Monday, August 2, 2021

2021 Awards and Nominations

Top Jury Awards

Best Picture - Silo (Marshall Burnette, USA) Nominees: Silence, Dreamover, Kings of Mulberry Street, Touch

Best Script - Secret Passage (Paul Teese, USA) Nominees: The Art of Resistance, Running the Bases, Run for Your Life, Forbidden: Once Upon a War, Nine Lives

Film Jury Awards

Best Narrative Feature - Dreamover (Roman Olkhovka, Russian Federation) Nominees: Silo, Silence, Kings of Mulberry Street, Touch

Best Student Film - Last Night in Vegas (J. Nicholas Meese, USA) Nominees: Take a Little Time, Gray, Last Night in Vegas, One Body, Her Mother's Daughter, You Are My Son, Ruby Days

Best Alternative Film - Kings of Mulberry Street (Judy Naidoo, South Africa) Nominees: Dreamover, Silence, Aquamarine, Loving Lenna, Your Wreckless Heart

Best Short Film - Killing Time (P. Patrick Hogan, USA) Nominees: The Keeper, Night Sky, Aquamarine, Loving Lenna, Your Wreckless Heart, Hungry Ghosts, The Dinner Guest

Best Documentary - Uprooted - The Journey of Jazz Dance (Khadifa Wong, USA) Nominees: Subjects of Desire, Bangla Surf Girls, Tsunami of New Dreams, My Sister Hali, Alan Magee: Art Is Not a Solace, Life & Life, For Fear of Kofi

Best Horror Thriller - The Keeper (Bob Celli, USA) Nominees: Aquamarine, Killing Time

Animal Welfare - Desert Flight (John Azoni, Samia Staehle, USA) Nominees: The Last Vaquita

Cultural Spirit - Subjects of Desire (Jennifer Holness, USA) Nominees: Bangla Surf Girls, Life & Life, Detroit Rising: How the Motor City Becomes a Restorative City, Finding Hope - In the Face of Relapse, The Heart of Camden - The Story of Father Michael Doyle

Best Short Documentary - The Heart of Camden - The Story of Father Michael Doyle (Douglas Clayton, USA) Nominees: Vincent Price: The Original Thriller, The Last Vaquita, Finding Justice: The Untold Story of Women's Fight for the Vote, Desert Flight,  Finding Hope - In the Face of Relapse

Best Foreign Film - Silence (Erik Borner, Germany) Nominees: Kings of Mulberry Street, Dreamover

Best Biographical Film - My Sister Hali (Paul Sheriff, USA) Nominees: For Fear of Kofi, Life & Life, Mira Nakashima, Vincent Price: The Original Thriller

Best Experimental Short - Aquamarine (Jack Dentinger, USA) Nominees: Your Wreckless Heart, Bennifer, Her Mother's Daughter

Indie Spirit - Bangla Surf Girls (Elizabeth D. Costa, Canada) Nominees: Tsunami of New Dreams, My Sister Hali, Hungry Ghosts, For Fear of Kofi, Dreamover

Best Animated Film - Mate (Rusty Eveland, USA) Nominees: Hungry Ghosts, Ruby Days

Female Eye Filmmaking - The Dinner Guest (Dale Griffiths Stamos, USA) Nominees: Bangla Surf Girls, Her Mother's Daughter, Finding Justice: The Untold Story of Women's Fight for the Vote, Loving Lenna, Subjects of Desire, The Della Morte Sisters, Touch, The Dinner Guest

Best Sci-Fi Film - Night Sky (Greg Rulfs, USA) Nominees: Gray, Killing Time

Best TV Pilot - Yellow (Sarah Deakins, Canada) Nominees: Stuck!, Ex-Sisters-In-Law

Best Comedy - Stuck! (Omri Anghel, Lauren LeBeouf, USA) Nominees: Life on Pause, Ex-Sisters-In-Law, The Calling, Manifest, Aquamarine, Mate

New Hope - Tsunami of New Dreams (Isaac Kerlow, USA) Nominees: Life & Life, Detroit Rising: How the Motor City Becomes a Restorative City, Finding Hope - In the Face of Relapse

Artistic Spirit - Alan Magee: Art is Not a Solace (David Berez, David Wright, USA) Nominees: My Sister Hali

LGBTQ Spirit - Loving Lenna (Kirstie Munoz, USA)

Best Supernatural Film - Killing Time (P. Patrick Hogan, USA) Nominees: Silence, Dreamover

Best Webisode - The Calling (Brian Lederman, USA) Nominees: Chronicles Of: The Good Reverend, Detroit Rising: How the Motor City Becomes a Restorative City, Ex-Sisters-In-Law

Best Music Video - Stormy (Michael Barnett, USA) Nominees: Seven Dreams, Preserved Vegetables, Hard to Keep the Faith, Livin' in the Light, Knocking on Your Door, Bourbon Street Taps, How Long

Cultural Spirit Music Video - Hard to Keep the Faith (Dane Elcar, USA) Nominees: Livin' in the Light, How Long

Best Director - Marshall Burnette (Silo, USA) Nominees: Erik Borner, Dale Griffiths Stamos, Isaac Kerlow, Jennifer Holness, Greg Rulfs, Alejandra Cadena-Perez

Script Jury Awards

Best Narrative Feature - The Art of Resistance (David Brown, United Kingdom) Nominees: Running the Bases, Secret Passage, At the Mercy of Faith, Good Grief, Land of Light, Go Ahead

Best Teleplay - Forbidden: Once Upon a War (Ron Modro, USA) Nominees: Nine Lives

Best Alternative Script - Triangle 146 (Diane Young Uniman, USA) Nominees: A Need for Something New, Healing Time, Red Sea, Closure, Cottoning, The Chair

Best Sci-Fi Thriller - Healing Time (John Thibault, USA) Nominees: Run for Your Life

Best Action Thriller - Run for Your Life (Gregory JM Kasunich, USA) Nominees: Checkmate, Petrov, The Art of Resistance, About Nelson, Run for Your Life

Best Period Script - Red Sea (Rosalyn Rosen, USA) Nominees: Go Ahead, The Art of Resistance

Best Short Script - About Nelson (Sahlima, USA) Nominees: Petrov, Knock Three Times, Cottoning, Run for Your Life, Triangle 146, The Chair, Closure, Stay

Audience Choice Awards

Best Narrative Feature - Silo (Marshall Burnette, USA)

Best Short Film - Hungry Ghosts (Mark Borkowski, USA) 

Best Documentary - Life & Life (NC Heikin, USA)

Best Short Documentary - The Heart of Camden - The Story of Father Michael Doyle (Douglas Clayton, USA)

Best Webisode - Detroit Rising: How the Motor City Becomes a Restorative City (Cassidy Friedman, USA)

Best TV Pilot - Yellow (Sarah Deakins, Canada)

Best Music Video - Last Night in Vegas (J. Nicholas Meese, USA)

Best Student Film - You Are My Son (Phoenix Logan, USA)

Monday, June 21, 2021

Hungry Ghosts

Set on some of the meanest, most drug-infested streets of Philadelphia, this short film zeros in on a family that has been ripped apart by the opioid crisis. Actor/writer/producer Mark Borkowski, a New York City-based filmmaker with ties to eastern Pennsylvania, chose this setting for its crumbling and shadowy aesthetics, and indeed, the mood is haunting. The weird visions of a psychic lady add to an atmosphere of dark, otherworldly forces preying on lead character Frank Duffy and his wife, who has gone missing due to her drug addiction. On top of it all, their son has been left to his own devices due to their actions. 

Imagination and a touch of surreal would be one way to describe this project, and it might be hard to accept such a strange family drama if the subject matter were not so relevant to the times. You can watch the trailer here: Hungry Ghosts

Life & Life

There is no way to sugarcoat the history behind musician Reggie Austin's conviction and tough prison sentence. He had committed second degree murder while intoxicated on heroin, and by his own admission he deserved to do serious time. When the door slammed shut behind him at San Quentin prison, his life could have been by and large over, but he had more to give and more to live. As the sands of time passed through the hourglass, he became an older and wiser man—a senior citizen. That is where this thought-provoking documentary by writer/director/producer NC Heikin picks up his story. 

Austin himself does not believe in light sentencing for violent crime. In fact, he argues for a robust criminal justice system that keeps public streets safe, with parole decisions tied to personal change, accountability and redemption. Many viewers watching this documentary will have unsettled, mixed feelings about offering parole to someone who took another person's life—the damage to the victim is irreversible—but the criminal justice professionals interviewed in this film echo Austin's sentiments by offering arguments in favor of mercy. 

Heikin acknowledges the need for a criminal justice system by interviewing people within it, and with due respect. At the same time, she highlights the humanity of her subject Reggie Austin, and the net good that can arise when prison is employed as a path to a better society. This film is clear in its position on a need for reform, portraying incarceration as it often can be: a hell on Earth of society's own making...a harsh, vengeful and inhumane structure that fails to consider the goodness in people who have done bad, even horrible things. 

This is heavy material, but the film handles it with care. The debate about sentencing and prison reform won't end with an award-winning documentary, but the issue of aging in prison has gained currency as harsh sentencing in the late 20th century grays the U.S. prison population. No question, changes are underway. This film offers the perspective of a former prisoner, and citizens who are striving for a nuanced opinion could benefit from listening to someone who has firsthand experience with the very people who might be offered clemency. 

You can watch the trailer here: Life & Life

Friday, June 11, 2021

The Heart of Camden - The Story of Father Michael Doyle

Dubbed Camden's Mighty Saint by a grateful, almost reverent community, Monsignor Michael Doyle is an Irish immigrant who came to America with a passionate desire to serve God and his community. And so he did, on a grand scale. While most decent people are charitable on some level, Doyle decided to settle in a place that evidenced sheer sacrifice—blighted Camden, New Jersey. It was a place few people cared or even thought about, so he amazed many people when he demonstrated that he not only cared, but he would also devote his entire life and career to improving the lot of people in this highly troubled city. 

A true reformer and leader, Doyle launched local institutions that would leverage Catholic charity outside the structure of the faith. Heart of Camden, a non-profit serving the poor, is one example. Others include the South Camden Theater Company, because Doyle firmly believed in the restorative power of art, Nick Virgilio Writers House and Camden Fireworks

Now the tireless man has gone viral, essentially, so his model for social improvement is getting widespread press and examination. Talk about leveraging the Catholic Church. The Heart of Camden - The Story of Father Michael Doyle has been accepted by ten festivals as of this preview and The Philadelphia Inquirer has declared it "a beautiful and magnificent film." Doyle can thank helmer Dr. Douglas Clayton for producing a documentary worthy of a lofty subject; so can the monsignor's growing, ever-exultant flock. 

You can watch the trailer here: The Heart of Camden

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Life on Pause

In this cheeky short by Morristown, New Jersey-based filmmaker Steven Lifshey, a 1980's-era wedding videographer cannot shake a college crush despite getting his career off to a rocking start. Mired in bitter, unrequited love, this rather disturbed guy only has one, sure way to rectify her callous brushoffs and putdowns and gain back his battered self-esteem. 

Best of all, good karma makes her, now a bridezilla and diva par excellence, the agent of her own recompense. Of course, feeling invincible, she hires the same bachelor she rejected over and over again to be her wedding photographer—to record the best day of her life for all eternity, and to emblazon the romantic rival with whom she is knotting herself in every, eternal frame. 

What could possibly go wrong? You can watch the trailer here: Life on Pause

Take a Little Time

Filmmaker Jake Jurich wrote and directed this smart short film as an undergraduate student at Penn State, demonstrating that passion for making a quality film exists far outside the graduate film programs of large cities. This project began with an intelligent script, and Jurich continued to refine his work all the way through the thoughtfully-produced trailer.

In the story, Smitty has always had a practical, and one could say blind, attitude towards making money. His entry-level dishwashing job only adds to his impulse for more, even as a sober assessment of his stuck situation begs for seeking value, joy and self-worth outside material things. But when the misguided young man stumbles upon an upmarket silverware set, he finds himself questioning his beliefs, and that is where the attainment of inner wealth becomes possible. 

You can watch the trailer here: Take a Little Time

For Fear of Kofi

After the agonizing death of George Floyd rocked the United States, much was said and written about the case and its aftermath. The incident reached this level of acrimony not only because the video that spawned the backlash was hideous to watch, but also because the issue of police brutality against black men stands on the ground of a long, deeply troubled history. 

For Fear of Kofi examines another previous, less publicized case of police employing violence against a black man under controversial circumstances. The incident took place in 2010 at a University of Florida graduate housing complex, and like the Floyd case, it rocked the media when a videotape emerged that contradicted the account given by police officers at the scene. 

This documentary takes a hard look at the use of deadly force. At the same time, filmmaker Marina Petrovskaia does not engage in hyperbole. She is well aware of the toxicity and complexity of her material and she is not seeking to fan the flames of public opinion. She is after the truth and that, in any era, can be hard to pull from a violent conflagration. 

So she interviews a variety of people, including the commanding police officer at the scene, and ultimately invites the audience to decide how the use of lethal force should be regulated and how excessive force could be avoided in the future. The world needs more people who seek constructive solutions to formidable problems, and Petrovskaia's probing, investigative and powerful film is a good step in that direction. 

You can watch the trailer here: For Fear of Kofi

The Joymaker

After winning Best Short Screenplay at the postponed 2020 New Hope Film Festival, screenwriter Tara Grover Smith defied long COVID-19 pandemic odds by finishing post-production for The Joymaker during lockdown. Now the project is an Official Selection of the New Hope Film Festival as a film. It would have been a fine progression in any year, but in this one it's even more impressive. 

In the story, Karen is a mother dealing with a son who's addicted to opioids. He's getting ready to return from jail, but added to her full plate is the sudden appearance of an old friend and former life coach, Joyce, who has spiraled downward into terminal illness and homelessness. What in the world can Karen do to help them while also holding her own spirit afloat? The Joymaker is Joyce's self-given nickname, and really, with such turmoil in her life, Karen hardly needs the touch of irony. 

What Karen needs is real joy, and it looks like she will need to make it herself or some people she cares about might go down with her. You can watch the trailer here: The Joymaker

Friday, June 4, 2021

Her Mother's Daughter

In this exploratory California College of the Arts student film, strife between a mother and daughter is expressed in an unusual and sophisticated way. Filmmaker Alejandra Cadena-Perez is interested in dualities—natural versus artificial and isolation versus connection—and by showing such intellectual tensions through two people who are biologically and physically close, she demonstrates how opposites can be, in fact, two sides of the same coin. 

Her film explores this rather complex material through dance. Student films at their best are adventuresome, and Her Mother's Daughter delivers on this metric by fusing an underlying narrative structure with a free-flowing art form that is uncommon in film. The quality of filmmaking is very good, but Cadena-Perez's interests clearly run farther and wider than her MFA in film studies. 

You can watch the trailer here: Her Mother's Daughter

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Killing Time

A woman who lives in a remote mountain home is followed home during her daily run. Whoever or whatever is stalking her, it's wearing full black camouflage. She enters her home, unaware, but a creaking door alerts her that something is wrong. She calls out and there's no answer.

And this is no ordinary stalker. The figure in her house has gone to great trouble to get there and it has a burning sense of urgency. A theoretical physicist, she normally can think her way through any problem, but this time may be different; her visitor has chosen this moment exactly.

Writer and Director P. Patrick Hogan has accomplished much since earning his MFA at USC Cinematic Arts, with numerous awards and nominations to his credit, and this spine-tingling short utilizes all of his experience with a combination of plot and atmosphere that will set his audience on edge.   

You can watch the trailer here: Killing Time

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

The Calling

You most assuredly don't want to work at HighWire Cable, a telecom company from hell, but fresh recruit Beth Morrow hardly has a choice. She needs the job—they threw her on the team without any meaningful training or honeymoon period—and now she's stuck in her headset foxhole for better or worse. At least she's a fighter, and she will need every ounce of that spirit to shake off the incoming missiles exploding all around her. 

A Brooklyn production helmed by indie writer, director and editor Brian Lederman, A New Voice is Episode One of a web series called The Calling. If that sounds a bit like the title of a horror film, you're not far off, but there is also something subversively funny about this crazy workplace. So crazy, heck, it might even remind you of a former job—or the one you have now. 

You can watch the trailer here (parental discretion advised): The Calling Trailer

Monday, May 31, 2021


New York City-based filmmakers, performers and self-described chicken quesadilla enthusiasts Bonnie Dennison and Allison Barton are joined at the hip when it comes to producing comedy. Their feature film, "What Would Dakota Do?" is currently under development with National Lampoon, and they really are on a roll—or um, maybe a tortilla. 

Despite their collaborative spirit, the pair apparently grasps that other, darker side of the performing arts. That would be called "competition for roles," and in this knowing, barbed little indie short, two actresses are pitted against one another in a manner that many actors in the biz will find familiar. 

One of these friends needs to fall—and fast—so the only question as they head for the inevitable collision is who will be upending whom. You can watch the trailer here: Manifest Trailer

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Night Sky

A Hollywood studio, big picture feel is evident throughout this grand in vision yet touching and introspective short from LA. Writer and Director Greg Rulfs, whose IMDB credits include visual effects, assistant directing and sci-fi, has created quite a calling card with Night Sky. The storytelling is excellent, and so is the VFX on the back of his experience, but this film also has that special "It Factor"—a highly relatable abundance of heart and wide wonder normally associated with the works of much more experienced filmmakers at the tops of their crafts. Steven Spielberg comes to mind; that is to say, Rulfs could be onto something. 

