A year ago, the team at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival never imagined they would be staging virtual film festivals. But according to programming director Brian Ditchfield there is one benefit.

“A real joy is not having to say to prospective filmmakers, sorry, the slate is full,” Mr. Ditchfield said. “We can keep adding films up to the last minute.”

This year’s virtual festival — traditionally held in person at the Chilmark Community Center — will take place March 25-28 and currently includes 12 films (nine documentaries and three narrative features) but more will be added in the coming days. Most of the films are pay-as-you-can and can be viewed at any time during the four days.

“You have a Netflix alternative for a weekend,” Mr. Ditchfield said.

The films were not specifically chosen with the coronavirus in mind, Mr. Ditchfield said, while also adding that there was no getting around the influence of living through a pandemic. Case in point, a documentary called Red Heaven about six people picked for their ability to withstand isolation, going into quarantine to simulate an expedition to Mars.

“That seemed very timely,” Mr. Ditchfield said with a laugh.

“Other films were chosen because we wanted a departure from the pandemic, like an escape to France,” he said, referring to French film, Someone, Somewhere (Deux Moi).

The slate also includes documentaries about a shark researcher, an indigenous surfer, the Shinnecock Indians, as well as narrative features that take the viewer to Paris or Brooklyn. By long tradition, there are numerous short films for kids.

Key components of the annual festival are the discussions that take place after the screenings. This year, interviews with filmmakers are being pre-recorded. Last week Mr. Ditchfield talked with Barbara Conroy, producer of Hooked: A Family’s Journey with Addiction, along with WMVY’s Laurel Reddington and Vineyard residents featured in the film, Michael Blanchard and Sherry Sidoti. The documentary is the story of Barbara Conroy’s son Jack who grew up on the Vineyard but died at the age of 21, after battling addition.

“It is a thought-provoking and personal story and I was really moved by the conversation we had,” Mr. Ditchfield said. “It is heavy but it is also hopeful and uplifting.”

Last year the film festival had planned to celebrate its 20th anniversary at its March festival. That of course did not happen. But as it embarks on its 21st year Mr. Ditchfield stressed that the virtual festival will not replace in-person events later in the season.

“We will start up the drive-in with the YMCA again in the spring. And then we are looking ahead to an in-person festival this fall in whatever version we can do,” he said. “We don’t know if it will be inside or outdoor screenings or multiple drive-ins. But it felt like we could begin planning for it.”

For a full list of films and discussions, visit tmvff.org.