Spotlight on 'Dark Harbor,' the Saturday night thriller at the Black Bear Film Festival

Milford. Filmmakers Joe Raffa and Edwin Stevens have a bond forged in grief, with their first collaboration telling the real story of Stevens' sister’s murder. Their thriller, to be shown on the main stage at Black Bear, is the fictional tale of a young woman unraveled by a dark family secret.

Oct 01 2019 | 08:21 PM

One of the many outstanding films of the upcoming Black Bear Film Festival in Milford (Oct 18-20) is the thriller “Dark Harbor.” It is the story of a young woman, Olivia, who is nine months pregnant and whose life is in turmoil. She must return to her childhood home -- an island off the coast of Maine -- to face her narcissistic mother and attend her father’s funeral. The setting seems like the edge of the world to her.

She uncovers a dark family secret that undoes the foundations of her life. The deeper Olivia searches for answers, the more life-threatening the situation becomes, putting her and her unborn child in grave danger.

The film is produced by Edwin Stevens, cinematographer, editor, and owner of the independent film company, APS films. Joe Raffa, the writer/director of the film, describes it as one that “tests the limits we are willing to go for forgiveness, redemption, and the truth."

"As the director,” he said, “I hope ‘Dark Harbor’ forces us to answer the questions we are otherwise afraid to ask ourselves. Can we let go of resentment and forgive a loved one who has betrayed us? How can we fix the suffering a loved one has caused? You will find yourself gripping your armrest and holding your breath as you watch this haunting and tense journey.”

Raffa started his career as an actor, but feels that it is necessary to be able to create one’s own content in order to create opportunities. His role as writer/director is very important to him. He and Stevens have known each other for four years and have collaborated on many films. They had instant chemistry when they first met, and it continues today.

“He inspires me to make more and better films, and I hope I help him to do the same," Stevens said of their partnership. "I have been his director of photography and his primary producer ever since we met, and he is my ‘go-to’ director."

Independence fosters creativity

Raffa and Stevens worked on a web series called “Spades” (available on Amazon Prime) and also a film called “Hunting Lands.” Raffa traveled across the country with Stevens to bring the documentary “Alice Is Still Dead” to life. Working with Stevens to tell the real story of Stevens' sister’s murder and the effects of his enormous grief strengthened the bond between the two men and Raffa’s connection with APS films.

The company’s name is a tribute to Stevens' younger sister, Alice Pendleton Stevens, who was senselessly murdered about six years ago. Stevens decided to use her death as an inspiration and live as many days to the fullest “because any second could be our last without rhyme or reason.”

Alice’s death made him want to create an independent film company and make films that he wants to make, rather than just working on other people’s projects. It is very freeing. “Alice is Still Dead” will premiere at DOC LA (Los Angeles Documentary Film Festival) in October.

APS films is also now working on its first comedy feature, “Film Fest,” and it looks like they are fulfilling Edwin’s creative dreams. As for “Dark Harbor,” it will be shown on the main stage at the Black Bear Festival at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19, at the Milford Theatre, 114 East Catherine Street. There will be a Q&A afterward with Joe Raffa. For more information about the film festival, visit blackbearfilm.com.

Essential information:
What: "Dark Harbor"
When: 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19
Where: Milford Theatre, 114 East Catherine St., Milford
How much: $10
Weekend Pass: $75, includes all main stage showings
Gold Pass: $165, includes opening night film with gala reception and all main stage showings
Information: 570-832-4858 or BlackBearFF@gmail.com
"I hope ‘Dark Harbor’ forces us to answer the questions we are otherwise afraid to ask ourselves. Can we let go of resentment and forgive a loved one who has betrayed us? How can we fix the suffering a loved one has caused?" -- Joe Raffa