. They’re kind of amazing.

Dear Mr. Watterson: Anyone and everyone who loves Calvin & Hobbes will adore this documentary about the beloved comic strip’s creator, Bill Watterson.

The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne: Learn how a poor African American single mother in the 1930s becomes a world-renowned jewel thief. (She stole some $2 million in bling over six decades!)

International Youths

Young people around the world face grown-up challenges.

Many of the documentaries at this year’s festival focus on young people from countries abroad: an orphan is adopted into a Wisconsin teen’s family in The Dark Matter of Love (Russia), a boy must choose between returning to his hometown and going west in The Only Son (Nepal), and a runaway searches for his identity in These Birds Walk (Pakistan).


Rock, roller derby, and jazz.

For those seeking more lighthearted fare, consider Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton, about the underground label Stones Throw Records; Derby Crazy Love, about (what else?) the popularization of women’s roller derby; and Brasslands, a look at the world’s largest trumpet competition in Serbia.

Local Talent

High school and college students show off their documentary skills.

Wake up a little earlier on Saturday to support the future of documentaries at these two sessions, sure to renew your inspiration in the future of filmmaking: The Five-Minute Student Documentary Contest will show the top 10 films made by Massachusetts high school students, and Mass Reality Check will showcase documentaries by college students and recent graduates.


Various prices and locations in Salem, festival runs Thursday, March 6, through Thursday, March 13. For full schedule, visit