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The Independent Film Festival Boston (IFFB) is in full swing this weekend, and on Sunday, an autobiographical documentary by Lyda Kuth will go up on the big screen. It's an interesting "trading places" moment for Kuth. After 18-plus years of helping New England filmmakers fund their movies, she finally decided to turn the camera on herself.
Kuth has been to the IFFB every year since it began a decade ago — but this is her first time as a filmmaker, and she's pretty excited about it.
"I used to say to filmmaker friends of mine when I’d go to these festivals that there would be all these other people who supported film — and they’d be having their meeting and stuff — and I’d say, 'I just want to hang out with the filmmakers!' So now I get to hangout with the filmmakers."
And Kuth knows a lot of them. She runs the LEF Foundation in Cambridge and has helped provide hundreds of grants — anywhere between $5,000 and $25,000 — for indie films in New England. Even so, Kuth is kind of nervous about her film's area premiere.
"This is a hometown screening for me and it is very weighted," she explained in the lobby of the Somerville Theatre, the IFFB's central hub. "In a sense of it’s sort of like being under a microscope. And people have characterized me — both close friends, but also colleagues in the field — they say, 'You? You’re making a personal documentary? But you’re such a private person.' So I think some exhibitionist side of me must be coming out," she mused with a laugh.
In her documentary, "Love and Other Anxieties," Kuth puts her family history — and her 20-year marriage — on the big screen. She started making it four years ago as a more general exploration of love and relationships. But as the 57-year-old's teenage daughter got ready to leave for college, Kuth started ruminating on a question: what would happen between her and her husband now?
"With the empty nest looming I have a lot to ruminate on," Kuth narrated. "And I'm pretty worried about this next stage of my marriage."
Kuth then sets to on a quest to seek answers to her own questions, but explained how they're also universal — not just for empty-nesters.
"Everybody is walking around having this conversation with themselves about their connectedness or not connectedness, or their feeling loved or not loved, or they’re loving or not loving," Kuth said. "And you can be married, you can be single, you can be 65, you can be 23. So I think what I wanted to reveal is that running monologue that we all have."
Kuth has followed the personal documentary community in New England since the 60s. She admires the deep, soul-searching honesty in films by Ed Pincus, Ross McElwee and Robb Moss. Moss teaches at Harvard and gave her some tips along the way.
"I watched this film being made from the beginning to the end," Moss said, "very closely — while the film was going from being an idea, to being a mess, to less of a mess, to something that’s pretty good, to something that’s quite terrific."
Moss himself has received funding from LEF, and said the foundation and Kuth are responsible for transforming the local filmmaking community over the years. It's been novel for him to observe the longtime funder go through the always painful process of making a personal documentary. And Moss admitted he's a little surprised at Kuth putting herself on the line.
"It’s completely crazy for her to have done this," Moss said. "I mean, it’s just nuts! For someone who’s seen so many filmmakers struggle so hard to make so many movies. To see how difficult it is to get them out into the world. To see how expensive they are. Having seen all of that so close up she has thrown herself into this pack of hungry filmmakers." And now, Moss added, "she’s a hungry filmmaker as well."
Adam Roffman also marveled at Kuth's brave leap into the fray. He's the program director for the IFFB and said he can't even count the number of films that have screened in his fest that Kuth and the LEF Foundation have funded.
"She's played a crucial part in so many of the great documentaries of the last decade," Roffman said, and understanded that Kuth might feel some pressure now that her own work is going public. "So now all of these filmmakers she's helped along the way will now be sitting somewhat in judgment of her and her abilities as a filmmaker, and it's really interesting and exciting to see that happen."
With big, blue eyes — and an even bigger smile — Kuth admitted that making "Love and Other Anxieties" was one of the hardest things she's ever done. But she survived. And she's undaunted, telling me she still wants to make more movies. And, after her four-year journey Kuth is also making a personal vow.
"I will never ever ask a filmmaker why it’s taking them so long to finish the film!"
This program aired on April 28, 2012.
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