Wednesday, October 26, 2016

For The Love of Film

Photography by Paparazzi Paul.

The 17th Annual Black Bear Film Festival (BBFF) began in Milford, PA on Friday October 14th with a Gala event called “Food, Wine, and Filmmakers.” The evening included opportunities to meet filmmakers, festival organizers, and others while partaking of the variety of foods made by the chefs of the area's eateries. The BBFF also presented their Teddy awards to the former BBFF Executive Director Jerry Beaver and to film critic Rex Reed during the Gala. The film titled, “Mommy's Box” directed by Johnny Greenlaw was shown that night as part of the opening celebration of the festival. The festival continued the following Saturday and Sunday with salons at The Pike County Public Library that presented films along with question and answer sessions with the filmmakers and screenings of films at The Milford Theater along with panel discussions and other events.

I arrived in Milford on Saturday October 15th to serve as a first time volunteer for The 17th Annual Black Bear Film Festival. I was immediately touched by the electricity of excitement of the festival that permeated throughout the town. My first stop was at an area known as the Sky Tent which was located outside the Milford Theater in order to get my volunteer tee shirt. A variety of trinkets and souvenirs relating to the festival were being prepared for visitors who would submerge themselves in all that was offered. I obtained my shirt and journeyed to The Pike County Public Library to help with the Salons and was greeted by my fellow volunteers into the fold once I entered the library., I began my cinematic adventures after completing the tasks I was assigned to by enjoying the first presentation of the day.

The Salon's Director, Karen Kelly, greeted the gathering and welcomed them to the event. She then proceeded to introduce the Salon was titled, “The Art of The Short Film.” The first film to be shown was titled, “When the Family Came to Dinner (2016)” which was an animated piece about a young man who finds himself in the nude at a family function. The film was written and directed by Ethan Cadoff. The next film was titled, Bacon and God’s Wrath (2015)” which was a documentary about a 90­-year-old Jewish woman who was preparing eat bacon for the first time in  her life. The film was directed by Sol Friedman. This was followed by the film titled, “Have You Seen Calvin? (2016)” which was comedy that blended 1950’s television shows like “Leave it to Beaver” and films like “Pulp Fiction” into something very bizarre and fun to watch. The film was written and directed by Andrew Lawton.

The next film in the Salon was titled, “Tokyo Story (2014)” which was a homage to Japanese film director Ozu Yasujiro 1953 film of the same name. It was shot in Black and White utilizing a “pinhole” effect which allows an infinite depth of field without the use of a lens. The film was directed and produced by Edward Levinson. This was followed by the film titled, “Elevation (2016)” which brought the art of dance to all of its beautiful manifestations. The film was directed by Brandon Bloch and produced by William Reue. The final film of the segment was titled, “Twinsburg (2016)” and was about twin brothers attending a weekend event for twins. The film was directed by Joe Garrity and produced by Kyle Parker. The screening of the films was followed by a question and answer session with individuals associated with some of the films. They were Ethan Cadoff of “When the Family Came to Dinner (2016),” Joshua Kaufman who appeared in “Have You Seen Calvin? (2016),” Leslie Lacika who represented the film “Tokyo Story (2014),” and William Reue of “Elevation (2016).” The session proved to be a very lively one that was as enjoyable as it was informative. There was an opportunity to chat with the individuals afterwards.

The next salon that followed was a presentation given by film John DiLeo titled, “The Hollywood Musical.” Mr. DiLeo is film critic and historian who has authored several books about classic movies and his insight into the films he presented enhanced the enjoyment of them. The clips he showed were from the films, “The Gay DivorcĂ©e (1934)” with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, “The Harvey Girls (1946)” with Judy Garland, “Summer Stock (1950)” with Gene Kelly, “Love Me Tonight (1932)” with Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald, “Silk Stockings (1957)” with Cyd Charisse, and The Pajama Game (1957)” with Doris Day. The films were made while the Hollywood Studio System was a dominant force in the film industry and the studio had the ability to create musicals in house without relying on theatrical musicals as their primary source of films in the genre. The screenings were followed by an opportunity to chat with Mr. DiLeo about the films and the movie industry in general.

The next Salon was titled, “Watch Local” which presented films created by local filmmakers from Pike and Wayne Counties, PA. The room filled to capacity as the excitement of viewing films created by the gathering's friends and neighbors approached a fever pitch. This crescendo of anticipation reached its pre viewing zenith as Ms. Kelly shared her welcoming and appreciative thoughts to the crowd before giving a brief introduction to the first film. The screenings were followed by a Question and Answer Sessions with the filmmakers along with opportunities to chat with the filmmakers.

Fragile Beauty (2016)” was directed by Alan Kaplan with Wendy Stuart Kaplan serving as the film's host and narrator. The documentary took place in the Omo Valley which is in Southern Ethiopia, Africa. In what began as an exploration in the fashion culture of the remote tribes that reside in the area, a more poignant narrative developed as the film revealed the challenges these tribes face when confronted by the modern world. The use of motion and still photography by Mr. Kaplan enhanced the visual depth of the film through this approach which allowed the audience to observe concepts they would otherwise remain unaware of. The sub-textual emotions of joy and sorrow found within the words of Ms. Kaplan added a soul to the film which allowed the audience to be touched by what they experienced while viewing the work. You can view a trailer from the film at and information about the film as well as screening it at

Shohola: Along the River (2014)” is a historical documentary which educated the audience on the founding and growth of the Shohola Township in Pike County, PA. The film was produced and directed by Dennis Lee. The natural beauty of the area was a prominent feature of the film and created a sense of nostalgia among the audience which even touched those who have never been to the area. The film also shared the history of the area including a civil war train crash which took place near The Rohman’s Inn (which is now called The Rohman’s Inn and Pub). A short film titled “The Escape from the Train Crash” recreating the escape and recapture of the confederate civil war soldiers was shown after the screening. You can Learn more about Mr. Lee by exploring his Website at and view a trailer from the film on The Black Bear Film Festival Video Page at

The next Salon was titled, “The Student Film Showcase” which presented films made by students enrolled in schools throughout the Milford, PA area and beyond. The talent of the students who created the pieces left a lasting impression upon those who were fortunate enough to experience the fruit of their endeavors. The abilities they demonstrated in their cinematography, story structure, and the performances they inspired from their actors were truly astounding and can be favorably compared to their adult counterparts. A brief introduction was given by Ms. Kelly for Lenore Fasula who then proceeded to introduce the films.

The first film shown was titled, “Goldilocks” and was made by Stephen Rochette of The Sussex County Technical School in Hamburg, NJ. This was followed by a film titled, “A Step Away” by Kerri McAneny, “Quality Time is Family Time” by Josh Sedora, and “Do Your Best” Walter Wilson who are all from the Wallenpaupack Area High School in Hawley, PA). These films were followed by “The Cheerio” by Tim Nagle of the Pope John High School in Sparta, NJ,
Strife” Robert Marciano of The Sussex County Community College in Newton, NJ, “Connect” by Christopher Erdman of The Union High School in Union, NJ, “Patience” by Sadie Price ­Elliot of The Sussex County Technical School in Newton, NJ, “Methods” by Madison Rambowski of The Sussex County Technical School, Hamburg, NJ, and “He Took the B Train” by Stephanie Okun of The Riverdale Country School in Bronx, NY. Awards were given to the students by Ms. Fasula and Monica Voekel prior to a question and answer session.

The final Black Bear Film Festival Salon for Saturday October 14th was titled, “Hip - Hop goes to the Animation Lab.” The films shown were created by Visual Artist Chris Rivers, Hip Hop Artist Domingo Padilla, and Animator Matt Cassero and were titled,­ “Kill at Will” and “Kill at Will the  Final Chapter” featuring Joell Ortiz, Token, and Big Daddy Kane, Chris Rivers, and Snow the Product. A short animated film from the Generation Next LP titled, “Run­Girl” that was produced by Domingo with Chris Rivers was also shown and featured Dyce Payne. A question and Answer Session with Domingo Padilla, executive producer Jay J. Lozada, and Matt Cassero followed the screenings.

A lot of love was shared in the conversations that transpired as the day at the Salons came to a close. It was at this point did I travel to The Milford Theater to help usher before and after each event I attended. Prior to arriving at the venue, the films Dear President Obama, The Clean Energy Revolution Is Now (2016)” directed by Jon Bowermaster who was scheduled to appear for Question and Answer Session, “Little Men (2016)” directed by Ira Sachs which premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and was shown at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival, “Vince Giordano - There’s a Future in the Past (2016)” directed by Dave Davidson and Amber Edwards, and “That Championship Season (1982)” directed by Jason Miller featuring a scheduled Question and Answer Session with the film's Executive producer Bob Levine.

I arrived at the Theater just as the segment titled, Inside Hollywood with Rex Reed” was just beginning. John DiLeo interviewed the renowned film critic who joyfully shared the adventures his esteemed position afforded to him along with the friends he made throughout the years. These friends included Raquel Welsh, Susan Hayward, and Bette Davis. The most amusing stories he shared were those relating to his involvement in the film, “Myra Breckinridge (1970)” which was based upon the 1968 novel written by Gore Vidal and was directed by Michael Sarne. The film is known for being one of the worst films ever made and therefore enjoys a cult following.

