At film fest

Poignant documentaries about Gilda Radner and Victoria Arlen

Union Leader Correspondent
October 10. 2018 1:15PM
LOCKED IN: After four years in a vegetative state, Victoria Arlen battled back to life. Her journey from coma to professional athletics and a stint on TV's “Dancing with the Stars” is chronicled in “Locked In: The Victoria Arlen Story.” Arlen will do a Q&A when the film screens at the New Hampshire Film Festival. 

PORTSMOUTH — This year’s New Hampshire Film Festival is filled with work aimed at leaving audience members of all ages inspired.

Two projects that highlight that trend are “Love, Gilda,” about comedian Gilda Radner, the first performer cast for the sketch comedy “Saturday Night Live,” and “Locked In: The Victoria Arlen Story,” about a former Granite State woman who appeared on “Dancing with the Stars” after battling back from two rare and debilitating conditions.

“As far as the films being a little bit more inspirational, that sort of came about because I feel like independent film is typically very dark,” said the festival’s executive director, Nicole Gregg, on Tuesday. “This was just the next step in storytelling.”

Producer Meryl Goldsmith said “Love, Gilda” uses the late Radner’s personal diaries, audio tapes and home movies to tell the star’s story through her own voice. As it makes its way around the country, the film is touching people who remember the original “Saturday Night Live” cast and those who have been affected by ovarian cancer; Radner died at age 42 from the disease.

“The love for Gilda is so overwhelming,” Goldsmith said. “I think people will come away facing life’s difficulties the way Gilda did, with humor.”

“Love, Gilda” will be playing at The Music Hall at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

One of New Hampshire’s favorite inspirational stories will also be showcased during the festival. Victoria Arlen, who was born in Exeter, said she is looking forward to meeting and greeting people who come out for the screening of “Locked In: The Victoria Arlen Story.”

Arlen, who was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis and Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis as a child, is a 24-year-old television personality, a former American Paralympian swimmer and a former contestant on TV’s “Dancing With The Stars.”

She said filming on the documentary took place soon after she competed in the televised dancing competition. When she talked about the rare illnesses that caused her to slip into a vegetative state at the age of 11, it was the first time her family really opened up publicly about what happened during the nearly four years she spent unable to move or communicate, Arlen said.

“I wouldn’t be anywhere without my family. They made the impossible possible,” Arlen said.

Arlen, who now lives in Los Angeles, is flying in for the festival. She will be at The Music Hall Sunday at 3:45 p.m. and is happy she can share her story with attendees from her home state and beyond.

“There’s a bigger plan. You never know who you’re inspiring,” Arlen said.

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