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New Hope Film Festival: Around the world in 80 films

Ian Eugene Ryan in “Clemente”

The 2018 New Hope Film Festival kicks off Friday evening, and over nine days, features 80 films and six scripts from 12 countries.

The films will be screened at the New Hope Arts Center, 2 Stockton Ave., in New Hope. Filmmakers from around the world will attend the screenings, and there will be opportunities to meet them at question-and-answer sessions. Festival organizers say they will also be showing a record number of films from Bucks County and Eastern Pennsylvania.

The 2018 Program Guide includes the schedule, descriptions of each film, and lots of tips for getting the most out of the festival. The event runs through July 29, and tickets are available online.

Here’s a few films that caught our eye:

Quakers: The Quiet Revolutionaries

The roots of Quakerism stretch back to mid-17th century England, but the Religious Society of Friends has remained vibrant and influential throughout modern times. A central feature of the Protestant denomination since George Fox founded it in the wake of the English Civil War (1642 – 1651) is activism—and a concomitant passion for shaking the halls of power over matters of injustice. This history explains why so many leaders in areas ranging from abolition to women’s suffrage to civil rights and the environment have arisen from or been inspired by Quaker congregations and ideals.

In this probing documentary, filmmaker Janet P. Gardner combines Ken Burns style archival imagery with “captured in the moment” footage, underscoring the combined sophistication and day-to-day relevance of Friends Church, a movement that is rooted in principles yet constantly evolving.

The film is also critical, citing transgressions by Quaker political leaders and lamenting the Quaker approach to desegregation in the 1960s and 70s. Yet the legacy of progress and achievement overshadows these concerns as Gardner paints an overall picture of relevance and high social value.

Watch the trailer: Quakers: The Quiet Revolutionaries

The Doctor’s Case

 “The Doctor’s Case” is a devilishly clever murder mystery that features British writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic characters Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Initially set in September 1940 when Watson is 87 years old, the story recounts a time when the detective duo needed to change roles in order to solve a particularly complex crime—a strange set of circumstances that threatened to drag Watson and Holmes themselves into the abyss.

A collaboration of many fine Canadian filmmakers, including co-directors James Douglas and Leonard Pearl, this nearly feature-length production hits all the right acrid and downright frightening notes for the genre. Based on a short story by Stephen King, the script is complex enough to evoke the experience of reading a good, old-fashioned book, the kind that lends itself to a fireside read and a long, unnerving return to your darkened bedchamber.

Watch the trailer: The Doctor’s Case

Two Balloons

“Two Balloons” is a throughly enchanting and heartwarming animated short about two lemurs who sail dirigibles around the world to meet under a moonlit sky. The artistry behind this highly collaborative project will take your breath away, which helps to explain the film’s sweeping success on the festival circuit.

Filmmaker Mark Smith knows something about traveling on wind currents because his wife and he are avid sailors. A journey to Grenada helped inspire this film when the Smith couple witnessed an unearthly funnel cloud that “looked a thousand feet high.” Their shared husband and wife experience is evident in the embraces of the two lemurs, creatures who evoke oceans of depth on matters of love.

Watch the trailer: Two Balloons

An Unknown Country

This beautifully-produced film tells the story of European Jews who narrowly escaped Nazi atrocities by emigrating to Ecuador. Many of these refugees stayed in their new homeland to assimilate, build lives and contribute to the long-term prosperity of the nation, while others furthered their journeys to the United States, where they found opportunities more consistent with their educated, European backgrounds. The film documents the fates of many members of this group with impressive care and detail.

Writer/Director Eva Zelig, an award-winning filmmaker whose work has appeared on PBS, The Learning Channel, New York Times TV, ABC, National Geographic and Consumer Reports, already had familiarity with her topic going into this project because her parents were among the exiles depicted in the documentary. However, Zelig goes far beyond firsthand knowledge by incorporating interviews, archival studies, and other forms of meticulous research.

Anyone interested in this period of history, the peoples depicted and the cultures explored will find “An Unknown Country rich and immersive.

Watch the trailer here: An Unknown Country


Based on the inspiring yet tragic story of 20th century Major League Baseball star Roberto Clemente, this dramatic feature existed only as a script when it won accolades from Austin Film Festival and the Best Period Script award at the 2017 New Hope Film Festival. Ian Eugene Ryan, who is attached to the film as Clemente, created this work with co-writer Joseph Loizzi as a way to honor an historical figure and shed light on the plight of men of color in professional sport.

As many baseball fans know, Clemente was far more than a ball player, having devoted impressive time to charity work, including relief efforts involving a devastating earthquake in Managua, Nicaragua. Ryan and Loizzi captured the essence of the man in their superb writing—Clemente’s intensity and focus both on and off the field, but also a charming, almost childlike innocence and goodness of heart. The two traits combined to make him a dangerous weapon on the field and a remarkable force for healing off of it.

Ian Ryan plays the role of Clemente in the teaser they shot to raise awareness for the project, and what a performance he delivers—the verisimilitude is striking, down to every nuance and quirk. Beautifully directed by New Hope Film Festival’s Director of Submissions Thom Michael Mulligan, the trailer demonstrates with all heart and soul why this film should be made and why Ryan should play the lead.


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1 Comment

  • The Film Festival could be a real draw for New Hope – but it is not well-advertised. Nor is the theater location conducive to quality viewing. Very difficult to climb up those narrow steps to the top of the New Hope Arts Building.

    Two ideas: Use a space at the NH-S Schools? Maybe one of the smaller meeting rooms, like the School Board uses for their meetings? More intimate setting, easy to access. Easy to hear.

    Or enter into an agreement with the ACME Screening Room for some of the feature films?

    These are quality movies, and they should be given the respect they deserve.

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