A CINEMATIC WEEKEND TO REMEMBER by Heidi Dougherty
It was a privilege to attend the Northeast Film Festival on September 13-15,
nestled in the quaint downtown of beautiful Maplewood, NJ. The high level of
quality among the films was astounding. Although this was the festival’s debut,
it had the feel of a festival in its 7th or 8th year. There was nothing sub-par
about it. As numerous filmmakers present told me, it was the best first-year
festival they have ever seen, and one of the best festivals they have ever been
Filmmakers and attendees alike commented on how welcomed they felt, like they were part of a close-knit community. At the door to greet guests was Festival Director Larry Rosen himself, and he and Co-Director Tamara Thealander viewed most of the screenings in the audience, making themselves readily available and easily approachable to guests, actors, and filmmakers.
From the films viewed, I was most impressed with Imagine and Broken Blood. Marked by a stellar performance by lead actor Scott Wolf (Party of Five), Imagine is a short film about a couple’s struggle to make peace with losing their daughter after a drowning accident and water’s potentially healing and enchanted role in the process. The film hosts an ensemble of talented actors and recognizable faces, including Tom Amandes (Everwood). Imagine is a powerful and highly entertaining film that examines human nature and its capacity to forgive and move on. Both Scott Wolf and co-star Melissa Deppe were nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress in a short. The film was also nominated for Best Short Film.
Broken Blood is a suspenseful full-length feature film about an unsure movie star who comes home to face the demons created by his family that have left his brother in an asylum after being accused of a murder. The film is well-crafted and developed, especially for such a young director like Derek Wayne Johnson. Equally impressive as the story and film themselves, is the fact that director Johnson also plays both twin brothers, alike in nothing but their bond through the family and hometown.
As a filmgoer, it was exciting to meet Johnson at the screening. He even took the time to have an extended conversation with me after the Q&A ended. Johnson, who said he completed the film in less than one short year, takes influence by actors such as Billy Bob Thornton and movies like Sling Blade and Garden State. He rightfully won Best Actor in a feature. The film was also nominated for Best Director (Derek Wayne Johnson), Best Supporting Actor (Pruitt Taylor Vince), and Best Screenplay (Derek Wayne Johnson and Richmond Arquette).
The Northeast Film Festival proved to be a stellar experience for filmgoers like myself, having a welcoming yet at the same time prestigious feel. Having the opportunity to interact with the cast and creators of great film was unparalleled. At the end of each evening, Larry Rosen followed the Q&A sessions by inviting everyone in attendance to come to their after party, where they could attend free of charge, getting to mingle with the directors, actors, and other guests.
The only thing better than going to the movies is going to the movies all weekend long! With many commenting that they see this festival growing to be the next Telluride or Tribeca Film Festival, this festival proved to be the fun, dynamic affair it was rumored to be.