Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Break-In

A married couple has relationship issues, so they discuss their future over dinner in their upscale home. They go to bed, but soon realize something is wrong.

Someone is in the house. 

Huddling close, they steal downstairs, where the rooms are pitch black. They can hear the intruder, but he can't hear them. He's coming closer. They pause, and wait. The husband jumps the unknown form and strikes him, hard, in anger. 

And now they have a secret. Hidden in their basement. And no one else, especially the police, can ever know the truth. 

Since both are consummate professionals, the couple returns to work and carries on with their lives. It's as if nothing ever happened, except for what is still in their house. The situation brings them closer, but inside they're churning with terror over what they have done and the consequences it might bring.

Will anyone discover their secret? Can they both keep it themselves? These questions will hold you in suspense in this taut, Swedish thriller by first-time helmer Marcus Ovnell. 

You can watch the trailer here: The Break-In Trailer

Another Time

Harriet is a 27-year-old woman living in Philadelphia and dealing with common twentysomething problems: indecisiveness, panic attacks, and a sense of being lost. She needs to sort things out soon, because this confused young Philadelphian has more than quarter life angst to blame for her troubles. Harriet honestly believes she's a victim of botched time travel and belongs in 1783.

Part of New Hope Film Festival's opening night Local Film Showcase, this thoroughly southeastern Pennsylvania film by first-time filmmaker Amy Frear delivers its comedic punchlines with decided sympathy for the protagonist. Improbable as they are, Harriet's imaginings are relatable. After all, how many people have ever felt they were born in the wrong era?

You can watch the trailer here: Another Time Trailer

Monday, June 29, 2015

Rest in Peace, Albert Lively

Maggie Miller travels with her ex, Paul Santy, to the funeral of their old friend Albert Lively. They can't quite believe he's really dead. Along the way, memories of childhood bring Maggie and Paul closer, but she still must face the truth about Paul, about Albert, and about herself.

Written by Kelly Genois and directed by Jack Garrett, this 19-minute short from Cape Cod's heavenly village of Hyannis features a young woman's inward struggle at that age when the optimism of youth is replaced by a more melancholy awareness of one's true place in the universe. Maggie can relight an old flame and burn her passions like never before, but now it isn't enough.

You can watch the trailer here: Rest in Peace, Albert Lively Trailer

Sunday, June 28, 2015


Filmed entirely in New Hope, Decisions follows a woman's frenetic journey as she discovers and then decides what to do with a duffle bag filled with millions in cash. The money had fallen into her abusive husband's hands after a plane crashed in a local field.

Her husband has his ideas about what to do with the windfall, but she has her own. Now she's going to ride a bus cross-country, and she will be followed. Director Mark Harrison's film is gritty and dangerous, but like any good thriller, there's much more at stake than a hunt and chase. The woman with the bag has a higher purpose, and she's willing to risk everything in pursuit of it.

You can watch the trailer here: Decisions Trailer

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Three Hours (Drei Stunden)

Martin is a dashing and creative young man who has written a fantasy play about flying pirates, a fiery princess and cloud castles in the sky. His good friend Isabel doesn't know it, but he modeled the lead character after her. She's adorable and equally driven, but their similar, overstretched personalities have left them bumping around each other without truly connecting. 

The problem is, they like each other. A lot. Just as he's about to launch his project to great fanfare, she announces she's leaving for Africa to fight American genetically modified seed manufacturers. What is going to happen to this pair? Her flight is about to leave. They only have hours to spare, and if he's going to be a real man and make his move, he has to do it right now or lose her forever. 

Directed by Boris Kunz, Three Hours (Drei Stunden) is a fresh, highly kinetic approach to comedy romance. It's really a dramedy, because although it's fun and loaded with subtle chemistry, it's also tense, frustrating, and stormier than the clouds emanating from Martin's mind. Both characters live out their fantasies through their work, but his are ethereal and hers are entirely of this world. They are fundamentally the same in disposition, yet their actions conflict. Kunz brings this dynamic to dramatic and insightful climaxes, revealing how their conflicted psychologies are channeled into their work, where both feel at odds and trapped. One of the film's most revealing moments comes when an actress lambasts Martin's script for depicting a man who can't make his play for her. Clearly furious with himself, Martin storms out of the theater. 

