Monday, August 1, 2016

2016 Award Winners

Dan Rather, Lifetime Achievement Award
Special Award

Lifetime Achievement Award - Dan Rather

Film Jury Awards

Danny Award, Best Picture - Bridge (Amit Ranjan Biswas, India)
   Nominees: Look Again, Changeover, Intersection, Apparition, Niyazi Gul, The Galloping Vet,
                     Bridge, The Frogmarch, Primrose Lane

Best Director - Estes Tarver (Changeover, USA)
   Nominees: Estes Tarver (Changeover), Quinn Snyder (Apparition), Teddy Cecil (Helio), Calvin
                      Steinken (Doug's Christmas), Mike P Nelson (The Goodbye), Richard Cousins
                      (Waiting for Dawn), Tim French (Intersection)

Best Documentary - Shallow Waters: The Public Death of Raymond Zack (Jaime Longhi, USA)
   Nominees: Shallow Waters: The Public Death of Raymond Zack, Getting Better, The Legend of
                      Swee' Pea, She Started It, Chasing the Light, Hard to Believe, Stained Glass Windows
                      of the Shenandoah Valley, 2E: Twice Exceptional

Best Student Film - Escapement (Jae Williams, USA)
   Nominees: Ruth's Great Escape, Babygirl, The Surface, Escapement, D. L.
                     Fitzsimmons Presents: The Class Acts!, Tunnel Vision, Empty Space, Escapement

Best Alternative Feature -  Blood and Curry (Atul Sharma, USA)
   Nominees: America is Still the Place, Blood & Curry, Empty Space, Intersection, Primrose
                      Lane, Roman Citizen

Best Short Film - Poor George (Jim Harris, USA)
   Nominees: Doug's Christmas, Inertia, Figs for Italo, Brother of Abraham, Poor
                     George, Helio, The Mother, Waiting for Dawn, We Remember, The Goodbye

Best Short Documentary - The Birth of an Artist (Nataliya Babenko, Ukraine)
   Nominees: The Birth of an Artist, My Fight at 50, Source of Hope, The Ballad of the Dreadnought,
                      Today is the Day

Best Foreign Film - Waiting for Dawn (Cousins Richard, UK)
   Nominees: Bridge, Waiting for Dawn, We'll Meet Again, Niyazi Gul, The Galloping Vet

Best Biography - The Legend of Swee' Pea (Benjamin May, USA)
   Nominees: The Legend of Swee' Pea, The Soul of a Tree

Best Experimental Short - The Great Grunklumpen Circus (Corri Voorhees, USA)
   Nominees: Simon, Inertia, Avaritia, The Great Grunklumpen Circus, The Super, Terra Incognita,
                      Recently, Long Ago, The Goodbye

Indie Spirit Award - The Frogmarch (Jonathan D'Ambrosio, USA)
   Nominees: Intersection, Look Again, Changeover, America is Still the Place, The Frogmarch,
                     Chemical Cut, Blood & Curry, The Bridge

Female Eye Filmmaking Award - Chemical Cut (Marjorie Conrad, USA)
   Nominees: She Started It, Primrose Lane, Babygirl, Birth of an Artist, Out, Chemical Cut, Two
                     Weeks, Everything

Best Sci-Fi Film - Helio (Teddy Cecil, USA)
   Nominees: I Am the Doorway, The Surface, Helio

Best TV Pilot - Life on a Leash (Thiago DaDalt, USA)
   Nominees: Life on a Leash, Little Champion, Big Heroes

Best Comedy - Niyazi Gul, The Galloping Vet (Hakan Algul, Turkey)
   Nominees: Niyazi Gul, The Galloping Vet, Life on a Leash, Poor George, Look Again, Miss
                     Teri, Playing Through

Student Cultural Spirit - My Fight at 50 (Deepashri Varadharajan, USA)
   Nominees: Babygirl, Two Weeks, Birth of an Artist, My Fight at 50

Cultural Spirit Award - She Started It (Nora Poggi, Insiyah Saeed, USA)
   Nominees: Getting Better, Shallow Waters: The Public Death of Raymond Zack, She Started It,
                     2E: Twice Exceptional, Writers Matter, Hard to Believe, Unslut: A Documentary
                     Film

New Hope Award - Getting Better (Gulserene Dastur, India, Switzerland)
   Nominees: Getting Better, Source of Hope, Birth of an Artist, Dream Job Life, Second Chance,
                     She Started It, SMART, Titanium, Writers Matter

