×

Ashfield Film Festival is back and bigger than ever

  • “Donut Dollies” Linda Sullivan Schulte, left, and Dorset Hoogland Anderson visit with a soldier in a lookout tower in Vietnam, in 1968-69. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • “Donut Dollies” Dorset Hoogland Anderson, left, and Julie Pence Van Matre are shown visiting a soldier in Vietnam. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO



Staff Writer
Friday, September 07, 2018

ASHFIELD — More towns and more nights are involved in this year’s expanded Ashfield Film Festival, from Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 15.

Shelburne and Buckland residents have been added to the mix of short-film competitors this year, and two special films will be shown as a prelude to the big film contest. Films to be shown all three nights will begin at 7 p.m. in the Ashfield Town Hall. Tickets for each night are $6.

On Thursday, the festival begins with “Weed the People,” a documentary about using medical marijuana for cancer treatments. According to this film, scientists have recently discovered its anti-cancer properties, and desperate parents are obtaining cannabis oil from underground sources to save their children from childhood cancers.

“Weed the People” follows these families through unchartered waters as parents take their children’s survival into their own hands.

“It’s an official selection of the South by Southwest Film Festival,” says festival co-chair Tamara Sloan. “I think the post-film panel discussion will be fascinating, lively and particularly pertinent, given the increasing use of medical marijuana.”

‘Donut Dollies’

On Friday night, there’s a screening and panel discussion of “Donut Dollies,” a feature-length documentary about two American women who volunteered during the Vietnam War to help U.S. soldiers in South Vietnam, and about their return to Vietnam 47 years later.

One of them was Dorset Hoogland Anderson of Cumminton, who was 22 when she went to Vietnam. Her son, filmmaker Norman Anderson, who now lives in California, produced the film. Both Andersons will be in Ashfield Friday night, to see the film and participate in the panel discussion.

Donut Dollies were young women who joined the Red Cross Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas (SRAO) program and set up recreation centers where the soldiers could come for coffee and doughnuts, play cards and forget about the war for awhile.

“It was a magical task,” Anderson says of her work in Vietnam. “We had rough-and-tough places where we stayed, but were well protected.”

In one place where she was stationed, the women were housed in air-conditioned trailers; but other places weren’t that luxurious. “We had showers — but usually cold showers,” she said. “We loved flying — helicopters were the safest and best way to travel there.”

“We always had cookies and doughnuts for the soldiers,” said Anderson. “Going into the hospitals was hard. Nothing was really easy, but there was nothing better than going into an area and seeing a soldier smile.”

Anderson said she had once considered having a career in comedy, and, as a Donut Dolly, she was good at making soldiers laugh. She said the men were often homesick and in need of being cheered up. But other times, when she was homesick, they would cheer her up instead.

“It was a program that really worked,” she said. “There were so few women and so many men who were homesick. I was very fortunate to experience it. And most of the men I knew came back,” she said. Of the 627 Donut Dollies who served during seven years of the Vietnam War, only three died or were killed, she said.

The movie started coming together in 2014, when Anderson went through a trunk filled with souvenirs and memorabilia from her Donut Dolly year. She said many of her photographs and souvenirs hadn’t weathered well over those years of storage. Dorset Anderson and fellow “Dolly” Mary Blanchard went back to Vietnam to revisit the places and some of the people they had known in 1968.

“Armed with nothing but cookies and home-made entertainment programs, the Donut Dollies risked their lives every day as they tried to fulfill their mission and cheer up the U.S. troops,” says the movie’s Kickstarter fund-raising premise. “Despite their service and sacrifice, their stories and contributions in Vietnam have gone largely unnoticed and unappreciated. We’re hoping this project will change that.”

Saturday night gala

The main event, the “Oscar’s Award-style” gala, takes place Saturday night. Many come dressed to the nines to watch the five-minute film entries and vote on their favorites. An award presentation takes place at the end of the night.

Since its founding in 2007, the Ashfield Film Festival has shown 150 films.

“As a documentary filmmaker, I love a good story, told well, that gives me a peek into another life and an unusual perspective,” says co-chair Christopher Seward. “I always look forward to the opportunity to laugh, cry and be inspired by members of my own community.”

It’s recommended to buy tickets in advance and arrive early, because the events often sell out. Tickets can be purchased in Ashfield at Neighbors or Ashfield Hardware. To purchase them online, go to www.ashfieldfilmfest.org