The Hippo


Apr 23, 2019








Rosemary Rodriguez from Amherst, New Hampshire, who directed, wrote and produced Silver Skies, which screens at the Live Free or Die Film Festival. Courtesy photo.

Live Free or Die Film Festival

Where: Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester
When: Friday, Aug. 12, and Saturday, Aug. 13, from noon to 8 p.m. both days
Admission: $25 for a day pass, $40 for a weekend pass
Contact:,, 668-5588

Queen City flicks
Live Free or Die Film Festival comes to Manchester

By Kelly Sennott

 It’s about time Manchester had its own film festival, and this summer, local film gurus Robert and Dorothea Daniel are making it happen.

The married team is producing the first Live Free or Die Film Festival, taking place at The Palace Theatre with screenings Friday, Aug. 12, and Saturday, Aug. 13.
“We saw Manchester as an amazing city that has all sorts of attributes, and we just couldn’t believe there wasn’t a festival yet, with the airport here and the culture here,” said Dorothea Daniel, festival director.
Her husband agreed.
“We have really great hotels. We have all these super cool restaurants. We have a huge art scene,” said Robert Daniel, festival founder and executive producer. “We couldn’t believe that component was missing. And we wanted to really bring everybody in and show how cool Manchester is and what can happen here.”
The festival features 22 films, 15 of which have New Hampshire roots. They represent a variety of styles, lengths and genres, from music videos and minute-long snippets to documentaries and animation movies, all of which speak to the “Live Free or Die” heart of the festival.
They chose pieces based on an internal scoring system looking at composition, sound, length, narrative, editing, special effects, etc. Awards will be crafted by Manchester furniture maker and winner of HGTV’s Ellen’s Design Challenge Vivian Beer. 
The Daniels admitted that they didn’t give themselves a lot of time to put the event together. They made the decision in April, released submission information April 12 and asked filmmakers to send flicks by July 1. At the time of their interviews at The Annex, a production space they manage in the mills, they’d only announced the lineup days before. They were still looking for more sponsors and volunteers.
The couple met in the Hollywood film industry but moved to New Hampshire to raise their kids. Today they also manage an equipment rental house, Glass and Gear, and have been involved with small- and big-name productions, including Sundance Film Festival, the Dubai International Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival. Locally, Robert Daniel is a member of the New Hampshire Film and Television Commission.
They said Department of Cultural Resources Commissioner Van McLeod, who died in July, was very passionate about the idea. 
“I probably mentioned it to [McLeod] four or five years ago. Every year, he’d ask me, ‘Are you doing it? Are you doing it?’” Robert Daniel said. “He was excited that I wanted it to be super local and that the film festival I was producing was going to be a voice for Manchester.”
But they wanted to be careful with this first run and were strategic in how they released submission information.
“A lot of people are under the belief that the more you put out in social media, the better. That’s yes and no. If it’s incoherent, then it’s just more static,” Robert Daniel said. “The first stuff we received was literally from all over the world. We started receiving content within the hour of putting it up.”
It’s a lot of work, and everything is coming from their own time and wallets for this first year. The festival will be small, but they hope it will grow, with local theaters, schools and businesses getting involved in the future. They envision it becoming a week-long spectacle with food, music and screenings all over the city, from auditoriums to Veterans Park. 
“I just believe there are so many artists here that people just don’t know about. People keep feeling they have to leave, they have to move. They have to be somewhere else. But literally, we have all the tools right here,” Robert Daniel said. 

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