Last year Island Food Pantry director Armen Hanjian had, in his own words, “one really good idea.”

And on Sunday, Oct. 17, Vineyarders will be able to see the results of that idea at the Capawock Theatre, when 14-year-old Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School student Joshua Bernstein premieres his mitzvah project, a short, year-in-the-making documentary movie about the Island Food Pantry.

The documentary is the result of a perfect blend of tradition and technology. While attending Mr. Bernstein’s bar mitzvah ceremony last June, Mr. Hanjian was so impressed by a mini-documentary Mr. Bernstein and his father had made of Joshua’s life that he asked the West Tisbury student if he might tackle making a video for the food pantry as his mitzvah, the act of community service performed in association with the coming-of-age ceremony.

Mr. Bernstein, whose parents, Jill and Jonathan, are themselves filmmakers, began camera work on the documentary in October 2009. The last scenes were shot in late August, after which the daunting task of editing over four hours of film down to just over half an hour began in earnest.

Editing was the final challenge for Mr. Bernstein while working on the documentary, but not the only one. A montage scene toward the end of the film, for example, features West Tisbury teacher Pat Kelly’s fifth grade class (younger brother Julian was in Mr. Kelly’s classroom) singing a rendition of Repair the World. A song license had to be obtained. Video equipment had to be borrowed from MVTV. Interviews with food pantry employees and volunteers had to be scheduled.

“He put in a lot of time making [interviewees] feel comfortable in front of the camera,” said food pantry volunteer Betty Burton, director of adult programs at the Vineyard Haven Public Library.

And in an already busy year during which Mr. Bernstein completed eighth grade and began the transition to high school, however, the young filmmaker said that the most difficult task was simply “sticking with it” to the end.

With his mitzvah now complete, Mr. Bernstein said the best part of the experience was “meeting with all of the people [at the food pantry], and seeing how much effort is put into helping people.”

Joshua Armen
Island Food Pantry director Armen Hanjian and film director Joshua Bernstein. — Ivy Ashe

Ljuba Davis, who attended an Oct. 5 screening for family, friends and food pantry volunteers, was impressed. “It’s very, very inspiring to see young people like this,” she said. “I expected [the film] to be as good as the first one,” said Mr. Hanjian after the Oct. 5 screening. “But this is really professional.”

The film will continue to be used as a promotional tool for the food pantry. The founder, the Rev. Helen Oliver, states during the documentary: “Part of the success of the food pantry is letting people know there’s a need [for its services].”

Thanks to Mr. Bernstein, that success will only continue to grow.


Joshua Bernstein’s documentary on the Island Food Pantry will be shown at the Capawock Theatre in Vineyard Haven on Oct. 17. Admission is a can of food, which will be donated to the food pantry. The film will be followed by a showing of Mary Poppins.