As the segment concluded, I helped my fellow ushers clean and prepare the Theater. I was then assigned to meet the audience as they entered the venue while making sure they had their tickets or placards which entitled them to enjoy the experiences the festival had to offer in the venue. It was after this did I find my seat to partake of the film titled, “Indignation (2016)” which was written, produced, and directed by James Schamus and based on Philip Roth's 2008 novel. The superbly made film featured the outstanding performances given by Logan Lerman, Sarah Gadon, Tracy Letts, Linda Emond, Danny Burstein, Ben Rosenfield, Pico Alexander, Philip Ettinger, and Noah Robbins. The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24th, 2016.

It was after this screening did I help in the cleaning and preparing the theatre for the next film which was the director's cut of “54 (1998).” The film is about the world-famous nightclub and discotheque known as Studio 54 that was owned by Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager in 1977. The venue was located at 254 West 54th St. in New York, NY and was originally built as the Gallo Opera House in 1927. Studio 54 was shut down following the conviction of the owners for tax evasion. It is now a Broadway theatre. The film was written and directed by Mark Christopher and featured Ryan Phillippe, Salma Hayek, Neve Campbell and Mike Myers. It received bad reviews when it was first released but, in 2015, 45 minutes of original material was restored as was its original story, characters, tone, and themes. This resulted in the film being received with a great deal of critical acclaim and has since been considered as a “lost gay classic.” The screening of the director's cut of “54 (1998)” was followed by a Question and Answer Session with Mark Christopher as moderated by John DiLeo.

Alas, I did not experience the screening of the film nor the Question and Answer Session that followed. Instead, I decided to return home in order to invigorate my energies so I could participate fully in the following day's festivities. Sleep finally came to me as the excitement of the day reeled through my senses. I awoke to a refreshed rejuvenation as I anticipated another wonderful day in the town of Milford, PA filled with Cinematic delights. I would not be disappointed.

I arrived at The Pike County Public Library for the final day of the 17th Annual Black Bear Film Festival on Sunday October 16th. After some welcoming words were given by the Salon Director, Karen Kelly, Lenore Fasula and Cess Weintraub introduced the first segment in the Salon Series which was titled, “Farmers' Markets: The Soul of Strong Communities” to the gathering. The film titled, “Haymarket: The Soul of the City (2015)” was shown and the director of the documentary, Justin H. Goodstein, was present for a Question and Answer Session after the screening. The film is about Boston’s Haymarket that has been selling a variety of fresh foods to people since the 1800s.

The next salon was titled, “So, You Want To Be In Pictures: The World of Film and TV Casting.” The segment began with the screening of the short film titled, “The Seven Men of Hanukkah” which was written by Sharon Cooper and directed by Daryl Lathon and is about a very bizarre audition. The film was followed by a lively panel discussion led by Jerry Weinstock with Ms. Cooper and Mr. Lathon along with Barbara McNamara of Barbara McNamara Casting. The discussion among the panel explored topics relating to the casting of individuals in film and television while answering questions from the audience.

The next Salon was titled, “The Birth of Conservation in America.” It featured the film titled, “America’s First Forest: Carl Schenck and the Asheville Experiment” which was produced by the Forest History Society in cooperation with Bonesteel Films. The film is about how Carl Schenck realized Frederick Law Olmsted’s vision of introducing forestry to  the US. James G. Lewis, PhD of the Forest History Society who also serves as the editor of “Forest History Today” shared his insights the film and the history of forestry with the audience. It was after this informative and interesting salon did I leave the library to assume my ushering duties at the Milford Theater.

However, there were two remaining Salons for the day that I did not experience. The first was titled, “A Change in the Climate” that featured the films, “And Then The Climate  Changed” which was directed by John Felix and produced by Elizabeth Haase and “Beyond Crisis” which was produced and directed by Kai Reimer­ Watts. The final Salon was titled, “Sugar Shake Down” which featured the film titled, “Sugar Blues (2014)” which is directed by Andrea Culková and is about how the sugar industry has been falsifying information about their product while most scientists agree that it leads to obesity and diabetes.

Upon arriving at The Milford Theater, I took an opportunity to explore the festival Sky Tent and all it's offerings. I met a lot of good people with whom I engaged in some wonderful conversations with. There were two documentaries that were shown before I came to the Theater. The first film was titled, What It Takes to Be Extraordinary” which is about a man who has dedicated his life to educate over 140 children throughout Nepal. A Question and Answer Session with Holley Chant, Tamara Chant, and the film's director, Toni Thompson, took place after the screening. The second film was titled, “Bill Cunningham New York” which focused on the work and life of New York fashion photographer Bill Cunningham. I helped prepare the theater for their next presentation before sitting down to enjoy it.

The presentation began as the festival's Executive Director, Will Voekel, took the stage to share his appreciation to the audience and those who helped make The 17th Annual Black Bear Film Festival a success. He then introduced the “Celebrating Women Filmmakers” segment to the gathering and invited Suzanne Braun Levine to introduce the film titled, “She’s Nobody’s Baby: A History of American Women in the 20th Century (1982)” of which she served as executive producer. The documentary was directed by Ana Carrigan and written by Susan Dworkin. The film was narrated by Marlo Thomas and Alan Alda and shared the accomplishments women achieved throughout U. S. history. The film was made before the backlash of the women's movement which began in the mid 1980s and continues to the present day. But, the film proved to rekindle the aspirations and dreams of women everywhere.

Mr. Voekel retook his place on stage after the screening of the film in order to invite author, Amy Ferris, to the stage. She proceeded to invite Ms. Levine and Ms. Dworkin to the stage in order to share their insights on the film and to answer questions from the audience. This was followed by a Panel Discussion on women in the film industry which was moderated by Carol Needleman. The panel consisted of actress/screenwriter Mandy Bruno, production designer Karen Gropman, costume designer Ingrid Price, and screenwriter/producer Judy White. The discussion proved to be an informative and entertaining one that inspired a number of questions from the audience.

At the conclusion of the Panel Discussion, Amy Eisenberg entered the stage to present the first Nancy Pitcher Award to its namesake. A meaningful and touching introduction of Ms. Pitcher regarding her contributions to the community was shared through Ms. Eisenberg's heartfelt words. It was then Ms. Pitcher entered the stage to receive the award and share her appreciative sentiments with the audience as well as all those involved in the festival. She also shared the insights she gained as a former Executive Director of the festival. It was after this did, Mr. Voekel return to the stage in order to select the winning ticket for the festival's 50/50 Raffle with the assistance of his friend. This was followed by the introduction of members of the cast and crew of the film titled, “Bear With Us (2016)” which was directed and written by William J. Stribling. The farcical comedy was filmed primarily in Dingmans Ferry, PA and is about a neurotic guy who attempts to propose to his girlfriend but his plan falls apart when a ravenous bear enters into it. The film was very funny and it proved to be a befitting way to conclude The 17th Annual Black Bear Film Festival.

The festival was an extremely enjoyable one that was filled with films, discussions, and conversations galore. Personally, my love for the art of film was enhanced by the experience and I look forward to attending next year. I hope to see you then. In the meantime, you'll find more photographs taken during The 17th Annual Black Bear Film Festival in The For The Love of Film Gallery at

The Black Bear Film Festival (BBFF) was established in 2000 and takes place over the third weekend of October. The 17th Annual Black Bear Film Festival was held from Friday October 14th to Sunday October 16th at The Milford, PA Theater and The Pike County Public Library. BBFF is a non-profit organization dedicated to presenting exceptional independent films to the public, hold various events to celebrate the art and craft of film making, and partner with schools to inspire students to become filmmakers and aficionados of film. BBFF is run by volunteers and is sustained by members, sponsors, advertisers, and donors.

The BBFF Board of Directors consist of Will Voekel (Executive Director), Amy Bridge and Amy Eisenberg (Co -Presidents), Valerie Brairton (Secretary), and Tim Smith (Treasurer) along with BBFF Board Members Lenore Fasula, Amy Ferris, Bob Keiber, Timothy Moreland, Carol Needleman, and Jerry Weinstock. The BBFF also has an Advisory Board whose members consist of Babara Buchanan, Tamara Chant, Ken Ferris, Brian Gorman, Alan Kaplan, Wendy Stuart Kaplan, Karen Kelly, Maryanne Monte, Matt Osterberg, Sean Stub, and David Wallace. Many of these individuals serve as members and/or chairs on several of the committees that help organize and maintain the festival.

In addition to presenting films and offering insights into the art form, BBFF invites artists to participate in their Artful Bear Project in which sculptures of bears in various garb are created, revealed to the public during an Artful Bears Community Picnic, placed in front of business and other location throughout the town of Milford, PA, and are sold during a Silent Auction that takes place during the festival. The highest bid received on the Sunday evening of this year's festival was for the 11 five-foot Artful Bear created by students at Dingman Delaware Middle School named, “The Golfing Bear” which was on display at Citizen's Bank.

If this wasn't enough, The Black Bear Film Festival offers workshops throughout the year to enhance the desire of filmmakers in their understanding of the art. Their next workshop is titled, “Script to Screen: Film Making for Young Adults” (Ages 14 - 18) led by Susan Barry, John M. White, and other members of The Saturday Afternoon Pictures’ Production Team on Saturday November 19th beginning at 1pm at The Pike County Public Library in Milford, PA. The BBFF invites the public to share their talents as volunteers for the festival. Their offices are located at 109 W. Catharine St in Milford, PA. Many positions are open and waiting for you to participate. You can learn more about The Black Bear Film Festival by exploring their Facebook Page at or their Website at

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