Monday, July 30, 2018

2018 Award Winners

My Amish World (Samuel Wickey, USA)
Best Picture
Winner: My Amish World (Samuel Wickey, USA)
Nominees: Carving a Life, Dark Blue Girl, Fortune Defies Death, At the End of the Day, The Doctor's Case, Nymphadelle

Best Script

Winner: Christopher Marlowe (Francis Hamit, USA)
Nominees: The Music of Men's Lives, The Black Swallow of Death, Mindful, True Colors, Howard Hall

Film Jury Awards

Best Student Film
Winner: Nymphadelle (Quentin de Jubecourt, France)
Nominees: Lockdown, Dark Blue Girl, Grasping Air, Return Safely, Crossing the Line, Carry On Little Sis, Leaving Malcolm

Best Short Film

Winner: The Secret Nobody Knows (Nick Ronan, USA)
Nominees: Danny Boy, Washed Out, A Memory, Fugitive, Reconnected, Redcoats, Daisy Belle

Best Documentary

Winner: We Are Columbine (Laura Farber, USA)
Nominees: Wolverine: Ghost of the Northern Forest, The Oyster Farmers, An Unknown Country, The Foreigner's Home, We Are Columbine, The Listen Project, Quakers: The Quiet Revolutionaries, Sand on the Floor

Cultural Spirit
Winner: Dirty Laundry (Conor Lewis, USA)
Nominees: Sand on the Floor, The Trouble with Wolves, We Are Columbine, Quakers: The Quiet Revolutionaries, The Foreigner's Home, Hope Loves Company

Animal Welfare

Winner: The Trouble with Wolves (Collin Monda, USA)
Nominees: A New Chance, Aeris, Wolverine: Ghost of the Northern Forest

Best Short Documentary

Winner: One Mother's Fire: The Gail Minger Story (Diana Nicolae, USA)
Nominees: People of the Forest: Orang Rimba, A New Chance, One Mother's Fire: The Gail Minger Story, At The Table, A Day in the Life of Elijah, Monumental Change

Best Foreign Film

Winner: Dark Blue Girl (Mascha Schilinski, Germany)
Nominees: The Doctor's Case, Danny Boy, Fugitive, Daily Bread, People of the Forest: Orang Rimba, Nymphadelle

Best Experimental Short

Winner: Daisy Belle (William Wall, USA)
Nominees: Pulp, The Kara Morgan Show, The Brittany Show, S'eclipser

Indie Spirit

Winner: Carving a Life (Terry Ross, USA)
Nominees: Nymphadelle, Dark Blue Girl, Shellfish, At the End of the Day, Night's Still Young

Best Animated Film

Winner: Two Balloons (Mark Smith, USA)
Nominees: Crack'd, Dreamweaver, Daisy Belle, Pulp, The Kara Morgan Show, Cuddlefish

Female Eye Filmmaking

Winner: The Third Act Series (Michele Fillion, USA)
Nominees: Carving a Life, Redcoats, Giselle, The Kara Morgan Show, The Third Act Series, The Red Lotus, A Memory

Best Comedy

Winner: The Brittany Show (Nasser Samara, USA)
Nominees: Zen Parking, Another Girl, The Kara Morgan Show, The Phages, Love Radio

Best Period Film

Winner: The Doctor's Case (James Douglas and Leonard Pearl, Canada)
Nominees: Redcoats, Attila, Nymphadelle, Daily Bread

Student Cultural Spirit

Winner: Monumental Change (Jake Segelbaum, USA)
Nominees: A New Chance, At the Table, Portrait of an Artist: Janet Chambers

New Hope

Winner: One Mother's Fire: The Gail Minger Story (Diana Nicolae, USA)
Nominees: A New Chance, A Day in the Life of Elijah, Hope Loves Company, 4 Dancers' Dreams, East Side Story

Artistic Spirit

Winner: The Listen Project (Gary Bassin, USA)
Nominees: Wolverine: Ghost of the Northern Forest, Kings of Blah, The Listen Project

LGBTQ Spirit

Winner: At the End of the Day (Kevin O'Brien, USA)
Nominees: High Rocks, At The End of the Day, Cuddlefish

Best Supernatural Film

Winner: Shellfish (J.D. Wilson, USA)
Nominees: Return Safely, The Phages

Best Webisode

Winner: The Third Act Series (Michele Fillion, USA)
Nominees: The Kara Morgan Show

Best Music Video

Winner: Mission to Mars (George Pasles, USA)
Nominees: Fourth of Julivar’s, Pulp, Hunting Day

Best Director

Winner: Jennifer Hulum (Fortune Defies Death, USA)
Nominees: Terry Ross (Carving A Life, USA), Liam O'Neill (Danny Boy, Ireland), Mascha Schilinski (Dark Blue Girl, Germany), James Douglas (The Doctor's Case, Canada), Alice Boucherie (Washed Out, France), Quentin de Jubecourt (Nymphadelle, France), S. J. Main Munoz (Reconnected, USA)

Script Jury Awards

Best Narrative Feature Screenplay
Winner: Mindful (Diana Lewis)
Nominees: Christopher Marlowe, The Black Swallow of Death, The Music of Men's Lives

Best Teleplay

Winner: Howard Hall (Judy Spencer)

Best Period Script

Winner: The Black Swallow of Death (Daniel Russ)
Nominees: Christopher Marlowe, The Music of Men's Lives

Best Short Screenplay

Winner: True Colors (Scott Dissinger)

Audience Choice Awards

Best Webisode: The Third Act Series (Michele Fillion, USA)
Best TV Pilot: New York 2150 (Harry Assouline, USA)
Best Music Video: Fourth of Julivar's (Tony Fulgham, USA)
Best Narrative Feature: At the End of the Day (Kevin O'Brien, USA)
Best Documentary: Quakers: The Quiet Revolutionaries (Janet Gardner, USA)
Best Short Film: Reconnected (S.J. Main Munoz, USA)
Best Student Film: Lockdown (Max Sokoloff, USA)

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Phages

A young married couple has found a creative way to make ends meet in an uncertain economy—flipping haunted houses—and the money sure is easy. After all, one person's paranoia is another's opportunity, and the worse the fear about the house, the more an enterprising duo can bank.

It's a near-bulletproof plan until you find a house that really is haunted, and then all bets are off. That is the situation facing them now in a gothic mansion set back from the road, with a child ghost who likes to play with their daughter and other fiends who visit them in the night.

There is a tongue-in-cheek aspect to this story, of course, but the other message might be that you don't want to be messing with the dead like this. Co-Directors John Benedetto and Matt McNevin have cooked a boiling cauldron of fright in this black-and-white short. You can watch the trailer here:

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Quakers: The Quiet Revolutionaries

The roots of Quakerism stretch back to mid-17th century England, but the Religious Society of Friends has remained vibrant and influential throughout modern times. A central feature of the Protestant denomination since George Fox founded it in the wake of the English Civil War (1642 - 1651) is activism—and a concomitant passion for shaking the halls of power over matters of injustice. This history explains why so many leaders in areas ranging from abolition to women's suffrage to civil rights and the environment have arisen from or been inspired by Quaker congregations and ideals.

In this probing documentary, filmmaker Janet P. Gardner combines Ken Burns style archival imagery with "captured in the moment" footage, underscoring the combined sophistication and day-to-day relevance of Friends Church, a movement that is rooted in principles yet constantly evolving.

The film is also critical, citing transgressions by Quaker political leaders and lamenting the Quaker approach to desegregation in the 1960s and 70s. Yet the legacy of progress and achievement overshadows these concerns as Gardner paints an overall picture of relevance and high social value.

You can watch the trailer here: Quakers: The Quiet Revolutionaries Trailer

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

An Unknown Country

This beautifully produced film tells the story of European Jews who narrowly escaped Nazi atrocities by emigrating to Ecuador. Many of these refugees stayed in their new homeland to assimilate, build lives and contribute to the long-term prosperity of the nation, while others furthered their journeys to the United States, where they found opportunities more consistent with their educated, European backgrounds. The film documents the fates of many members of this group with impressive care and detail.