Artistic Spirit Award - Chasing the Light (Geoffrey Young, Australia)
   Nominees: Dropped Bars, She Started It, Chasing the Light, SMART, Dan Rather: Courage
                     Under Fire, UnSlut: A Documentary Film

LGTB Spirit Award: Unconditional (Kent Igleheart, USA)
   Nominees: Unconditional, Reinventing the Reel, We Remember

Best Supernatural Thriller - Apparition (Quinn Saunders, USA)
   Nominees: Legacy, Apparition, Primrose Lane

Best Webisode - What Martha Said (Susan Skoog, USA)
   Nominees: What Martha Said, Miss Teri, Dream Job Life, Downward Departure

Best Music Video - Our People (Albert Kahn, USA)
   Nominees: Witch in Me, Our People, Mr. Bluebird, Masheenee Alcketiara

Film Audience Choice Awards

Best Webisode - Dream Job Life (Darrell Gurney, USA)
Best TV Pilot - Little Champions, Big Heroes (Stephen Stahl, USA)
Best Music Video - Witch in Me (Jacopo Miceli, UK)
Best Narrative Feature - Intersection (Tim French, USA)
Best Documentary - Getting Better (Gulserene Dastur, India, Switzerland)
Best Short Film - Second Chance (Tom Wardach, USA)
Best Student Film - Ruth's Great Escape (Thomas Bangert, USA)

Script Competition Awards

Best Script - Buenos Aires (Olga Rojer)
   Nominees: Knights of the Shadows, Buenos Aires, Catch the Devil, Lion of the Sea, Dismas
                      and Gestas, About Bates: A True Urban Legend, Reaper's Time, Zinicala Chronicles:
                      The Arrival

Best Teleplay - Knights of the Shadows (Austin Priester)
   Nominees: Palookaville, Knights of the Shadows, Fluke

Best Fantasy Script - Zinicala Chronicles: The Arrival (Dillon Betros)
   Nominees: Matt and the Epic Microwave Odyssey, Post Tense, Switch Me Off, Tangled Spirits,
                      The Fallout, Zinicala Chronicles: The Arrival, Dismas and Gestas

Best Action Thriller Script - Reconquista (George Reese)
   Nominees: About Bates: A True Urban Legend, Buenos Aires, Catch the Devil, Knights of the
                      Shadows, Lion of the Sea, Reaper's Time, Reconquista, Dismas and Gestas

Best Period Script - Catch the Devil (Martin Blinder)
   Nominees: About Bates: A True Urban Legend, Fluke, Buenos Aires, Catch the Devil, Dismas
                     and Gestas, Fluke, Lion of the Sea, My Appointed Round, Palookaville, The Fallout

Best Short Screenplay - Matt and the Epic Microwave Odyssey (Michelle Sarkany)
   Nominees: Switch Me Off, Post Tense, Reaper's Time, Matt and the Epic Microwave Odyssey

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Markham Tactical

Talk about timeliness.

Completed in July 2015, Markham Tactical bears an uncomfortable resemblance to current events, raising the stakes in what is already a tense, action-packed film. Co-Directors Bayley Pokorny and Jeremy Earl are based in Chicago, where the latter works as a police officer. Their take on the day-to-day complexities, hardships and hair trigger decisions that necessarily come with a law enforcement career is sympathetic, yet raw, drawing a metaphoric thin blue line between reality and film, order and chaos.

The verisimilitude is uncanny when a fictional documentary film crew visits the police station in Markham, Illinois, where they've been invited in a bid to improve community relations. The station's outreach is an apparent success, but when a stakeout goes bad, the police are forced to handle an escalating situation while the cameras roll.

Sound familiar? You can watch the trailer here: Markham Tactical Trailer

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Frogmarch

Drug intervention.

If you've ever wondered why independent films exist—what the risk, sacrifice, and burning passion is really all about—The Frogmarch is your answer. The story is oceans deep and relevant to your life, not as escapism or entertainment, but as life really is when you are fully present in it. No one but filmmakers Jonathan D'Ambrosio and Matthew C. Flynn could tell this story of friendship and love quite as well because it is their story—fictionalized, but true to their own experience.

Drug addiction is viewed in different ways by different people, but it takes a special kind of insight and courage to transition from an attitude of "this is someone else's problem" to "this is my problem, and I'm going to do something about it." Whether one is the addict or not, it's a quantum leap.

Travis Portman, reunited with his best, oldest friends after serving five years for a drug offense, is ready for a relaxing holiday at a remote lake house at the start of this film, but something much more important lies in store for him. His friends send off the car keys, leaving themselves stranded and, in a real sense, living in a makeshift rehab center with an addict who desperately needs their help. Travis will get that help, whether he likes it or not; he has lost has freedom again, but release from prison is a mirage for someone who isn't free from drugs.

