Black Bear Film Festival is all about the story

Milford. Line-up offers movies, documentaries, and shorts that tell stories that range widely in the human (and dog) experience. Go deeper: filmmakers will talk about their work after some of the screenings, and salon events delve into topics of pressing concern. It all begins with Friday's gala opening night.

16 Oct 2019 | 11:23

Milford's Black Bear Film Festival, happening this weekend, is celebrating its 20th year, screening films and documentaries that bring the art of film making to life through workshops and live Q&As with industry professionals.

The opening night film, "Sword of Trust" (2019) stars Marc Maron and begins at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 18, at the Milford Theatre, 114 East Catherine Street.

In the film, a cantankerous pawnshop owner (Marc Maron) and his man-child employee team up with an out-of-town couple who are trying to hawk a Civil War-era sword inherited from a recently deceased grandfather. The sword comes with a convoluted report claiming the relic is proof that the South won the war. It isn't long before the item draws the attention of enthusiastic conspiracy theorists who are anxious to get their hands on the coveted sword.

The opening night gala, "A Night Under The Stars," follows the film at Historic Forest Hall, 214 Broad Street. Enjoy cocktails, dining, and dancing with the Mostly Jazz Trio.

Events continue throughout the weekend, with mainstage screenings at the Milford Theatre and salon events at the Good Shepherd Church, 110 West Catharine Street. The schedule is as follows:


"Biggest Little Farm" (2018) at 10 a.m chronicles the eight-year quest of John and Molly Chester as they trade city living for 200 acres of barren farmland and a dream to harvest in harmony with nature. Featuring breathtaking cinematography, captivating animals, and an urgent message to heed Mother Nature’s call, the film offers a blueprint for better living and a healthier planet.

"To Dust" (2018) at 11:45 a.m. tells the story of a Hasidic cantor (Géza Röhrig) in upstate New York, distraught by the untimely death of his wife. He befriends a local community college biology professor (Matthew Broderick), and the two embark on an increasingly literal undertaking into the underworld.

"Living Treasures of the Yucatan" at 1:45 p.m. is about the Henequen plant, which made Yucatan one of the wealthiest places on the planet from the mid-1800s to the early part of the 20th century. Now, over a century later, it is slowly making a comeback. Hacienda owner Don Alejandro Aguilar Ortega's thousand-plus acres make him one of the largest producers. Moises Poot founded a company that designs and makes shoes, bags, and other items from Henequen fiber. Throughout Yucatan there are thousands of practicing Catholics, many of whom have small altars in their homes presided over by religious statuary of Jesus or various Saints. These images are reproduced in mass by various means, or in some cases as singular works by artists like Erik Cortez. The film follows one of them, Roberto Guillen, as he makes his daily rounds. A Q&A with local filmmaker Bill Rosado follows the screening.

"Profondo" (2019) at 3:30 p.m. tells the story of Leonardo, a 50-year-old photojournalist. A very reserved man, timid towards his neighbor and now disillusioned with life because of a series of hard failures that have profoundly marked him irreversibly. Moved by very intimate reasons, Leonardo seeks personal redemption. Leonardo wants to realize one last and very important service, the most important of his career and his existence. Arriving in a small seaside village populated almost exclusively by fishermen, Leonardo goes in search of the "Diavolo Rosso" (Red Devil), a legendary marine animal that has inspired local folklore for many years. The animal, real or not, becomes a real obsession for the man as well as the last possibility of redemption towards a life that has never been lived until the end.

"Profondo" is being shown with the comedy "The Performance: Sex Like Birth," a film by Kiersten Miller. This short film highlights "how atmosphere, attitudes and interventions can influence birth by comparing it to sex." A Q&A with Miller follows the film.

"Jay Myself" (2018) at 6 p.m. documents the monumental move of renowned photographer and artist, Jay Maisel, who, in February 2015, after 48 years, begrudgingly sold his home: the 35,000 square-foot, 100-year-old landmark building in Manhattan known simply as “The Bank.” Through the intimate lens of filmmaker and Jay’s protégé, noted artist and photographer Stephen Wilkes, the viewer is taken on a remarkable journey through Jay’s life as an artist, mentor, and man; a man grappling with time, life, change, and the end of an era in New York City.

"Dark Harbor" (2019) at 8 a thriller about Olivia, a pregnant woman approaching her due date, returns to Maine for the funeral of her father, but while she's there her father's well kept secrets come after her. A Q&A follows with filmmaker Joe Raffa and Edwin Stevens


"Dog Doc" (2019) at 10 a.m. is about a maverick veterinarian, Dr. Marty Goldstein, and his dedicated team of doctors create a mecca for pets and their owners looking for hope and a last chance for animal healing. A Q&A follows with director Cindy Meehl.

"Woman at War" (2018) at 12:20 p.m. tells the story of Halla, a 50-year-old environmental activist who crusades against the local aluminum industry in Iceland. As her actions grow bolder, her life changes in the blink of an eye when she is finally granted permission to adopt a girl from the Ukraine.

"The Ghost Fleet" (2018) at 2:15 p.m. follows a small group of activists who risk their lives on remote Indonesian islands to find justice and freedom for the enslaved fishermen who feed the world’s insatiable appetite for seafood. Bangkok-based Patima Tungpuchayakul, a Thai abolitionist, has committed her life to helping these “lost” men return home. Facing illness, death threats, corruption, and complacency, Patima’s fearless determination for justice inspires her nation and the world. A Q&A follows with producer Jon Bowermaster.

Four shorts by Christopher King at 4:30 p.m. includes: “Back to Normal," about three veterans dealing with PTSD working with horses to get back to a sense of normalcy. It was filmed at the GAIT Therapeutic Riding Center in Milford and other locations in the region. “Flour & Water: A Baker’s Peace" is about three bakers – a Christian, a Jew, and a Muslim – who unite to bake bread as a symbol of peace. It was filmed in Israel and Southern France. “Dave-the-Potter: Letting Go and Moving On” is about an artisan in northeastern Pennsylvania who shifts his focus from pottery to paddling in a bid to widen his life’s horizon. “The Joy of Faith” is about a Buddhist monk who reflects on the nature of faith. It was filmed at the Kadampa Meditation Center in Glen Spey, N.Y. A Q&A follows with filmmaker Christopher King.

"Echo in the Canyon" at 5:45 p.m. celebrates the explosion of popular music that came out of LA’s Laurel Canyon in the mid-60s as folk went electric and The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield and The Mamas and the Papas gave birth to the California Sound. It was a moment (1965 to 1967) when bands came to LA to emulate The Beatles and Laurel Canyon emerged as a hotbed of creativity and collaboration for a new generation of musicians who would soon put an indelible stamp on the history of American popular music. A panel discussion by local musicians to follow.

"Non-fiction" (2018) at 7:40 p.m. is the story of Alain, who runs a famous publishing house that publishes novels by his friend Léonard, a bohemian writer. Alain's wife, Selena, is the star of a popular TV series, and Léonard's companion, Valérie, is the devoted assistant of a political figure. Although they are longtime friends, Alain is about to turn down Léonard's new manuscript, complicating the relationship between the two couples.


Individual tickets are $10. The opening night gala and film costs $90. Gold passes are $165 and include the opening night events plus access to all films. The $75 weekend pass gains entry to all films.

For more information or tickets, visit

Salon events
10-11:15 Experimental film selections: "My First Year on Youtube...Who I Am!" (the road to becoming a successful content creator); "The Quickening: Composer Marliana Donato" (a musical glimpse into the magical portal between artist and muse); "Crazy, Man" (Dr. Joe Ferry's experimental video project'); "Storm: Matt King" (vignette set to the evocative music of Matthew Gerard King.Avant Gardener).
11:30-12: "The Neighbor's Window" (the mother of young children has grown frustrated with her daily routine and husband).
12-12:30 Animation film selections: "Static" (young local filmmaker Dalton Hines makes his debut); "Family Tale" (Love story that leads to the creation of a family); "In the House of Paper Flowers" (woman with white hair, two cats and a tiny wolf songstress learns a valuable lesson about the enduring power of love).
12:40-1:40 "Dingmans Ferry Americana" (a look back with local filmmaker Dennis Lee)
1:50-3:00 "The Best of John DiLeo" (author/critic/historian John DiLeo creates a medley of audience-favorite film clips showcasing Hollywood’s Golden Age with a cast of legends)
3-4:45 Social issues film selections: ""The Tragic Irony of Meleanie Hain" (documentary about a mother of three who became a voice of the gun-rights movement); "Found in Korea" (adoptee travels back to Korea for the first time in 35 years in search of her birth parents).
5-7:20 Comedy film selections: "Once Twice a Day" (doctor discovers that there's something terribly wrong with his patient); "Age of Bryce" (12-year-old is pushed to the brink of pubescent revolution); "Rumspring Awakening"(a short film opera); "Stuck" (nurse who finds herself in trouble with the law)
11:30-1:20 Environmental issues: "A Living River" (efforts to restore the life and the ecosystem in the Hudson River) "Won't Pipe Down" (battle between the residents of Nelson County, Virginia and the Dominion Power company); "The River Raisin Legacy Project" (details the extensive remediation cleanup work, habitat restoration and recreational enhancements in the River Raisin) ; "Bee Dance" (addresses the global honeybee decline.
1:30-2:15 "Sugarland" (motherhood, music, and melancholia); "The Tides that Bind" Clint Buffington has found over 90 messages in bottles and tracks down many of the senders).
2:30-4 Social issues: "Mass Incarceration in the U.S." (explaining what's wrong with mass incarceration in under 4 minutes); "Daddy Can You Dance?" (Parkinson's patient discovers swing dancing); "Sheltering Love" (tenacious daughter becomes a caregiver to her mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease); "Rainbow Ending" (tribute to the Triversity Center for Gender Equality).
4:15-5:15 "Pioneers in Skirts" (examination of gender parity in the workplace from the perspective of a female filmmaker)
5:30-7:15 October is Domestic Abuse Awareness Month, a Safe Haven and VIP-sponsored event: "Shelter" (two young girls are left on their own far from home while their mother tries to break ties with her abusive boyfriend); "I Am Evidence" (examines the fact that thousands of rape kits in the United States go untested each year)