This past July I was happy to take part in the New Hope Film Festival in New Hope, Pennsylvania. This is the first official film festival that Sick in Africa, episode 1 has been screened at. The little backstory to this that makes it just a tad more interesting is that New Hope is a cute old artsy town whose streets I used to roam back in high school. I graduated from high school in Newtown, just down the road from New Hope.
The film festival (website here) says this about their festival:
The festival’s core mission is to discover and nurture independent filmmakers, many of whom are seeking world and U.S. debuts and remain overlooked and/or underappreciated by other forums. This broad and inclusive group includes filmmakers from outside the United States. With the exception of special events, this film festival is a competition with strict rules: festival organizers do not invite films into the festival, offer fee waivers, allow personal pitches from filmmakers, distributors and/or their agents, or sanction any other practices they consider preferential treatment. All films are treated equally in the process, which begins by submitting through Withoutabox.com.
Sick in Africa was slated to play in the “Social Conscience Documentaries” category on Friday night, July 21st at 8PM. If this were Portland where documentaries are a thing and where Friday night is just as good a night as any to watch stories about sick guys in Africa, a Holocaust survivor who tells his tale, young prostitutes taken advantage of in California or the poisoning of Hawaii at the hands of big chemical companies, we may have been ok. But this was a warm summer evening in southeastern PA and viewers were few. Very few. On the one side we had my dad, two of his sisters and a brother-in-law who all got too cold in the freezing air conditioning to stick around until the very end where there would be Q-n-A with the filmmaker (I was the only one who managed to have someone there associated with the film being shown). On the other side we had a few volunteers and the festival organizer’s faithful mother. It was a pleasure talking with them after the film, but the evening was a reality check to the glitz and glamour one might expect of a film festival. Duly noted. Move on.
My plan for the rest of the week (my film played on opening night) was to visit friends and family including my parents, cousins and my older brother Ken. I then planned to return to the festival after being up in the Poconos for a while so I could hit up the “Evening Thriller Show” on Friday night, the 29th. But before then I’d wander the streets of New Hope for old times sake, trying desperately to remember fleeting moments of a past life in PA in which I was still in high school and had no idea where my life would take me.
My film was nominated for “Best Short Documentary” with the likes of I’m Free, An Undeniable Voice and Surviving International Boulevard (Sian Gowan, USA – winner in this category). I knew my $2,000 budget for the entire series wasn’t likely to win against films with much bigger budgets, harder topics and Hollywood names (Sharon Stone, Pierce Brosnan). It was a pleasure to be a part of all of it regardless.
One of the highlights for me was meeting Judy Naidoo of Ladybug Films who was in attendance representing Hatchet Hour, an offbeat comedy/thriller about an accidental killing and coverup in Johannesburg. I love South Africans and we had a good time hanging out with other filmmakers after her film played. We reconnected again after the awards ceremony where she went back to South Africa with two awards: Best Picture and Best Director. It was well deserved as her film is excellent!