This is an exceptional film. At times, it's a shocking one, yet also wise and tender. D'Ambrosio and Flynn grab you and won't let go, as if The Frogmarch needs you in the myriad ways these friends need each other, proving once again that the emotional impact of a humble little indie flick can be epic.

You. Must. See. This. Film. Watch the trailer here: The Frogmarch Trailer

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Out

In this touching portrait of a woman who has just been released from prison, filmmaker Jen Woldrich brings a heartbreaking social problem into the light of day. Gina is an adoring mother, but her toddler daughter doesn't even know she exists.

Gina travels to the girl's present home, and despite the cool reception she receives from the adoptive parents, the recent inmate enjoys a golden opportunity to sit with and speak to her child. But she doesn't reveal her identity, and the question quickly shifts from how to connect with her daughter to how she can let her go.

Forever. You can watch the trailer here: Out Trailer

Monday, July 4, 2016

Stained Glass Windows of the Shenandoah Valley

Take a contemplative walk through historic churches in Stained Glass Windows of the Shenandoah Valley, an informative film by Virginian D. Lee Beard that focuses on one of art history's less explored crafts. The film covers a wide range of styles, from medieval gothic revival to Tiffany windows and on to more modern, abstract designs, lending many opportunities to see how philosophy, theology and technology combine to produce a continuum of art history and change.

Along the way, Beard discusses what these beautiful windows mean to the communities they serve, elevating an art form into the broader contexts of what a community values and how communities engender self-worth.

You can watch the trailer here: Stained Glass Windows Trailer

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Changeover

Teenager Haley Thompson acts awfully bratty after moving in with her tennis pro relative, Uncle Chad, but not without reason. In the back seat of the car when her parents were broadsided and killed by a truck, this heretofore typical seventeen-year-old now suffers the PTSD horror of reliving her parents' intense suffering, and her horror, over and over again.

What's more, she's hurting herself, a habit that could turn deadly soon. Her bachelor uncle, already struggling to raise an eight-year-old son on his own, isn't well equipped to handle the emotions of a troubled girl who constantly lashes out at him for his inadequacies. They both want to connect and heal, but the road to this place is impassable.

Director Estes Tarver, who superbly plays Uncle Chad alongside an explosive performance by actress Madeline Taylor, literally pulls no punches in his portrayal of family life, and does so with a single-parent structure that heightens the agony, vulnerability and social relevance. Changeover is a film puissant, one that pulls the drapes on parent-child issues that are even more tectonic in real life.

You can watch the trailer here: Changeover Trailer

Monday, May 30, 2016

Primrose Lane

Eight years into a childless and financially stressful marriage, Chris and Robin drive to another couple's gothic, upscale home in suburban Los Angeles for a visit. Upon arrival, they find the front door unlocked, and when Robin steps inside, her instincts tell her something is wrong. Their friends have disappeared without a trace, having left their car keys and cell phones in the house.

They search the house from top to bottom, and while it seems lifeless, the emptiness of the home, its dearth of sunlight, and the antiquated mosaic of objects and shadows that shape and haunt room after room collectively add to Robin's concern. Unlike her assumptive husband, she harbors a gnawing awareness: they have left their upwardly mobile life in LA for a realm of strange and unknown proportions, a place where the known rules of the universe no longer apply.

A boy is watching them. He plays tricks on them. He rolls marbles on the floor and toys with their minds.

Swirling into a black hole where everything she knows and loves is snatched, twisted, and inverted, Robin calls upon friends and strangers alike in ever-puzzling ways, only to learn that she, too, is an integral part of the maelstrom, a predicament from which there is no escape. With Primrose Lane, lead actor and director Kathleen Davison, who returns to New Hope after an award-winning screening in 2015, has not so much shot a film as woven it. An original story, an outstanding score and a multitude of visual touches are exquisitely fused into an eerie, sensory experience, one that questions the nature of one's existence.

You can watch the trailer here: Primrose Lane Trailer

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Birth of an Artist

Cerebral palsy is a hard and relentless disease, but one filmmaker has captured an astounding response to the severe physical limitations it imposes. Dasha is a girl who paints with her feet. Despite her difficult circumstances, her mind's eye sees nothing but life and beauty in the world, and her feet are enough under her control to render her visions into glorious artworks.

The Birth of an Artist is an astounding and unforgettable portrait of courage. Born in Ukraine and educated, in part, at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Graduate Film program, filmmaker Natasha Babenko is fascinated by duality, which in this case is her subject's "physical hardships intertwined with the beauty she expresses from within." But there is no duality for Babenko in terms of the merit of her film, because it is simply wonderful.

You can watch the trailer here: The Birth of an Artist Trailer

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Intersection

A down-and-out guy, single, with introspective eyes and a hardened pall of sadness, wanders back to the small town where he screwed up. He visits this place every year to the same, circular effect, but this time is different when he meets a ravishing young woman whose bright expressions say "it's ok, I admire you."

She can relate, and as mature adults they immediately seize the opportunity to bond with a kindred spirit, both knowing that getting to know someone better over a game of pool is just the kind of old school therapy they need.

But something else is happening here. Something darker, even dangerous, is lurking behind an otherwise refreshing tale of Americana. Director Tim French brings out outstanding performances in his lead actors Hoyt Richards and Annabella Casanova in an indie gem that will intrigue and rattle you.

Intersection is soaring on the festival circuit, and for good reason. You can watch the trailer here: Intersection Trailer

Monday, May 9, 2016

Two Weeks

In this touching, socially relevant short film, Australian student director Dani Bowen focuses her perceptive eyes on a teenage girl, Liz, whose mother just dropped a bombshell on the family—Mom is going to abandon them.

Liz is wounded and bewildered by the news and her father is none too keen on the idea, but there's little they can do since neither is the catalyst for the decision. Mom simply has other things to do with her life and has decided that leaving them will offer her a better chance for fulfillment.

Hence the social relevance. How many parents in this era of selfies and internet stardom will do what they feel like doing regardless of the consequence to other members of the family? Although the story is softly rendered and shows far more than it tells, Bowen reveals this dark aspect of the zeitgeist with remarkable intensity.  

You can watch the trailer here: Two Weeks Trailer

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Inertia

In this discomforting adaptation of Franz Kafka's Before the Law, a man stumbles upon a strange gate while hiking in the woods. The sentry standing guard won't let him through, forcing the traveler to stay the night while waiting for permission to pass. The longer he waits, the harder the uncertainty weighs on his psyche, which gets more fragile by the second. And minute. And hour.

How many days will he have to stay here? How many weeks? Months?

Years.

Will he ever, or never, be allowed to go? When the sameness of a barrier and a mental block is this acute—when a simple word of permission would be enough to change a man's mental state—a feeling of suspended animation begins to creep in.

Director Brian Lederman leads you to the brink in this modern interpretation of a classic. You can watch the trailer here: Inertia Trailer

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Apparition


If you're ready for a real scare, check out this unnerving, supernatural thriller by Bucks County filmmaker Guy Quigley.

The story takes place in an old farmhouse. Doug, a young man with a bright future ahead of him, suffers a terrible loss when his fiancé, Lori, is killed in an automobile accident. And it's entirely Doug's fault. Wracked with guilt, he retreats to the house, only to find he is far from alone.

Or is he? What is happening to his mind? With intelligence and masterful tension, Quigley unlocks one door after another, revealing through a horrifying labyrinth something profoundly disordered about Doug, who's still a tragic character in his own right because he so very much does not want to be insane.

Yet he is. You can watch the trailer here: Apparition Trailer

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Dan Rather: Courage Under Fire

This galvanizing short documentary by award-winning director Manuel Ceniceros celebrates free speech and one of its ardent proponents, former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather. A resourceful blend of interview, biography, and personal testimony, this provocative film serves multiple purposes while working toward a single end: making the world a better place. Throughout his long journalism career, Dan Rather gave the phrase "courage under fire" a combination of literal and figurative meaning. Witness the footage of Rather in a Vietnam combat zone, calm and seemingly in his element, to gain insight into the type of man who would dare speak truth to power—a trait he asserts is lacking in his profession today.

The film also touches on his spectacular exit from CBS. In an interview clip, Rather points out that despite the accusations surrounding the Killian documents controversy, no one ever proved that the documents weren't real. And would-be deniers of the story's veracity were damagingly mute. One could ask whether the world became a better place when a storied and sometimes confrontational career ended over such murkiness, especially when the context of the backlash against him was so political.

But Rather's network television career did end, and online news and commentary exploded, and in this lightning fast, increasingly decentralized and interconnected world, journalists and ordinary citizens alike are charged with answering the questions raised by Rather, his interviewer Laurie Nadel, and Ceniceros. Who will speak truth to power? And what, exactly, is the truth?

You can watch the trailer here: Dan Rather: Courage Under Fire Trailer

Sunday, April 3, 2016

America is Still the Place

San Francisco, 1971. When two oil tankers collide at the epicenter of America's counterculture revolution, far more than two ships will clash. Leading the fight against environmental pollution and Big Oil power is an underdog hero, a black man with ambition who isn't going to let a little racism, or even a lot of it, stop him from building an empire. In a world where nothing is fair, everything is fair game.

Director Patrick Gilles, who earned his high school diploma at New Hope-Solebury High School, is refreshingly candid and insightful in this timely production. And the casting is superb. Lead actor Mike Colter delivers a powerful performance, playing the business savvy and aggression of waste king Charlie Walker with piercing yet melancholy eyes, while supporting actor Dylan Baker, the oil CEO, maintains just enough nervous edginess to make you question who is really playing whom. They square off well: amidst the manifest power imbalance and conflict, they are strangely, even addictively, interdependent.

America is Still the Place is a charged treatment of a politically sensitive topic, but it doesn't shrink from opportunities for humor, allowing just the measure of distance one needs for observation and reflection. You can watch the trailer here: America is Still the Place Trailer

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Goodbye

In this delightfully eccentric dramedy, a strange world of characters exists within a screenwriter's mind including, to his amazement, his lost love. She's bent on creating a story of her own, even if it means breaking up his epic ninja fight—all within a script, yet in real life. Things get even more weird from there, but amidst all this mayhem and with events spinning out of the writer's control, there is hope for peace, if only his peace of mind.

Directed by Mike P. Nelson and produced by Brett Andres, Colin Markowitz and Lynn Blumenthal, The Goodbye is a clever flight of fancy that jars the structure of things in a completely askew but relatable way. After watching this film, you might wonder what else an imaginative screenwriter could concoct, and you might even see your own story take shape.

You can watch the trailer here: The Goodbye Trailer

Friday, March 25, 2016

Figs for Italo

In this magnific drama, award-winning director Bob Celli draws from his own family's stories to paint a delicate portrait of Dora, a woman who's present-day memories of 1943 Italy remain barely suppressed. As American bombers pound the hills around a picturesque Italian village, one can feel the tremors rumbling today through the elderly survivor, whose fear is immediate and shared.

Celli achieves this effect through masterful art direction and cinematography, most notably in the flashback sequences, and through the intimacy he employs in his modern-day scenes. Although the emphasis is on what is felt as opposed to the spoken word, little is left unsaid in this highly touted, award-winning piece.

You can watch the trailer here: Figs for Italo Trailer

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Ballad of the Dreadnought

Rosanne Cash
Founded by German immigrant Christian Frederick Martin Sr. in 1833, when Andrew Jackson was President of the United States, C. F. Martin & Co. enjoys a fine reputation for making handcrafted acoustic instruments and strings. The legendary list of Martin players includes such luminaries as Elvis Presley, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton and John Mayer, and some such artists are present in this richly historic documentary. 

The genesis for The Ballad of the Dreadnought was the 100th anniversary of the Martin Dreadnought, a revolutionary instrument that sold in small numbers for 20 years before exploding onto the music scene. David CrosbyRosanne Cash and Jason Isbell join other artists in singing the Dreadnought's praises in this film, and sixth-generation company chairman Christian Frederick Martin IV adds his own insights, fusing a fresh blend of celebrity and history with the good, old-fashioned American plug.

Here in America, we love our artists and entrepreneurs, and we appreciate a great pitch—especially when it's so involving you hardly notice it. You can watch the trailer here: The Ballad of the Dreadnought Trailer

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Simon

In this fine, thought-provoking short by writer and director Camille de Galbert, an actor prepares for the biggest stage of his life. Played by actor Simon Courchel, the eponymous lead brings contrasts both imaginary and real to the fore as he battles himself and the natural world around him.

White makeup that he applies in the dressing room transmorphs into a bizarre pillow mask onstage, hiding his face and smothering him as he languidly dances. His canine companion is white, as is the snow-covered ground, the pillow feathers and cover, contrasting with his black hat, coat and dark room. With so many opposites in the air, metaphorically captured by feathers that defy gravity in massless transcendence, one imagines a battle is taking shape. Is he doomed to join the cold ground, and is that why he wears this cushion? Or will black death actually save him? The ground is covered in white as he falls, defeated, while a dirge plays, suggesting that mortality is indeed a paradox.

The filmmakers describe Simon's passing as a transition from childhood to adulthood, adding that no one is more alone than an actor who enters the stage or a child in the midst of becoming an adult. But much more is hinted in this film, hidden between the notes and surreal images.

You can watch the trailer here: Simon Trailer