The projectors will roll once again for the Northeast Pennsylvania Film Festival.
After having to scuttle its 2020 edition, the festival returns this weekend with film screenings that range from documentaries and comedies to locally made projects.
“It feels great that we can do it,” said Maria Wilson, executive director of Waverly Community House, which runs the event. “The film festival has been kind of sitting on the shelf since last March.”
The festival was one of the earliest casualties of the pandemic, which shut down the state just days before the 2020 edition was set to go on. The only part of the festival that continued was the Mystery Box Challenge, which organizers presented online instead.
This year, though, they hoped to offer the festival in-person rather than virtually.
“We thought April was a good time, (that) things might be open just enough,” Wilson said. “And that instinct proved to be true.”
This year’s festival — which takes place Saturday, April 17, and Sunday, April 18, at the Ritz Theater building, 222 Wyoming Ave., Scranton — will include the films intended for last year, along with one additional short film. The only event that won’t take place this year is the traditional Friday night kickoff.
On Saturday, screenings begin with the comedy feature film “Ape Canyon” at noon, followed by several short films at 1:45 p.m. and the drama feature film “Playing with Beethoven” at 3.
The festival held a new Mystery Box Challenge this year, which resulted in 12 short films. In the challenge, filmmakers received a “mystery box” full of items or elements they had to use to create film in a choice of three genres. These requirements could include a character name, line of dialogue, prop, type of location, plot element or wardrobe item. The filmmakers also had to use a specific shot and include product placement of a Pennsylvania item.
The Mystery Box Challenge program runs Saturday from 6 to 8:30, with seating opening at 5:30. The audience will see the films “Bailey’s Invitation,” “Ghost Jumper,” “The Pitch,” “The Last Escape,” “The Good Times,” “Dog Fight,” “Ambivalence,” “Johann: A Retrospective,” “Tenth Dimension,” “Movie Marathon,” “In the Night” and “The Will.” The program also will include question-and-answer sessions with the filmmakers and award presentations.
On Sunday, the festival will show the international short films “The Quiet,” “Coffin Decolette” and “iRony” starting at noon. From 12:45 to 3:15 p.m., audiences can catch the documentaries “Made in America,” “Mark Jury” and “Hanson’s Park.”
Directed by local filmmaker John Mikulak, “Mark Jury” focuses on a Vietnam War veteran, photojournalist and filmmaker battling post-traumatic stress disorder and the treatment he receives. Mikulak will hold a 10-minute question-and-answer session after the screening.
“Hanson’s Park” also has local ties. Director Thomas Novotney Jr. crafted this film about the former Hanson’s Amusement Park in Harveys Lake and the entertainment, food and activities it offered.
The festival will then wrap up with the screening of three other local films — “Charlie Chaplin’s Body” (for mature audiences) by Jeff Boam, “The Back Breakers” by Alexander Monelli and “Sing to Me” by Luz Cabrales — from 3:30 to 4:30.
Wilson believes including local filmmakers in the festival is valuable “because they’re important to Scranton.”
“I found there’s just a percolating pool — a large group of really talented young filmmakers who are really committed to Northeast Pennsylvania and sharing their talent in Northeast Pennsylvania and using … Northeast Pennsylvania as the backdrop for their films,” she said. “And this is a way to support that effort. … This is a great place to make a film, a big box office film. It has such potential, and it has a lot of great talent.”
Single-day festival passes cost $15 and are available at the Comm, 1115 North Abington Road, and at nepafilmfestival.com.
Caitlin Heaney West is the content editor for Access NEPA and oversees the Early Access blog in addition to working as a copy editor and staff writer for The Times-Tribune. An award-winning journalist, she is a summa cum laude graduate of Shippensburg University and also earned a master’s degree from Marywood University. Caitlin joined the Times-Shamrock family in 2009 and lives in Scranton. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9100 x5107; or @cheaneywest