Writer/Director Eva Zelig, an award-winning filmmaker whose work has appeared on PBS, The Learning Channel, New York Times TV, ABC, National Geographic and Consumer Reports, already had familiarity with her topic going into this project because her parents were among the exiles depicted in the documentary. However, Zelig goes far beyond firsthand knowledge by incorporating interviews, archival studies, and other forms of meticulous research.

Anyone interested in this period of history, the peoples depicted and the cultures explored will find An Unknown Country rich and immersive. You can watch the trailer here: An Unknown Country Trailer

Thursday, June 21, 2018

East Side Hero

The problem of gang violence in urban America is widely recognized, but adequate solutions for ending it have remained elusive. California filmmaker Daniel Osorio has cooked up a novel approach to reaching the people most at risk—the gang kids themselves—in East Side Hero, a social conscience film with a clearly stated mission of disrupting the generational cycle of violence among Latino communities in Northern California.

The film serves as a tool for teaching more positive decision-making skills, and I have no doubt this dramatic, true to life production will relate its ideas to youngsters in a way that lectures and dictates from adults will never quite achieve.

Osorio deserves an A+ for leading underserved young people in the right direction. You can watch the trailer here (parental discretion is advised): East Side Hero Trailer

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Leaving Malcolm

In this touching and insightful student film, Malcolm Peters is a father struggling to correct the neglect he experienced as a child by being a better father for his own son. And the plan isn't working. His boy is transfixed on an imaginary friend, a spiritual barrier between father and son who engenders heated discussions between Malcolm and his wife. The family wants to connect but something unseen and unheard is standing in the way.

Student filmmaker Lucas Ruderman, who recently earned a Film Directing degree at Manhattanville College, co-wrote the script with his own mother, a detail that underscores the verisimilitude of his art. Set at Christmastime, the film maintains a dimly lit, spiritual feel throughout, and anyone who has dealt with family members who cannot click should find this film both familiar and immersive.

You can watch the trailer here: Leaving Malcolm Trailer

Monday, June 18, 2018


Anna is scraping by in New York to rid herself of a hard upbringing in communist Czechoslovakia. Working two menial jobs and relatively uneducated, the young woman faces precarious circumstances that worry her mother sick. Mom pleads with her to come home, but her grandfather's grinding experience under Soviet rule produces the opposite advice. He insists she should stay and get an education; it's the only way out.

She would do just that, too, but she has an additional hurdle to overcome. She needs to prove she's in the United States legally, and that is suddenly her biggest problem of all. Now she has two days either to firm up her paperwork or fly home to her mother.

Stories like Anna's are not uncommon in an era of inexpensive flights, rapidly improving technology and global economic expansion. The world is racing ahead at an exponential rate, fostering a dynamic whereby many people feel compelled to seek better opportunities abroad while others question how such migration should take place and at what pace. Anna is a good person in a tough situation, and there may be no clear answer for her in the short term.

This student film by Petra Priborska strikes a sympathetic chord on an intimate and humanitarian level. You can watch the trailer here: Anna Trailer

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Fortune Defies Death

When the wealthy Woods family gathers at a cabin resort to hear the last will and testament of their ten-years-deceased patriarch, everyone is fighting for a share of the fortune. There is a scent of danger in the air, too, and the lawyer charged with reading the will wants answers. The late George Woods's beloved, adopted daughter went missing a decade ago, compelling the estate to delay the reading of the will on the outside chance she would reemerge.

She did not. Now everyone in the family is suspected of murder. For excellent reason, too, when one of them is found dead at the resort. Who did it, and who will be next? With a greedy sister, two ambitious nephews, Woods's mistress, his missing daughter's husband and amnesiac granddaughter and an eccentric niece all in the mix—and none of them particularly like each other—the stage is set for an explosive revelation.

Director and writer Jennifer Hulum envisions a dizzying labyrinth in Fortune Defies Death, a film that requires intense concentration and focus to appreciate to its fullest. The players are smart and treacherous and probably dangerous. And someone, somewhere, might slip up if the shrewd old attorney gets his way.

