Documentary focused Black Bear Film Fest brings many realities to Milford

Milford. The festival showed documentaries this year, and many filmmakers accompanied their films, giving audiences insight into inspiration and production.

| 19 Oct 2022 | 07:51

Max Brinson, president of Black Bear Film Festival board of directors, noted what distinguished this year’s event: “We had more filmmakers, directors, and producers than we ever had before,” he said.

They gave the festival offerings a seriousness of purpose, intimacy and appeal for their audiences.

“Sessions where the director showed up were packed,” Veronica Coyne, BBFF’s executive director said. “In fact, we made a special effort to reach out to these filmmakers and many of them were at the Gala, so people could interact with them. It’s not just about watching a movie.”

Ron MacCloskey, the executive producer of “Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster,” delighted audiences with revelations about how he became friends with Sara Karloff, Boris Karloff’s daughter, and told other anecdotes about making the film. MacCloskey had a post-film interview with John DiLeo. This session was sold out.

“The Automat,” a documentary about the iconic Horn & Hardart restaurant. which was shown at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday night, was packed. When asked why this was, since this film was on Netflix and people could just stay home and watch it in their pajamas, Coyne suggested that it was because Lisa Hurwitz, the film’s director, did a Q&A with the audience. “It’s that feeling of being immersed in the filmmaker’s vision,” Coyne said. Hurwitz explained what inspired her to make this film and how she went about doing it.

“Meraki,” an Egyptian film shown in one of the salons, is a docudrama about the journey to a peaceful world where you can achieve all your dreams with the help of Meraki (passion and hope). Its director, Basma Ahmed Mostafa, came all the way from Egypt to be at the screening.

Several prominent people from the world of film and elsewhere attended the gala. Barbara McNamara, the casting director for “The Devil Wears Prada,” partook of the food and music. Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security, under President George W. Bush was one of the political luminaries. He currently is a consultant for various non-profit boards. In answer to a question about what he would do if he were Homeland Security Secretary now, he smiled. “I’m doing my best to deal with misinformation, and to help make sure we preserve our Constitution and our values,” he replied.

The Friday night gala at St. Patrick’s Hall was in full swing with music provided by “The Mostly Jazz Trio” with vocalist Yvonne Michel and a special appearance by singer Ronny Whyte. People danced, hobnobbed and ate the lavish dinner catered by local chef Doug Cosh. This celebration of post-Covid comradery was palpable.

This weekend of film was more like a special world of “film camp,” where film created a community hub. In addition to the main stage films, [See sidebar of main stage films] the approximately 40 films at the salons represented various categories: environmental films, documentaries, student films, foreign films, and short films.

Awards ceremony on Sunday

The Best Main Stage Film was awarded to “No Perfect Walk,” about two friends who drop everything and sell all their belongings to go on a journey which would change their lives forever.

“Broke(n)” won the Regional Spotlight Award for its depiction of a world in Allentown, PA, where every day Americans face the challenge of stagnant wages, increasing inflation, and unpredictable government aid.

“ By Way of Water,” featuring two runaways as they navigate the world and face an uncertain future, took the award for Best Short Film.

Best Documentary Short went to “Astor Place, The American Dream” about people coming together from all over New York City, as they fight to keep Astor Place Hairstylists, a 75-year-old landmark, in business.

Best Student Film was awarded to “The Ben I Am,” a nine-minute film about a young filmmaker who has an identity crisis when he comes across 36 students who share his name.

The Young Filmmaker Award was given to “Call Now,” a comedy about a young man struggling to get a phone number of an unusual shopping channel program hosted by a quirky salesman.

This is the first year the BBFF gave out awards and they plan to do it again, next year. The idea is to motivate people to become involved in film, whether as an independent filmmaker, director, producer, or enchanted observer.

Main Stage films:
A Feud in the Kentucky Hills–silent film with musical soundtrack by Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s keyboardist Jane Mangini
· Boris Karloff, the Man Behind the Monster
The life of the filmmaker of Frankenstein
· Omar Sosa’s 88 Well-Tuned Drums
The life of Cuban born pianist, composer, and Grammy nominee
· Mama Bears
Devout Christian mothers whose profound love for their LGBTQ children turned them into fierce advocates for the LGBTQ community
· Why We Walk
The journey of three black men united to de-stigmatize communities of color and their participation in the great outdoors
· No Perfect Walk
Journey of two friends who leave everything behind and set out on a journey that changes their lives forever
· Parsley
Forsaken in the Dominican Wilderness, an expectant Haitian mother desperately seeks shelter during the Parsley Massacre of 1937
· The Automat
A film about the iconic Horn& Hardart restaurant in New York City narrated by Mel Brooks
· Lucky Doug
A cat salesman decides to be a millionaire
· Broke(n)
Challenges of every-day Americans in a world of stagnant wages, increasing inflation, and unpredictable government aid
We made a special effort to reach out to these filmmakers, and many of them were at the Gala, so people could interact with them. It’s not just about watching a movie. -Veronica Coyne, BBFF executive director