The pressurized, time-driven, complex culture they live in only makes matter worse. Just when the fire begins to flicker, something always comes along to snuff it out. Three Hours is reflective on this subject. In the context of a modern world where time is precious and romance requires it, the film cries out for spontaneity, not because rituals and traditions are bad, but by urgent necessity, and further suggests that the future of romance may be more surprising than you think. 

You can watch the trailer here: Three Hours Trailer

Thursday, June 25, 2015


This whimsical comedy is the story of Nora, a woman despondent over the failure of her marriage, who retreats to the safety of her work routine and gallons of ice cream. Filled with despair over a life gone haywire, she's at the end of her rope. 

Enter the guardian angel. Sporting a flat cap and always dressed in a suit, he isn't exactly your average picture of an angel, and he can be rather annoying with his intrusive helpfulness. Still, he bails her out of jams now and then and, well, it's better than being alone—even if you're actually talking to yourself. 

Written by Caroline Collins and directed by Steve Parys, this Pittsburgh production delivers a charming tale that will make you smile, even when Nora isn't. 

You can watch the trailer here: Lightheaded Trailer

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Following Shira's Journey: A Greek Jewish Odyssey

More than 60,000 Greek Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, yet the experiences of Greece's Jewish population remain largely unknown.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, fear, suspicion and civil war relegated the Greek Jewish wartime experience to an attic of denial and neglect. This documentary upends the sorry dynamic through riveting interviews with Holocaust survivors, second and third generation survivors, and other community members, all of whom are fighting to keep their tradition and culture alive.

Co-Directed by Australian filmmakers Carol Gordon and Natalie Cunningham, Following Shira's Journey uncovers a sorely neglected and tragic aspect of Jewish history, yet the film does much more than document the past. Much of the focus is on the present, offering fresh insights into Greek politics and culture, and hope for the country's forward-thinking Jewish community.

All of the voices in this film resonate with a passion not just to survive, but to flourish, even as fringe elements of society continue to echo past prejudice and hate. The indomitable spirit of Greece's Jewry is an inspiration, an example, and a perspective relevant to any time when life's chips are down.

You can watch the trailer here: Following Shira's Journey

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Room 731

A Chinese girl wakes up, alone, in an abandoned factory. A doctor and a mysterious nurse appear, apparently wanting to help her. At first she has no recollection of the reason she's in this strange, unsettling place, but as her memory returns, she realizes she's trapped inside the infamous Unit 731 Japanese concentration camp. It's World War II and she is the subject of a medical experiment.... 

Such is the horror of Room 731, a pitch black and deeply expressive film. Stirred with an unnerving mix of history and psychology, this 18-minute short explores the ways in which sins of the past remain traumatic in the present. Student filmmaker Young Min Kim puts her many spine-tingling moments on display in a nightmarish yet true-to-life way, transporting a now-distant, seemingly fantastical reality into our modern-day consciousness. 

You can watch the trailer here (due to its intensity, parental discretion is advised): 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Leaves of the Tree

In this enchanting, feature-length drama, a once powerful patent attorney, hobbled by a life threatening disease, is pushed out of a major pharmaceutical firm. At a meeting with his last client, he unexpectedly comes across the case of a doctor who's studying the possible medicinal value of leaves from a centuries-old olive tree. With time running out, the attorney travels to Sicily, where he hopes to uncover a modern medical miracle—or an ancient Biblical myth.

Directed by Ante Novakovik and featuring actors with substantial film industry credits, including Sean YoungEric RobertsArmand Assante and Patrick Gorman, Leaves of the Tree weaves the intensity of a thriller into the timeless beauty and mystery of the Mediterranean. 

You can watch the trailer here: 

Sunday, June 21, 2015


This eye-opening documentary explores a subject many people, including myself, would know little about before seeing it: the amazing potential for productivity percolating within blind visual artists. Sculpture, yes, I've long been aware of the possibilities, but photography? The revelation astonished me. 

BlindSight celebrates the photographic imagination of blind and visually impaired members of the Seeing with Photography Collective. All of them were sighted at one time. Many came to photography after their loss of sight, and photography has given them a new voice, a way to express what they feel and what they see inside their minds. 

The results are transformative for both the members and the viewer—tangible proof of the way creativity can enrich life and empower. Filmmaker Bob Sacha of New York, New York brings this elevating, 16-minute treasure to New Hope. You can watch the trailer here: BlindSight Trailer

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Inside Peace

Mass incarceration has become a hot topic of debate in the United States, but if not discussed in a delicate way, the arguments on both sides can easily obfuscate the issue of how to prevent imprisonment in the first place. Or in the case of ex-offenders, how they can break the cycle of crime, never to set foot in a courtroom again.

