The comedian, a Montclair resident, has long been a booster of the event, which launches its sixth edition on April 28.
Colbert said he has a good reason for supporting grass-roots arts efforts.
“I love local festivals because of a local festival that started in my hometown (Charleston, SC),” Colbert told Variety in February. “It was at the Spoleto Festival (a performing-arts festival) that I got my first professional gig. It was also the first time I met professional performers and artists. I got to know them and they said, ‘You can do this.’ So I’ve got a real soft spot in my heart for local creative works organization.”Colbert is in part responsible for raising the $3.5 million needed renovate the young festival’s new headquarters- Investor Bank Film & Media Center. Investors Bank donated the building, which opened its doors last Thursday.
Since its inception, the comedian has been headlining six-figure fundraisers for the fest featuring guests including Jon Stewart, Steve Carell and last November, John Oliver.
“Of course we, as a festival, could stand on our own two feet without Stephen if he couldn’t participate,” said Colbert’s wife, Evelyn Colbert, who serves as board president of the Montclair Film Festival. “But we both want to see this (festival) survive and expand because we have both witnessed the influence an art festival can have on a community.”
The new space will be used not only for small MFF screenings, box office sales and panel discussion, but also as a year-round and headquarters for education programs. Staring in June the fest’s Summer Academy will offer courses that include learning the art of cinematography, improv and screenwriting.
“The exciting thing about it is that there is a lot of room to expand,” said Evelyn Colbert. “And we will definitely be expanding our educational program.”
On Sunday at a private preview party at the fest’s new headquarters, MFF executive director Tom Hall along with fellow fest organizers announced the fest’s full line up. In addition to the previously announced Sundance Film Festival movies that will open MFF – Amanda Lipitz’s “Step” and close the fest, Zoe Lister-Jones’ “Band Aid” – the New Jersey town will host over 150 films, events and discussions.
Feature documentaries in contention are: Kitty Green’s “Casting JonBenet,” Matthew Heineman’s “City of Ghosts,” Jeremy S. Levine and Landon Van Soest’s “For Ahkeem,” Pacho Velez and Sierra Pettengill’s “The Reagan Show,” and Yance Ford’s “Strong Island.”
The five fiction features in competition are Andrzej Wajda’s “Afterimage,” Mohamed Diab’s ”Clash,” Thomas Vinterberg’s ”The Commune,” Justin Chon’s Gook“ and William Oldroyd’s “Lady Macbeth.”
“Everyone in town has gotten behind this festival,” said Hall. “We are the new kids on the block and that’s an exciting position to be in because we can do fun and different stuff that not everyone is doing.”
Below are additional films announced in MFF lineup.
BEACH RATS, directed by Eliza Hittman
FITS & STARTS, directed by Laura Terruso
MENASHE, directed by Joshua Z. Weinstein
THE STRANGE ONES, directed by Dustin Guy Defa
PERSON TO PERSON, directed by Lauren Wolkstein, Christopher Radcliff
NEW JERSEY FILMS COMPETITION
ACORN AND THE FIRESTORM, directed by Reuben Atlas, Sam Pollard
ALL WE NEED IS ANOTHER CHANCE, directed by Corbett Jones
HELLO HELLO HELLO: LEE RANALDO: ELECTRIC TRIM, directed by Fred Riedel
SUPERGIRL, directed by Jessie Auritt
SWIM TEAM, directed by Lara Stolman