The story revolves around 9-year-old Sam Collins, a kid in deep retreat after losing his father. The boy has set up an imaginary spaceship in his bedroom—an homage to his father's promise to take him to the international space station someday—and there Sam plays, hoping for a miracle. 

That or sweet, sweet death. 

Just then a young voice crackles over his ham radio and the girl, named Marie, offers to pull him away from this make-believe world in a surprising and exciting way. Sam might still pursue his space station dream, after all, and he has a new person on Earth who can lead him there. 

You can watch the trailer here: Night Sky Trailer

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Subjects of Desire

This probing and thought-provoking documentary explores societal attitudes toward black women as manifested in standards of beauty. 

Canadian Writer/Producer/Director Jennifer Holness, whose filmography includes more than 20 years of film and television production, decided to shed light on this important topic after her daughters raised concerns about systemic bias against black women in the beauty space

As one would expect in a film about beauty, the aesthetic of this project is impressive, as is the impact. Holness provides her audience with a deeper understanding not only of what the culture is insinuating to black women on a daily and oppressive basis, but also why—and where these ideas started. Her narrative combines topical liveliness with an academic's appreciation for history, words and structure, a blend of elements that magnifies the power, discomfort and optimism of the film's message. Like the stunning women it portrays, Subjects of Desire has it all and that, after all, must be the point. 

You can watch the trailer here: Subjects of Desire Trailer

Thursday, April 22, 2021


is the pilot episode of a seven part anthology series that immerses its audiences in all colors of the rainbow. With this beautiful vision as a focal point, the show starts in a most opportune place, a sophisticated and modern art gallery. 

Creator, writer and director Sarah Deakins, a graduate of the University of Victoria Department of Theatre who was born in Wisconsin to British parents, brings a vibrant palette to her filmmaking craft. Her choices of lighting, color, and arrangement, and best of all, her intimate eye for the subtleties of acting, altogether lend warmth and spirit to a setting that is often felt as imposing and somber. Museums have the potential to evoke calmness, reflection and openness—a visit is a classic way to break the ice on a date—and Deakins brings this potential to full effect. Her international background begets a genuine appreciation for diversity, too, not just in character type but also in personality and tone. 

This is a fine work. Yellow captures a moment in time, with the infinite yet subtle profundities that can arise from something as simple as sharing a selfie or wheeling a baby past great works of art. There is no discernible story arc as the film flits from one vignette to another, but then when you stumble upon a rainbow, you may have reached the end the story already. So you move on to the next color, expectant. 

You can watch the trailer here: Yellow Trailer

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

My Sister Hali

Many years ago, when a gymnastics coach asked filmmaker Paul Sheriff whether he was related to a once-rising gymnastics star, the only word Paul could summon was no.  

Hali Sheriff's rocketlike career as a world-class gymnast began to escape Earth's orbit in 1966, as her dominance in all areas of the sport made her the frontrunner for the 1968 U.S. Olympic Women's Gymnastics Team. She was only 14 at the time: plucky, gifted and destined to make her mark, yet still devoid of the rich life experiences that surely would follow.   

Hali's story ended right there. Instead of claiming Olympic glory, she faded into history, largely forgotten by all except family, teammates and those who follow gymnastics. You see, Hali died in a plane crash in the early summer of 1966. All six passengers on the small plane perished, including her mother and father.

Her brother Paul Sheriff couldn't muster the word yes when asked about his relationship to Hali because he understandably found the subject too painful. And hadn't his sister's life ended with an epic no, too, so could there have been a more appropriate answer in a grand, cosmic sense? 

This documentary is a fine tribute to a young athlete who burned brightly, then disappeared into the stars, over 50 years ago. Hali tells her story here in absentia with the assistance of her brother Paul, who deserves special thanks for his everlasting devotion. You can watch the trailer here: 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Sincerely and Literally Yours

The feelings associated with emerging from self-isolation are nearly universal today, but one filmmaker has taken the realities of COVID quarantine to a level where we may not be looking—do we still love ourselves? Can a person who's been to the breaking point still say hey, I'm good, then look in the mirror and say "I love you?" 

This is not a common experience I would wager, but student filmmaker Kimberly Hauser has asked the question for everyone through this tender film of the heart. Imagine discovering a letter from your younger self that you'd written before your life changed radically, and you may understand where the unusual twist in this short is going. I can't think of a better way to reopen the New Hope Film Festival than with a film shot in self-isolation, yes, but with a central character who possesses such a strong will to keep living and growing.  

You can watch the trailer here: Sincerely and Literally Yours Trailer