The 8th salemfilmfestlogoannual Salem Film Fest launches this evening, and we’ll have a complete rundown of films and events every day throughout the fest, as well as first person reports and such as the weekend goes on.

The fest officially launches at 5 PM with the official Salem Film Fest Kickoff Reception at Salem’s historic Hawthorne Hotel. Filmmakers will be present, and you can hobnob with VIPs and fellow Fest patrons and see what each other plans to check out. This event is open to the public – admission is free.

Then, at 7:30 PM, the Fest officially gets underway with the opening night film, Stray Dog, with filmmaker Debra Granik in attendance. Here’s the official writeup from the Fest website:

Ron “Stray Dog” Hall lives in Southern Missouri, where he owns and operates the At Ease RV Park. After seven years of living with four small dogs as his only companions, he is adjusting to life with his wife, Alicia, who is newly arrived from Mexico. Anchored by his small dogs and big bikes, Stray Dog seeks to strike a balance between his commitment to his family, neighbors, biker brotherhood, and fellow veterans. With Stray Dog as our guide, we experience the restlessness of ex-warriors as he tries to make peace with what he can’t change and weathers the incomprehension of those who have never been to war. As part of the legacy of fighting in the Vietnam War, he wrestles with the everlasting puzzle of conscience, remorse, and forgiveness.

The film got raves when it premiered last summer at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and has been collecting raves from nearly every festival it has played.

Stray Dog plays at 7:30 PM at the Morse Auditorium at the Peabody Essex Museum. across the street from CinemaSalem, which is located in the Museum Place Mall.

All features are accompanied by one of a dozen spotlights of local Salem merchants and craftspeople as part of the Salem Sketches series – these are delightful and really give you an insight into the local crowd.

Tomorrow, the Fest kicks into high gear with a half-dozen films, and we’ll have the rundown for you tomorrow morning!

Official Fest site: