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New Hope Film Festival showcases films from across the globe

by June Portnoy

The Eighth Annual New Hope Film Festival, held July 21st through July 30th, had a record turnout opening weekend, along with a record turnout of filmmakers.

From over 500 film submissions, the judges selected 104 films from 16 countries and 32 scripts. Many of these films were US and world premieres.

The festival screened films from the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, the Philippines, Malawi and Iceland for the first time. In addition, a Hollywood presence could be felt, including but not limited to documentaries produced by Sharon Stone and Keely and Pierce Brosnan.

For the first time, this year all films were showcased at the New Hope Arts Center, located at 2 Stockton Avenue in New Hope. In previous years, films were presented at various venues. All new audio-visual equipment enhanced this experience.

This year also marked the first year that the festival held a Script Reading Event, enabling 11 participating screenwriters to hear their own words read aloud by select Philadelphia-area actors.

As always, what made this festival so unique is that its artistic standards are extremely high and that neither budget nor name recognition is a determining factor of what films are selected.

Simply put, the best films are the ones that are chosen. Filmmakers from around the country and abroad attended this event, as well as filmmakers from as close as Bucks County.

Local filmmaker Marty Krzywonos is a Neshaminy High School alumnus who has lived in Levittown for most his life. Marty directed “Mazurkas,” nominated in the Art House Feature category.

Marty described this film as a love story about an elderly piano teacher who lost his wife 45 years ago. His wife had been one of his students.

While playing one of his songs, he proposed to her. This man never went through a grieving process and after his wife died, his life fell apart. Plus, he can no longer remember how to play the song his wife had played during his marriage proposal.

In addition to writing and directing “Mazurkas,” Marty also composed all the music within the film. Most of “Mazurkas” was filmed in Bucks County, included shots along the Delaware River, inside the Radcliffe Café in Bristol, the Neshaminy United Methodist Church in Hulmeville and at Marty’s Levittown home.

Another film with a local connection was “In Good Faith,” directed by Casey Hempel, a New Hope native.

Casey graduated from Central Bucks High School East in Doylestown. She also attended Middle Bucks Institute of Technology (MBIT) in Jamison where she earned an Excellence in Achievement Award while enrolled in the school’s multimedia technology program.

Casey later graduated from the New York Film Academy Los Angeles Campus.

“In Good Faith” a 14-minute comedy, was nominated for the Best Short Film. This film explores what can happen when a Muslim boy wants to marry a Catholic girl.

Although the bride-to-be’s mother is ecstatic with excitement, the boy’s parents, having lived most of their lives in the old country, are far from optimistic about this union.

Casey now lives in Los Angeles where she works for Warner Brothers. Unable to come in for the film festival, Casey’s mother and step-father, Mary and Mark Silidker, both still New Hope residents, attended on her behalf.

Mary, who helped her daughter during the filming in Los Angeles, said, “This film shows that being different doesn’t mean we can’t form meaningful relationships. I’m very pleased that a secular film festival like this one nominated and showcased ‘In Good Faith.’”

In stark contrast to Casey and Marty, both born in Bucks County, was Judy Naidoo, a South African filmmaker who traveled the longest distance to attend this year’s film festival.

Her film, “Hatchet Hour,” is about an ambitious lawyer who kills her gardener by mistake. Fearing the impact this will have on her career at a prestigious law firm, she turns to her best friend to help her get rid of the body, setting in motion a destructive chain of events that spiral out of control.

This film won the Danny Award for Best Picture and Best Director Award.

Judy said, “It took me 30 hours to get here, but it was worth it.” Holding up her award, she added, “This is great motivation.”

New Hope Film Festival Executive Director Doug Whipple, said, “It’s an honor to have people traveling from such great distances to our film festival. As a result, people from across the globe are discovering New Hope as a destination to visit.”

For more information about this annual event, visit www.newhopefilmfestival.com.

PHOTO CAPS: 1. Mark and Mary Silidker, parents of Best Short Film nominee Casey Hempel.

  1. Judy Naidoo (right), who won the Danny Award for Best Picture and Best Director, with New Hope Mayor Larry Keller.