Coronavirus News: Greenwich International Film Festival goes digital amid COVID-19 pandemic

GREENWICH, Connecticut (WABC) -- The Greenwich International Film Festival is dedicated to the simple principle that people will do better if they know better, and that's why this event honors movies that make a social impact.

But, this year, like so many other events, the event has had to adapt to life during the coronvavirus pandemic.

Last year, glitz and glamour was all for a good cause in Greenwich at an event that honors those films and filmmakers trying to make life better for all of us.

"We care very much about special films that give voice to the voiceless, that showcase issues that are related to basic human rights, education, the environment, health care," Executive Director and COO Ginger Stickel said.

The pandemic means festival must go virtual, and a pass allows everyone to see 29 films from eight countries online at their leisure in the comfort of their own home.

"Team Marco," set on Staten Island, is about an 11-year-old bonding with his grandfather. It's just one of a diverse slate of films.

The festival is famous for its panels and question and answer sessions with filmmakers after screenings, but social distancing requires video conferencing.

That's how I talked with one of this year's honorees, Matt Heineman, an award winning filmmaker who went to high school in Greenwich.

"I was a jock, and I had no idea where my life was going to go," he said.

He earned an Oscar nomination for his documentary, "Cartel Land," while his first feature, "A Private War," earned two Golden Globe nominations. But here, he's recognized for the impact his films have had.

"I was extremely grateful for that, and grateful to be honored by the festival," he said. "Especially having grown up in that area."

Organizers spent nine months working towards one type of festival before having to switch gears, but now, it's the right event at the right time.

"Because of our social impact focus, because of our films that inspire people," Stickel said. "A silver lining needed, it would seem, at a very cloudy time."

WABC is a sponsor of the event. For more information, visit GreenwichFilm.org.

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