Four years in the making, Inside Peace is a feature documentary that focuses on three hardened men who were incarcerated at Dominguez State Jail in San Antonio, Texas. There they embarked on a journey of self-discovery and change by enrolling in the Peace Class, one of the few self-improvement programs in the country that offers a new age path to finding inner strength, dignity and self-worth. Brought to the prison by Roberto and Chantal Piriz in 2007, this innovative effort to prevent recidivism is based on the work of Indian-American inspirational speaker Prem Rawat

None of these three inmates ever realized he had the capacity to make positive choices in life until he entered the program. With a supporting cast of fellow inmates, prison officials, noted experts and family members, the film follows the trio's arduous road as they apply wisdom acquired in the Peace Class to their post-release world. Certainly, the men's lives on the outside are filled with conflict, rejection and hostility, yet faced with such obstacles, they must avoid their old ways by living with inner peace.

You can learn more about this cutting-edge documentary and the California-based filmmaker, Cynthia Fitzpatrick, who made it happen, by reading NHFF columnist Val Patterson's feature article, "Mind Over Matter," in the Festival's 2015 Program Guide. You can also watch the trailer here: Inside Peace Trailer

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Fever

South Korea's population of runaways exceeds 20,000.

In this raw, unflinching examination of a true social crisis, student filmmaker Eunhye Hong Kim offers remarkable depth of characterization, yet little hope that teenagers can manage their own affairs alone. The youths depicted in this film try to form a caring, functional family unit, but their combination of grinding poverty, homelessness and inexperience leads them down the painfully familiar path of robbery, scamming, drugs and prostitution.

They only have each other, and that is a big problem. You can watch the trailer here (parental warning for language): The Fever Preview

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


In this comic take on the culture wars over gay marriage rights, a distressed man who's late for his marriage hearing tries to get directions from his smart phone only to discover that it, too, is opposed to gay marriage. As many people can relate, the phone could use a refresher on listening skills, too.

Produced and written by Massachusetts-based filmmaker Mary Niederkorn and directed by Jim Jermanok, this 3-minute short amusingly demonstrates that computer technology doesn't guarantee political neutrality. It all depends on who programs it.

You can watch the trailer here: Homophonia Trailer

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Red Dot on the Ocean

This fascinating documentary chronicles the ocean voyage of a formerly troubled youth as he reinvents himself on decidedly his own terms, despite the sober warnings of far more experienced boating experts.

Through the making of Red Dot on the Ocean, Matt Rutherford became the first person ever to sail alone, without stopping, around both Americas. His rickety, leaky sailboat spent the entire trip flooding, yet he managed to stay awake enough to prevent its demise. As a result of his herculean efforts, he also succeeded in bailing out more than his ride, raising $120,000 for disabled sailors. After 309 days at sea, he returned to a hero's welcome and a mere $30.00 in the bank. He then founded a non-profit that specializes in ocean research.

Matt's story demonstrates the power of the human spirit to overcome both nature's wrath and the demons within. You can watch the trailer here (parental warning for language): Red Dot on the Ocean Preview

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

In the Blind

This touching entry from the hamlet of Stone Ridge, New York examines two estranged brothers as they come to terms with their father's suicide. The dialogue is pensive and intimate, and the setting, the family's duck blind, fosters a sense of revealing what has long remained hidden. In a place renowned for silence, conversation is a metaphor for thoughts long suppressed.

Produced by Ingrid Price and directed by Davis Hall, In the Blind superbly adapts an Adam LeFevre play to film. In doing so, it revealingly laments the tendency of menfolk to leave the deepest things unsaid until it's too late.

You can watch the trailer here: In the Blind Trailer

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


Creepy, thought-provoking, and futuristic enough to give you the chills, Normalcy tells the story of a woman who undergoes a medical procedure in order to remove her creative ambitions. The struggles of an artist's life are more than she can bear, and the clinicians are certain the treatment is right for her, so it's really a no-brainer. All she has to do is shut down a deep corner of her mind, and all will be well. The drug has even become fashionable, so what does she have to lose?

Written and directed by Matthew Merenda, this compelling short from Southern California delivers its message with enough discomfort to demonstrate why anodynes mask pain rather than end it.

You can watch the trailer here: