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  • Writer's pictureCaity Koz

First Ever Manchester Film Festival Showcases Big Names, Local Talent

Updated: Aug 24, 2022

Last weekend’s international film festival had a far reach but kept its Manchester community close at heart. From international films and Hollywood A-listers to movies by local filmmakers and more local celebrities, the film festival intertwined them all.

After Friday’s Opening Ceremony, audiences enjoyed the classic 1924 Sherlock, Jr and the comedy ​​Slap Shot with a few short films in between. Saturday marked the midway point of the festival and saw some of the most anticipated events, including locally-made New Hampshire films About Him and Summer as well as Finding Sandler and An Evening with John Lithgow.

One of the most featured events was the red-carpet New England Premiere of Finding Sandler. The documentary included a glimpse back into where Adam Sandler grew up - right here in Manchester - and included a cameo by local celebrity Mr. “T” Tibbetts from Central High. The lobby of the Rex Theater lit up when Mr. T appeared in his “I Survived Adam Sandler” t-shirt, stopping to take pictures with friends and family.

And as Manchester’s favorite teacher filled the Rex with Sandler memories, the Palace Theater was opening its doors for national celebrity John Lithgow for a meet and greet with fans before taking the stage.

While Lithgow opened with a reading of a piece he wrote for The New Yorker, he spent most of the time charming the audience with stories from his career - from 3rd Rock from the Sun and The World According to Garp to his foray into writing poetry and children’s books, sharing that “my shadow career, floating under the radar, is entertaining little kids.”

When asked about his signature creative range, from slapstick comedy (see George Henderson in the 1987 Bigfoot classic Harry and the Hendersons) to brooding dramas (see Harold Harper in the FX smash hit The Old Man), Lithgow noted that he doesn’t “do much planning” in deliberately trying to balance the roles he takes between the lighthearted and the more serious.

“It’s certainly wonderful to make people laugh, but it’s [equally] wonderful to make them cry,” Lithgow said.

Lithgow ended the night by responding to audience questions - revealing that if “John Lithgow” were a drink, it would be a “really good single malt,” and that the historical person he would most want to share that drink with would be (after grappling for a moment between Winston Churchill, who he portrays in the award-winning Netflix series The Crown, and William Shakespeare, whose plays he has performed in and whose talent he greatly admires) William Shakespeare.

After ending late on Saturday, audiences still had much to look forward to on Sunday. Viewers were treated to a series of short films before ending with a feature-length piece called Love is Strange right before awards were announced.

While the dimming of the festival lights at the Rex and Palace have marked the end of the 2022 Manchester International Festival, the buzz of 2023 can already be felt in the Manchester community.

Referring to his experience growing up in a family of creatives (his mother an actress and his father a theatrical producer) Lithgow remarked that “[when] you grow up in a culture of the theater, there’s a feeling of ‘we’re all in this together,’” but he could have just as easily been referring to the regrowth of the arts in downtown Manchester.


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