AND THE WINNERS ARE… by Marina Goddard
Having attended the Northeast Film Festival, I was captivated and enthralled by
a plethora of amazing films. I have covered multiple festivals before, sometimes
as press, sometimes as a patron, but this time I felt like part of the festival
The Northeast Film Festival (NEFF), called the Maplewood Theater it’s home for its inaugural year. The town has a small town charm and the festival has an open arms warmth. The Festival Director and staff greeted all festival goers and made them feel welcomed. Celebrities lines the red carpet and patrons were able to take photos with them. Each film was followed by a Q&A session by filmmakers and actors of the films. Following the last screening of the night, Festival Director Larry Rosen would follow the Q&A by inviting all attendees to come to the after party for free food and beverages, where they could mingle with the directors and actors.
Many filmmakers and attendees comments how this was the best first year festival and one of the best film festival they have ever attended. Some said they can see this festival becoming New Jersey’s Tribeca Film Festival.
Most of the films had filmmakers and actors present, so it was great to get to meet the creative people behind the films. Unlike some other festivals, where you are limited in your interactions with these creative people, NEFF allowed everyone to interact. A few of the films that most stand out in my mind, which also had a large number of cast members with them, include: the opening night feature, Surviving Family, winner of 6 awards including Best Feature Film and nominated for 10; and Maniac, winner of 3 awards including Best Short Film.
Surviving Family, Written and Produced by Mara Lesemann, revolves around Terry Malone (Sarah Wilson), a smart and beautiful woman about to get married, who comes home to her dysfunctional family, that has a history of alcoholism, mental illness, and suicide. The film has won over 20 awards on the festival circuit, NEFF being the last festival the film is in, before getting distribution through Redbox and other outlets. On Awards Night, Surviving Family had 10 nominations, and won: Best Feature, Best Director, Best Actress (Sarah Wilson), Best Supporting Actor (Vincent Pastore), Best Screenplay, and Tara Westwood won Breakout Performance.
Maniac, Directed and Produced by Sam Borowski revolves around The Man (Bill Sorvino) and his decent as he is pushed over the edge by the loss of his family. The film had an obvious homage to Taxi Driver, with Bill Sorvino having a similar familiarity in talent to Robert DeNiro. The film also starred Joe D’Onofrio (Goodfellas), and David Harris (Cochise from The Warriors). The film was well directed by Borowski and had a number of magnificent performances. Most unsettling about the film though, is how Sorvino’s performance made the audience actually understand and empathize for him, despite having killed people. He has a monologue that is so powerful, you agree and almost condone his actions. It is clear he is going to be a rising star in Hollywood. Sorvino won Best Actor in a Short, the film won Best Short Film, and director Sam Borowski won Best Director of a Short. Sorvino, Harris, and Borowski were all at the festival, along with other members of the cast, including Maria Rusolo, who won Best Actress for "Ma in Her Kerchief."
During the Awards Ceremony, David Harris was given the Lifetime Achievement Award, where he made a heartfelt speech accepting. After the ceremony, he went to the lobby, so film goers and attendees could take pictures with him.
A weekend of independent films, rising stars and a rising festival. Not much could compare. While studios are spending millions and millions of dollars to make explosions and sequels to remakes of remakes; Maplewood and the Northeast Film Festival are creating a truly amazing film going experience. The thing most often said at the end of the festival, including from me, was, “I can’t wait until next year.”