Weeks after being named an Academy Award qualifying festival the New Hampshire Film Festival has pulled the plug on its 20th annual festival scheduled for October because of concerns about COVID-19.

The festival's organizers in a statement said that with venues implementing new protocols such as proof of vaccination, testing and masking they did not feel they could maintain the measures on top of the running of the festival.

Executive Director Nicole Gregg told Seacoast Current the festival was scheduled for four days in twelve venues with a minimum of four movies screening at a given time along with ongoing activities.

"Plus workshops and panels, a high school filmmaking workshop that goes on thoughout the whole course of the festival plus networking events and cocktail receptions and parties," Gregg said.

Things Looked Good For A While

Gregg said that when planning for an in-person full festival things with COVID-19 were headed in the right direction with the number of reported cases dropping and restrictions dropped. But cases started increasing again with the emergence of the Delta variant and mask wearing indoors is recommended by the CDC regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.

"We were struggling. Do we scale things back? Do we do a virtual festival? Do we do an outdoor festival? It's just not the nature of our event. Our event is a full blown film festival," Gregg said. "Do we do something for the sake of doing something and it not living up to the quality and caliber of the event. Or do we just let the dust settle and see how the venues start handling it?"

She also didn't want to portray a false sense of security that going forward with the festival would present.

"People are currently producing fake vaccination cards. If that's the case is it responsible of us to be putting on a full fledged festival that could be putting people in danger. This country is not in a place where we can get back to normal," Gregg said.

Looking Out for the Festival's Volunteers

Given that much of the festival staff is volunteer she didn't want them to be in the position of having to monitor mask use, check vaccination status and to have things to turn political.

It's a double disappointment for the festival as this year's entries in the Live Action Shorts Jury Award or the Animation Shorts Jury Award could have qualified to enter for the concurrent Oscar season.

"It's a bummer this year for sure but we don't lose that eligibility. That just transfers over. That's ours now and we have acquired that ranking. It's unfortunate we won't be able to submit fims for this year's Academy for a consideration for a nomination," Gregg said.

Gregg said that the festival will try to have their event in spring, 2020 or in the fall, whichever is best.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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