Monday, July 31, 2017

2017 Award Winners

Hatchet Hour (Judy Naidoo, South Africa)

Top Jury Awards

Danny Award, Best Picture
Winner:  Hatchet Hour (Judy Naidoo, South Africa)
Nominees: Hatchet Hour, Wash Up, Scott Road, Zen Dog, D-Love, Benjy Lucas, Just Like Miracles Constant Stars Are

Best Script
Winner: No More Goodbyes (Rebekah R. Ganiere)
Nominees: No More Goodbyes, Good Grief, Holly, Blossom and Rose, Michael Wants To Marry, Adult Children, Clemente, Heart for Joy

Film Jury Awards

Best Student Film
Winner: Just Like Miracles Constant Stars Are (Kybra Sankaya, Turkey)
Nominees: The Hobbyist, Scott Road, Extra Cheese Please, Factory 91, The Swallow, Six Steps to Eternal Death, The Next Door, Just Like Miracles Constant Stars Are

Best Alternative Feature
Winner: Zen Dog (Rick Darge, USA)
Nominees: Zen Dog, D-Love, Benjy Lucas

Best Short Film
Winner: Tonight and Every Night (Christina Eliopoulos, USA)
Nominees: Messiah, Beautiful Dreamer, Game, Red Lips, French Kiss, Eleanor, Split Ticket, Life After Her, Tonight and Every Night

Best Documentary
Winner: Purple Dreams (Joanne Hock, USA)
Nominees: Purple Dreams, The Lure, Beyond The Bombs, Hilleman, The Landscape Within, Outcaste: The House That Carol Built, Dogs of Democracy

Best Short Documentary
Winner: Surviving International Boulevard (Sian Gowan, USA)
Nominees: I'm Free, An Undeniable Voice, Surviving International Boulevard, Sick in Africa

Best Foreign Film
Winner: Wash Up (Andrew Frade, Canada)
Nominees: Hatchet Hour, Wash Up, Scott Road, Just Like Miracles Constant Stars Are, Severance, The Ravens

Best Biography
Winner: Hilleman—A Perilous Quest to Save the World's Children (Donald Mitchell, USA)
Nominees: Hilleman, You’ll Have The Sky: The Life and Work of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Bunnie, An Undeniable Voice

Best Experimental Short
Winner: Factory 91 (Madeline Leshner, USA)
Nominees: Leech, Ghost Trio, Factory 91, Population Zero, Girl Meets Roach, Unclean

Indie Spirit Award
Winner: Wash Up (Andrew Frade, Canada)
Nominees: Wash Up, Scott Road, Mazurkas, Just Like Miracles Constant Stars Are, D-Love, Severance

Best Animated Film
Winner: You Got a Problem (Charles Mandraccha, USA)
Nominees: You Got a Problem

Female Eye Filmmaking Award
Winner: D-Love (Elena Beuca, USA)
Nominees: Hatchet Hour, Game, The Ravens, This Is Not A Love Song, Eleanor, Factory 91, Ronan Furlong—Hoplite Armour, Ordinary Days

Best Sci-Fi Film
Winner: Beautiful Dreamer (David Gaddie, USA)
Nominees: Visitors, LightAge, Fabric of Time, Beautiful Dreamers

Best TV Pilot
Winner: Reality Disorder (Gerard Bianco Jr., USA)
Nominees: Capital Advice, Reality Disorder, Takers

Best Comedy
Winner: Working Out the Kinks (William Alexander Runnels, USA)
Nominees: In Good Faith, Unclean, Working Out The Kinks, Leech, The Love Song of Charlie Beecher

Student Cultural Spirit
Winner: Healing River (Hollie Noble, USA)
Nominees: Healing River, Severance, Ward

Cultural Spirit
Winner: Poisoning Paradise (Keely Shaye Smith, USA)
Nominees: An Undeniable Voice, Poisoning Paradise, 1/2 Nelson, Gone With the Sea, Generation Hope, Surviving International Boulevard, Purple Dreams

New Hope Award
Winner: Purple Dreams (Joanne Hock, USA)
Nominees: Purple Dreams, Generation Hope, Acres of Diamonds, Bunnie, Love Wins

Artistic Spirit Award
Winner: Beyond the Bombs (Robert Kraetsch, USA)
Nominees: Purple Dreams, Beyond The Bombs, The Landscape Within, Fabric of Time, Outcaste: The House That Carol Built

LGTB Spirit
Winner: Love Wins (Robin Kampf, USA)
Nominees: Love Wins

Best Supernatural Film
Winner: Devil's Whisper (Adam Ripp, USA)
Nominees: Devil's Whisper, Beautiful Dreamer, Six Steps To Eternal Death, Ghost Trio

Best Webisode
Winner: Jaguars (Teresa Riley, Canada)
Nominees: Working Out the Kinks, Hollywood, Jaguars

Best Music Video
Winner: On Softer Ground (Adam Gilbert, USA)
Nominees: Wander, Hoplite Armour, On Softer Ground

Best Director
Winner: Judy Naidoo (South Africa)
Nominees: Judy Naidoo (Hatchet Hour), Elena Beuca (D-Love), Jeanne Donohoe (Game), John Gray (French Kiss), Daniel Malakai Cabrera (Two Bellmen Two), Sophie Russell (Eleanor), Adam Ripp (Devil's Whisper)

Script Jury Awards

Best Narrative Feature
Winner: Good Grief (Mia Tate)
Nominees: Good Grief, Clemente, Chosen, Michael Wants To Marry, No More Goodbyes, Comic Book Kings, Legends of Destiny, Heart for Joy

Best Teleplay
Winner: Broken Justice (Jocelyn Jones)
Nominees: Area 51, Broken Justice, Hell Off Earth, Highs and Lows, Paradise Palms, Persuasion, The Grappa

Best Comedy
Winner: Michael Wants to Marry (Jen Bieser)
Nominees: Michael Wants to Marry

Best Sci-Fi Thriller
Winner: SAIRA (John Kontoyannis)
Nominees: SAIRA

Best Fantasy Script
Winner: Out Flying Past My Bedtime (Linda Falcao)
Nominees: Legends of Destiny, Comic Book Kings, Out Flying Past My Bed Time, Magic Research Society, Fireflies

Best Action Thriller Script
Winner: Pysanky (Phineas Fiske)
Nominees: Pysanky, The Arena

Best Period Script
Winner: Clemente (Ian Eugene Ryan and Joseph Loizzi)
Nominees: Clemente, Paradise Palms

Best Short Screenplay
Winner: Final Draft (Keion Jackson)
Nominees: Board Games, Final Draft, Riding Shotgun, Leave, SAIRA

Audience Choice Awards

Best Webisode: Working Out the Kinks (William Alexander Runnels, USA)
Best TV Pilot: Shady Pines (Daniel Sorochkin, USA)
Best Music Video: On Softer Ground (Adam Gilbert, USA)
Best Narrative Feature: D-Love (Elena Beuca, USA)
Best Documentary: Hilleman—A Perilous Quest to Save the World's Children (Donald Mitchell, USA)
Best Short Film: Tonight and Every Night (Christina Eliopoulos, USA)
Best Student Film: Extra Cheese Please (Teresa Dabback, USA)

Friday, July 14, 2017

Split Ticket

In his 2011 non-fiction book, Kennedy and Nixon: The Rivalry That Shaped Postwar America, MSNBC talk show host Chris Matthews writes about an encounter between two future U.S. presidents during a trip to Pennsylvania. The anecdote stoked the imagination of award-winning screenwriter and director Alfred Thomas Catalfo, who added a supernatural twist and created Split Ticket, a superbly directed short film reminiscent of The Twilight Zone.

Once upon a time, two rivals from different parties heading back to Washington after a debate settled a dispute in a collegial and good-spirited way—by drawing straws. Some observers of the current scene would say this plot element also belongs in The Twilight Zone. Despite the irony, tension runs high in this mind-bending thriller.

You can watch the trailer here: Split Ticket Trailer

In Good Faith

A graduate of New York Film Academy Los Angeles Campus who also holds an Excellence in Achievement Award from Middle Bucks Institute of Technology, student filmmaker Casey Hempel is a local talent done good. A devout Christian with an interfaith sensibility, she makes full use of her education, beliefs and hard-won craft in this faith-based story of love.

In her film, a couple with differing faiths and ethnic backgrounds becomes engaged, and while the bride-to-be's mother is over the moon with excitement, his parents, having lived most of their lives in the old country are, shall we say, less optimistic about the union. What is a happy young woman to do when her future in-laws are so resistant to her despite her most heartfelt efforts to win their affections?

Find out by watching this lighthearted and modern interpretation of an age-old theme. You can watch the trailer here: In Good Faith Trailer


Occupied Spain, 2064. The great religions of the world are in open warfare. One brave imam has seen enough and wants to break the cycle of violence, but to do so he needs safe passage to Rome, where he will deliver a message to the Pope.

This is the intriguing premise for Reconquista, a short film adaptation of New Hope Film Festival's 2016 Best Action Thriller Script award winner. Writer and director George Reese is an entrepreneur returning to film and television after a 23-year hiatus. Too many filmmakers wait their entire lives for the Big Break that never comes instead of making their dreams happen. As today's filmmakers know, modern technology makes it increasingly possible to produce and distribute a quality film on a modest budget.

A hiring manager might not look at Reese's resume and peg him for directing a film, and that is the point. He hired himself, placing due value on a Kellogg School of Management education, a business background and early experience in Los Angeles as a production assistant, camera operator and editor.

In an era when even the best career is not completely secure, hiring yourself isn't such a far-fetched idea. You can watch the trailer here: Reconquista Trailer

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Fabric of Time

Produced for the Boston 48 Hour Film Project, Fabric of Time exemplifies the intrepid spirit of independent filmmaking. Director Sean Foy refers to the experience of making this short as "quite a challenge," and his assertion is beyond dispute. What is quite jarring, however, is the outright quality of his team's result. Producing a film in two days is one kind of accomplishment, but producing one worthy of a film festival screening is an altogether different achievement.

Foy's excellent script has the creativity and tightness one expects from projects that take months, if not years, to carry from start to finish. Co-writers Carlos Aravena, Tedros Haile, Bridget Douillette, Geoff Pennington, Katelyn Willis and Leigh Willis deserve high praise for their ability to deliver so much in so little time, and put together a cohesive throughline with a team of five screenwriters. Cinematically, the film exceeds the 48 hour norm by a country mile.

Time travel and a stable don't normally coexist in one film, but Fabric of Time is all about crafting a work in an unexpected, interesting and odds-defying way. You can watch the trailer here (parental discretion is advised): Fabric of Time Trailer

The Love Song of Charlie Beecher

Charlie is a decent guy, but he's painfully shy, and the latter trait dooms him to the fringes of his high school class—not exactly the ideal resume for asking pretty, popular Kate to the prom. To complicate matters further, class jock Bobby has designs on her, too.

How can Charlie find the mojo he needs to ask out Kate when her expected rejection would assuredly plunge his self-image to new depths? It won't be his pals because, truth be told, he travels in his own orbit. No, he will need to remain true to his personality. Rather than fight his introversion, he must channel it, and for someone who spends a good portion of his life with his nose buried in books, the key to success might just lie within a poem. T. S. Eliot's J. Alfred Prufrock suffered from a similar, debilitating complex, and Charlie will search for his path forward in this literary mirror.

What girl worth having wouldn't love his newfound, poetic heart, after all? And assuredly, if he is indeed the poetic type, he can find the words he needs to ask his crush for a date. The formula is set, but will the two connect, or will Bobby prove he's the more suitable man by taking the risk first?

This delightful and inspiring short by student filmmaker Kyle Hammersmith might leave you reaching for your 20th century anthology. You can watch the trailer here: The Love Song of Charlie Beecher Trailer

Sunday, July 9, 2017


Student director Zack Williams has something to say in Ward, an involving story about a freshman in college who suddenly finds herself committed to a psychiatric unit. The young woman's problems with anxiety and depression are excruciating. At the same time, other college-aged patients on her floor are dealing with even scarier issues. Trapped in an agonizing environment, she wants to heal and go home, but first she'll need to sort through the many crosscurrents in her mind.

Mental illness has long carried a stigma, and that's tragic because the many people who suffer from it are, in fact, not substantially different from anyone whose illness centers around an organ; in this case, that organ is the brain. Williams does an excellent job of dramatizing the psychological tension that must accompany anyone who has been committed to a mental institution, and by presenting his story through actors who reveal different layers of problems in their roles, he subtly suggests that everyone struggles with mental illness on one scale or another. You can watch the trailer here: Ward Trailer

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Of Knights and Slaves

First dates are nerve-wracking experiences for teens, but parents are hardly immune from the jitters. Such is the setup for Of Knights and Slaves, a short dramedy that might leave you nodding from personal experience.

Director Adam Carr zeros in on a father's reluctance to accept his daughter's emerging maturity while also highlighting her date's lack of couth. Honking your car horn from the driveway instead of ringing the doorbell and introducing yourself to the parents is not the best way for a young man to make a first impression. The father feels he can artfully handle his daughter's date, having once been on the other side of the equation, but there is a decided lack of confidence in the air.

Independent films often explore unfamiliar territory, so it can be refreshing when a filmmaker creates something with a more universal spirit—especially when you're not quite sure how the story will play out. You can watch the trailer here: Of Knights and Slaves Trailer

Friday, June 30, 2017

Tonight and Every Night

In this tender short film by New Jersey native Christina Eliopoulos, an aging gentleman named Yianni lives inside a colorful world of make-believe. Challenged by dementia, his mind drifts between an ever-darkening reality and a fantastically lively TV talk show where he is the host and the people from his life are the guest stars.

One day, while wandering the streets of New Jersey beach town Asbury Park, he stumbles on a lost local boy, who sees in Yianni a kind of grandfatherly savior. They strike up an unlikely friendship. Despite the urgency of the situation, Yanni has trouble summoning the memories he needs to help the kid find home, and the pair only gets further lost.

The stakes of Yianni's illness have ratcheted exponentially higher. Can he right now find the shred of reality he needs to extricate himself and a helpless neighbor from this predicament? You can watch the trailer here: Tonight and Every Night Trailer

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Heavy Nimbostratus Clouds

In this atmospheric student short by Newark, New Jersey-based filmmaker Michael Turner, foster siblings fall back into each other's company after their mother passes away, an awkward situation that dredges up painful memories and highlights personal differences. Yet Turner places little emphasis on conflict and traditional narrative. Instead, he employs long camera shots, soft lighting, brooding music and philosophical vignettes in service of a lyrical and dreamlike mood.

Given the inferred and emotional nature of the work, one could say this is a difficult film to comprehend completely on the first pass. However, thoughtful editing gathers the poetry of Heavy Nimbostratus Clouds into a cohesive whole and the excellent cast makes Turner's characters highly relatable. An altogether fine effort from a talented, emerging filmmaker and his team.

You can watch the trailer here: Heavy Nimbostratus Clouds Trailer

Monday, May 29, 2017

Zen Dog

Take a trip of imagination and adventure in this vivid new indie feature from LA-based producer, director and writer Rick Darge.

The film centers around two friends, one who's life is enclosed and tormented by what one might call his limiting cognition, and the other a freethinker at a level that could be hazardous. Together, they spark a journey across wide open, American spaces, conveying freedom in a cinematically resplendent way while driving that thin line in the road between liberation and self-delusion. The lead character travels with the help of an exotic potion and a Volkswagen, but the film suggests that getting to a truly blissful place might require no more transportation devices than a will of mind and cognoscenti other than one's self.

There's a touch of surrealist painting in Darge's film, his first feature, as he unveils a kaleidoscope of sights, and with them, liberating truths, that lie beyond what the routine mind perceives. With periodic narration from British philosopher, writer, and speaker Alan Watts, whose background in theology and Asian Studies led him to cutting-edge ideas of mysticism and aesthetic fusion in the 1950s and 60s, the film also conveys a sense of intelligentsia, with Watts as both participant and otherworldly observer.

Zen Dog isn't a drug film or a pitch for LSD. It's something else, and that something else, lying just beyond the conscious mind yet paradoxically within your grasp, is what makes it so good. You can watch the trailer here (parental discretion advised): Zen Dog Trailer

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Surviving International Boulevard: Domestic Child Sex Trafficking

Witness the testimonies in this searing and profoundly heartbreaking documentary, and you'll know, if you didn't already. Child sex trafficking is a saddening reality in the United States, and brave activists in child advocate organizations such as and S.H.A.D.E. Project are doing everything in their power to stop it.

The sight of a mother patrolling a dangerous, urban street at night to find her teenaged daughter, as you'll see in this film, is beyond description. The idea of young girls cruelly exploited by their so-called "boyfriends" is so raw, and so painful, that society might tend to look the other way instead of act, but director Sian Gowan puts these hard, bitter truths on film for all to see, making action a moral imperative.

An unflinching expose and a powerful cry for help, Surviving International Boulevard is aimed at rescuing vulnerable members of our society who are too young to understand their exploitation and who don't even have a voice.

To contribute and otherwise help this most worthwhile cause, please visit the Surviving International Boulevard website. You can watch the trailer here: Surviving International Boulevard Trailer

Sunday, May 21, 2017


A couple with longstanding marital issues lands at LAX after a getaway in Europe. For a few years now, Stefania has been working a job she detests and Dan hasn't worked at all. Their palpable strain is only made worse when a vagabond, Ditlev Dharmakaya, asks for a ride to the busiest freeway in Los Angeles and Dan, much to his wife's horror, offers to take this total stranger home.

Ditlev is a ragamuffin in every sense of the word, and now that he's a third wheel, too, he has quite a challenge ahead of him because he's likely to be homeless again real soon. But Romanian-born director Elena Beuca has plenty in store for the childlike, wandering soul.

Although it's home to the only member of the Romance language family spoken in Eastern Europe, Romania's Slavic influences are manifest. It's not entirely surprising, then, that Beuca lends qualities to Ditlev reminiscent of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's characters Alyosha and, perhaps to a lesser extent, Prince Myshkin. That is, Ditlev is a pure spirit who acts as a conduit for something far beyond the material world. In further pursuit of this spiritual theme, Beuca also utilizes the motif of the wandering Buddha made famous in the West by German writer Hermann Hesse's 1922 novel, Siddhartha.

It's worth exploring such literary undertones to appreciate better what is less a dramatic film than a meditation on what is takes to banish conflict from your life and achieve nirvana. Fans of spiritual literature and grassroots independent film alike will find much to love in D-Love.

You can watch the trailer here: D-Love Trailer

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Reality Disorder

In this cheeky and high-spirited TV pilot, Nikki and Gerard, two struggling New York City producers, are desperate for a hit. Most of their rather humdrum options are likely to land them more rejection, and that is the last thing they need. They need something fresh. Something bold. Exciting—even risky, but with the potential to take off like wildfire.

They need it now, too, and in this urgent moment, only one, singular option shines through: build a reality show around Gerard's rich, playboy cousin. Their willing dupe readily agrees, and soon all parties are on the yellow brick road to stardom.

Enter the love interest. Even wealthy playboys can fall under the spell of a chaste stand-up comic, after all, and after this stunner enters the picture, there's no telling where this pilot is heading.

You can watch the trailer here: Reality Disorder Trailer

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Working Out the Kinks

After an upwardly mobile African American woman invites a clueless white girl from the suburbs to share a city apartment, her other roommates will have nothing of it and all mayhem ensues. This new media webisode with echoes of a '90s sitcom is laugh-out-loud hilarious while probing material that in lesser hands might come across as mean and decidedly not funny in today's hypersensitive culture.

Working Out the Kinks hits its mark with terrific writing, zany characters and a wildly risk-taking yet deftly controlled spirit. Props to producer and writer J. Nycole Ralph, director and editor William Alexander Runnels and producer Artesia Balthrop for their fine work. Watch this episode and you'll be hooked!

You can check out the trailer here: Working Out the Kinks Trailer

Wash Up

Many young people dream of making it big in the world of sport, but few have the chops to succeed. What happens when you lend your body, mind and soul to the dream only to fail? Pushing hard in a realm where performance counts above the myriad factors that would help you advance elsewhere, athletes often face an unsettling truth: they weren't born to do this. No matter how hard they try, the cards are stacked against them; they never even had a chance.

When this happens, the one person who brought you into this world, your mom, may be your only backstop, but she is also the last person on earth you'd want to look in the eye and tell you're a failure. Such is the layered and textured drama behind Wash Up, a thoroughly Canadian film with a heart of gold that will lift you up as much as it tears you to pieces.

Lead character Mason O'Brien, superbly played by Allan Yates, has just the downcast eyes and broken spirit one would expect from someone tossed out of the minors, but he still has plenty of fight in him. Actress Jennifer Redford delivers an MVP performance as Mason's strong and deeply perceptive mother, Jo, who would be the most steadfast winger the young man could have if only he would look towards her.

This is a touching film, and with the sublime Canadian outdoors as a backdrop and a concomitant score, it's somehow enchanting, too, in a manner unlike the sweat and drama of professional sport. Wash Up will resonate with any ambitious person who has fallen on hard times, because it offers a glimpse into how you can be a loser in competition yet a champion in life.

You can watch the trailer here: Wash Up Trailer

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Hobbyist

Based on the 1961 short story by Frederic Brown, this chilling neo-noire thriller centers around a clever druggist with a reputation that has brought him various characters, but most notably those with dark intentions. 

The tale features one such character, Sangstrom, a seemingly ordinary man who comes to the druggist to request an untraceable poison, but finds out the hard way that murder will change him in ways he did not expect. 

The Hobbyist is a short film that packs a big punch, blending the perfect mix of creepy and pleasing to match its dark yet purposeful message. With cinematically beautiful shots and a soundtrack that will keep you on the edge of your seat, The Hobbyist sets up a world in which morality can shine in even the darkest of places, and right and wrong can be taught in the most peculiar of ways.

You can watch the trailer here: The Hobbyist Trailer

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Hilleman -- A Perilous Quest to Save the World's Children

Born into poverty on the eastern plains of Montana, Maurice R. Hilleman began his life in obscurity before spending many, highly productive years immersed in sedulous research. Few people recognize his name, yet he is one the most important scientists in human history. It's likely you owe him a debt, if not for saving your life, then for saving the lives of people you care about.

Hilleman developed more than half of the vaccines children receive today. He prevented pandemic influenza at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, he developed the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and the first vaccine against cancer. He tackled chickenpox, hepatitis A and B, meningitis and more. American biomedical researcher Robert Gallo, who played a key role in discovering the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the HIV blood test, called Hilleman "the most successful vaccinologist in history."

By many accounts, the eponymous subject of this film was an irascible man, but he was also a deeply caring and ethical one who showed an eager willingness to pull drugs from the market if they posed troublesome and unknown health risks. He thrived in an era when the public and medical establishment cooperated in an environment of mutual respect and trust. Nowadays, layman opinions are often formed individually after Google searching a world wide web where any and all sides of a debate are presented in unsifted search result lists. The current way we process information makes it difficult to gain facts, context and perspective when making personal and public health decisions. Members of the medical establishment often feel they're squaring off against New Agey pseudoscience in the public square. Questions of personal choice and freedom versus the public good arise. Powerful testimonies of adverse reactions to vaccines are presented without the support of meticulous research, leaving many people confused or highly opinionated. In this toxic environment, parties to the vaccine debate can harden and refuse to listen. As a learned friend of mine once put it, we've gone from "'it's right because God says so,' to 'it's right no matter what the opinion is because all truth is relative,' to 'only my way is right because I say so.'"

This superb documentary puts such debates in the context of a much wider truth: a child in the industrialized world today has a far better chance of surviving childhood than kids ever had when all food was organic but the closest thing to a hospital was a small town doctor visiting a sick person's bedside. No one wants to be given a shot, but thank goodness we have them. New frontiers of science offer hope for drugs that better match one's DNA, but in the meantime, director Donald Mitchell and his team gravely caution us against returning to the days of polio epidemics.

It's a crying shame that such a great man remains obscure. This film helps fix that problem, too. You can watch the trailer here: Hilleman Trailer

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Extra Cheese Please

When Annie throws a surprise birthday party for an exchange student friend, hardly anyone shows up. The friends who do are, well, rather odd and dull. The fun activities Annie had planned are, shall we say, a little weird...but well-intentioned. No one really finger paints past preschool anymore, but she really tried to make things fun. Things are so mucked up, Annie might as well have burned the birthday cake, too.

Yes, Annie feels crushed. Drained. Abandoned. Lost. Then out of nowhere, a minstrel shows up in the form of a pizza delivery guy who speaks in wordplay galore, and although he's an utter fool, he sure can strum a guitar. Suddenly, somehow, hey! Annie has a party!

If you've ever thrown a party and felt stood up, or if you've ever burned the entree at your holiday extravaganza, you know that withering feeling. Filmmaker Teresa Dabback oven baked these moments into her student film with a recipe that includes colorful cinematography, engaging characters and a pinch of Shakespearean farce.

It's all quite tasty, proving once again that comedy is often best delivered extra cheesy. You can watch the trailer here: Extra Cheese Please Trailer

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Dogs of Democracy

Dogs are cherished members of the community in many parts of the world, but in the cradle of western civilization, Athens, humankind's canine friends have achieved a status heretofore unimaginable.

Pro-democracy protestor.

The story of how this shift in perception took place is gloriously captured in Dogs of Democracy, a documentary by Australian director Mary Zournazi. Beautiful strays like Loukanikos, pictured to the right, have become newfound symbols of hope amidst social unrest. Of course, no one is suggesting that dogs are leading intellectuals in the protests against austerity measures and foreign interference in domestic affairs, but dogs do show an understanding of square offs with police and the need to protect something dear from overwhelming, blunt force.

Witness the bravery of Loukanikos and others as they march to the front lines of protests, risking life and limb for their own, relatable, values. You can watch the trailer here: Dogs of Democracy Trailer

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

An Undeniable Voice

The Holocaust.

So much has been said and written about this most horrific time in human history, and the words must continue until the end of time, because no matter how much is said, the enormity and utter insanity of the era cannot be adequately conveyed by words. And the evidence of Nazi atrocities must be presented, ever again, to ward off future generations from another monstrous path.

Philanthropist, activist and actress Sharon Stone operates from these substrata in An Undeniable Voice, a fine and moving short documentary. As she interviews Holocaust survivor Sam Harris, who recounts one strange, devastating story after another, she doesn't inject her own words. Instead, she listens. As photographic evidence of Harris's memories pour across the screen in overwhelming fashion, and as Harris conveys his memories with crystalline clarity, she is moved.

You will be, too, if you watch this undeniably great film.

The trailer contains upsetting images, so please follow this link to the film's website, where you can watch the preview at your own discretion: An Undeniable Voice

Friday, April 21, 2017

Generation Hope

This gorgeous short documentary celebrates and promotes Mary's Meals, a top-notch organization that feeds schoolchildren in fourteen countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. Filmed in Malawi, Haiti and India, Generation Hope demonstrates the impact a charity will have when its mission is clear and passionately delivered.

The radiance of the people served by this UK-based organization is tear-inducing, and you can help because Mary's Meals offers many ways to get involved. If you want to get your feet wet first, you can also watch this film and/or join them on Facebook and Twitter

Witness something special today by watching the trailer here: Generation Hope Trailer

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


New Hope Film Festival alumnus Steve Besserman first demonstrated his eye for compelling biographies when he released Only a Number, an award-winning documentary about his Holocaust surviving parents. The film enjoyed a successful run after its screening in New Hope, including airtime on PBS Thirteen. Besserman furthers the biographical side of his filmography with Bunnie, an inspiring film about soon-to-be centenarian Bruna Bellotti, a true Jersey girl not only for her Long Beach residence but also for her pluck.

Bunnie, as we're allowed to call her, endured the Great Depression, a broken hip, the loss of her World War II veteran husband to cancer, and the many slings and arrows of a long, assiduous life to lend the world her story on the cusp of turning 100. Having performed a strip tease act for AARP and church group audiences in her nineties, Bunnie is no stranger to the spotlight. This 23-minute short documentary captures her vitality and spirit, offering a century-long perspective on girl power and the meaning of perseverance.

You can watch the trailer here: Bunnie Trailer

Monday, April 17, 2017


In this fun modern day movie musical, a boy from South Africa and a girl from Sweden separately arrive in New York City, each with their own purpose, where in just their first twelve hours, they must both navigate the strange new city and, with the help of new friends, find themselves along the way.

A New York Film Academy original movie musical, this charming and whimsical musical features Broadway's James Monroe Iglehart, as well as a catchy original music score that explores the glittery appeal of New York and the hardships of being in an unfamiliar environment, all while crafting a tale of culture, diversity, and friendship. 

You can watch the trailer here: LANDED Trailer

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Beyond the Bombs

When three cool musicians in Tehran decided to launch a metal band, they knew the authorities would have no quarrels with the venture as long as the band kept its activities in a basement. Anxious to save their electric guitars and other equipment from confiscation, the band dutifully complied with the rules of their land—for a time.

As their playing gelled and their aspirations widened to include live gigs and an album release, they decided they had only one option, and it was a challenging one for Iranians: they must go to America. They already had a contact in LA, and with little else but a burning passion for their music, they headed west through Turkey with no idea how their story would end.

Despite the ease and charm of its characters, Beyond the Bombs is a cliffhanger of a documentary. You can watch the trailer here (parental guidance suggested for smoking): Beyond the Bombs Trailer

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Beautiful Dreamer

Sci-fi films are often characterized by spectacular special effects and epic narratives, so it's interesting when a filmmaker decides to zoom in close and reveal characters on a microcosmic scale. Director David Gaddie and writer Steven Kelleher have done so with Beautiful Dreamer, a visually captivating yet character-driven story about a terminally ill mother who uses time travel to be there for her daughter throughout her daughter's life.

Although the film showcases imaginative technology, the emphasis is on how people use inventions to better their lives as opposed to celebrating the future for its own sake, a refreshing antidote to modernity's relentless push. Intimate, soft and low-key, Beautiful Dreamer offers an opportunity to reflect on your own relationships through a story that is both timeless and earth-shattering.

You can watch the trailer here: Beautiful Dreamer Trailer

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Hatchet Hour

In her directorial debut, South African filmmaker Judy Naidoo combines a Machiavellian villainess with ultramodern style to deliver a thriller that is aesthetically pleasing yet chilling. The contrast between what is seen and what is felt mirrors the surfacy beauty and inner machinations of lead character Isabelle Sudlow (Erica Wessels), who uses her loyal to a fault best friend, Jade Mokhachane (Petronella Tsdhuma), in a cold-blooded plot to cover up a deadly mistake.

Sudlow, a high-flying attorney, knows how to play the game. There remains only one problem: once you have woven a crafty web of lies, how do you unstick yourself from it?

You can watch the trailer here: Hatchet Hour Trailer

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

25 Tracks

What do you get when you combine two talented songwriters, a woman whose influences include The Sound of Music and a man who warms up by riffing Black Sabbath on his guitar, and set them inside a 1957 rail car with the ambitious goal of writing, recording and releasing a new song every two weeks for a year?

25 Tracks, an uber-hip, foot-stomping documentary from the industrial west of Melbourne, Australia's music capital. Produced and directed by Fiona Cochrane, this uptempo film offers a great variety of musical flavors and heaps of insight into the songwriting process. Musicians and music fans alike will find much to admire here.

True indie musicians at heart, songwriters Cath Sheahan and Nick Larkins are unencumbered by the pressure of a record label, freeing them to follow their muses and create great music for music's sake.

And they do.

You can watch the trailer here: 25 Tracks Trailer

Sunday, April 2, 2017


Local Bucks County artist Marty Krzywonos cites a long history of performances, beginning with his 8-year-old boy recreations of West Side Story that included leaps off his parents' sofa, and this film continues in that energetic history because, as a first feature, it is a risky and bold leap. But that is about where the similarities between his early life as a producer and his current one end, because Mazurkas is a mature and serious work.

The story centers around elderly widower Sydney Flanders, who is convincingly played by auteur Krzywonos himself. A semi-retired piano teacher who gives private lessons in his own home, Flanders is a lonely man who has little to keep him going except his memories, which torment his soul, and his creative works—and the latter are amazing. Yellow Rose Mazurka, his magnum opus, is a work of ethereal, neoclassical genius, putting Krzywonos's under-appreciated talents on full display with depths of feeling and melodic complexity reminiscent of Beethoven. Watch the trailer for a sample.

The musical score of Mazurkas is astonishing, but credit is also due for the film's true to life portrayal of an aging man who lives under the weight of his sins. How can he possibly lift these burdens as his life slips and slides away? His former and beloved wife, who is now deceased, was a promising concert pianist until he sabotaged her career to serve his jealousy and male insecurity, and to add gasoline to the fire, he lives with full awareness of how far he let his own life crumble. The life of a solo performer is unique, and when placed in a committed relationship, such pyrotechnics can and do arise.

You can watch the trailer here: Mazurkas Trailer