You can watch the trailer here: Fortune Defies Death

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Doctor's Case

The Doctor's Case is a devilishly clever murder mystery that features British writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic characters Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Initially set in September 1940 when Watson is 87 years old, the story recounts a time when the detective duo needed to change roles in order to solve a particularly complex crime—a strange set of circumstances that threatened to drag Watson and Holmes themselves into the abyss.

A collaboration of many fine Canadian filmmakers, including co-directors James Douglas and Leonard Pearl, this nearly feature-length production hits all the right acrid and downright frightening notes for the genre. Based on a short story by Stephen King, the script is complex enough to evoke the experience of reading a good, old fashioned book, the kind that lends itself to a fireside read and a long, unnerving return to your darkened bedchamber.

You can watch the trailer here: The Doctor's Case Trailer

Friday, May 25, 2018

We Are Columbine

On April 20, 1999, Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colorado experienced one of the most deadly school shootings in United States history. The incident shocked a country that could scarcely imagine the epidemic of teen violence it foreshadowed.

Filmmaker Laura Farber, a freelance producer with an impressive client roster that includes MSNBC, TLC, The Weather Channel, Discovery Channel, Discovery Health and History Channel, was one of the freshman students on that tragic day, and she has applied the full force of her experience in this jaw-dropping portrayal of what is was like to be one of those most unfortunate kids.

She tells her story through the voices of classmates and high school staff, and their collective trust is pivotal in making this such a staggering and insightful film. The former students are sometimes overwhelmed with emotion upon revisiting the school, as evidenced in the photo above, and you will be suitably moved.

You can watch the trailer here: We Are Columbine Trailer

Thursday, May 24, 2018


A suburban professional devastates his family when he's caught cheating on his wife, but reconciliation will not be easy when his mother-in-law clearly sees the bad side of him. The elder lady Gloria, superbly played by Hollywood stalwart Barbara Bain, and troubled Bob, played by Robert Kerbeck, an award-winning author and actor who also happens to be a scion of Philadelphia's prominent Kerbeck family, square off in a high-stakes scene that leads to grave consequences.

And no clear answers. Now Mother is dead, Bob's wife Deb seems to accept his story, and a shadow of death looms over the family's future. A project of Tica Productions, this film was directed by S.J. Main and co-produced by Derek Classen.

You can watch the trailer here: Reconnected Teaser Trailer

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

At the End of the Day

After losing his wife and counseling practice, the only thing 32-year-old Dave Hopper has going for him is a part-time professorship at a conservative Christian college. His future looks bright for the first time in too long, but when the ambitious college dean asks him to infiltrate a gay support group to stop their plans for building an LGBTQ homeless shelter on land the college wants for expansion, Hopper finds himself torn between universal love and the more qualified love taught at the school. "Love the sinner, hate the sin" is the college's official attitude towards homosexuality, but when Hopper witnesses the wealth of love and compassion shared within the LGBTQ group, his belief system begins to crumble.

Filmmaker Kevin O'Brien knows a thing or two about this subject because he grew up in an evangelical family and attended a conservative Christian university, but like his protagonist Dave Hopper, O'Brien witnessed attitudes and behaviors towards the gay community that struck him as ugly, ignorant and just plain wrong, so he created this film to expose the many harms done and incite change.

This is a hard-hitting story told by a filmmaker whose righteous anger is manifest. You can watch the trailer here: At the End of the Day Trailer

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Two Balloons

Two Balloons is a throughly enchanting and heartwarming animated short about two lemurs who sail dirigibles around the world to meet under a moonlit sky. The artistry behind this highly collaborative project will take your breath away, which helps to explain the film's sweeping success on the festival circuit.

Filmmaker Mark Smith knows something about traveling on wind currents because his wife and he are avid sailors. A journey to Grenada helped inspire this film when the Smith couple witnessed an unearthly funnel cloud that "looked a thousand feet high." Their shared husband and wife experience is evident in the embraces of the two lemurs, creatures who evoke oceans of depth on matters of love.

You can watch the trailer here: Two Balloons Trailer

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Red Lotus

Co-produced by Paula Rossman and Shara Ashley Zeiger and directed by Jessica Alexandra Green, this disturbing story imagines a not-too-distant future where Roe vs. Wade has been overturned and women who are determined to have abortions are forced back into underground medical clinics. A female eye film that easily passes the Bechtel-Wallace test, The Red Lotus doesn't shrink from the eeriness of the circumstances—made even more so by the flaky exuberance of the clinic's supervisor.

A film like this one will get different reactions from an audience, and by dint of its nuance, The Red Lotus provides plenty of room for such interpretation. At the same time, the filmmakers make the tragedy of turning a healthful yoga retreat into a place where women abort their pregnancies, and the impact this place might have on otherwise law-abiding women, abundantly clear.

You can watch the trailer here: The Red Lotus Trailer

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Dirty Laundry

Distraught by the loss of their grandmother, two cousins resolved to ride their bikes across the continental United States to explore the cause of her unexpected passing: mesothelioma. Through interviews and research they uncovered a trail of corporate denial, shady politics, shallow value judgments and broken communities. The story of asbestos—its benefits as a building material and the unacceptable costs borne by people exposed to its dust—is a dark and tragic one. For years, those who knew the human costs refused to warn the public, workers and anyone else at risk about the dangers of exposure.

Co-producers and bikers extraordinaire Conor Lewis and Zack Johnson have created a powerful, informative documentary in Dirty Laundry. Like the mountains they climbed in the American West, the forces of profit, ignorance and plain, old-fashioned obstinance were intractable barriers for many victims of this cancer, but to their immense credit, Lewis and Johnson crossed those mountains and now have quite the story to share.

You can watch the trailer here: Dirty Laundry Trailer

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


Based on the inspiring yet tragic story of 20th century Major League Baseball star Roberto Clemente, this dramatic feature existed only as a script when it won accolades from Austin Film Festival and the Best Period Script award at the 2017 New Hope Film Festival. Ian Eugene Ryan, who is attached to the film as Clemente, created this work with co-writer Joseph Loizzi as a way to honor an historical figure and shed light on the plight of men of color in professional sport.

As many baseball fans know, Clemente was far more than a ball player, having devoted impressive time to charity work, including relief efforts involving a devastating earthquake in Managua, Nicaragua. Ryan and Loizzi captured the essence of the man in their superb writing—Clemente's intensity and focus both on and off the field, but also a charming, almost childlike innocence and goodness of heart. The two traits combined to make him a dangerous weapon on the field and a remarkable force for healing off of it. 

Ian Ryan plays the role of Clemente in the teaser they shot to raise awareness for the project, and what a performance he delivers—the verisimilitude is striking, down to every nuance and quirk. Beautifully directed by New Hope Film Festival's Director of Submissions Thom Michael Mulligan, the trailer demonstrates with all heart and soul why this film should be made and why Ryan should play the lead.

Sometimes indie filmmakers knock one right out of the park. You can watch the trailer here: Clemente Teaser

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Angels of the Sky

World War II pilots of the 8th Air Force were revered for their toughness and fierce dedication. If they weren't fatally shot or sent careening down to Earth in a ball of flames, they might make it back to base and live another day—maybe. Or they might, if they were half-lucky, get captured by the Germans and spend the rest of the war in a POW camp.

Angels of the Sky features intimate interviews of airmen who were shot down over German lines and taken prisoner. Now well into their senior years, they pry open their pasts, describing frightening experiences and documenting an historically pivotal era that is fading away at the rate of 750 veterans per day. Filmmaker Trent McGee dreamed up the idea for his film in 2011, feeling a sense of urgency about getting these stories on film before they could no longer be told.

Inspiring in the courage it portrays and revealing in the complexities it uncovers, Angels of the Sky is a must-see for history buffs or anyone who loves to learn about people whose experiences are unlike their own. McGee's interviewees are grizzled and wise, traits no doubt enhanced through many wartime terrors. You can watch the trailer here: Angels of the Sky Trailer