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FirstGlance Film Festival in Philadelphia

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The 12th annual FirstGlance Independent Film Festival  kicked off on Thursday, October 22nd and ran through Sunday, October 25th in The FirstGlance Film FestivalFranklin Institute in Philadelphia. The event took place at Franklin Theater and debuted more than 34 projects, and an online short film competition. It was the first of its kind to put Philly on the map with lots of local talent, special invited guests like former Philadelphia Eagles player Vince Papale, and after parties every night.

Philadelphia producer/director Steve Kwasnik says that the new theatre location is the perfect place for the event. "This is the first year Bill Ostroff (Executive Director of the festival) was able to secure the Franklin Theatre," says Kwasnik. On past years it was held at the Adrienne Theatre on Sansom Street and other spots. With the addition of the new venue, I am sure the number of attendees will grow each year if they continue to hold the festival there.”

I had the pleasure of attending the opening night screening that featured a variety of short films plus the feature “Dark Room Theater” starring David Stanford about ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary supernatural situations directed by Philly native Benjamin Pollack. Pollack told me the film is “Twilight zone meets Scooby-Doo with a comic twist.”

On Friday Night, there were short films and the Philadelphia Premiere of the feature “Chasing the White Dragon,” starring Ryan Kennedy and Amanda Ward. The film is about six small town meth addicts by local writer/director Kathilynn Phillips. Following the Friday night screening was a spotlight screening of “Ice Grill USA,” a vivid examination of the pursuit of the American Dream set in the multicultural landscape of Atlantic City. The film was directed by locals Greg Santarsiero and Mark Bernardi.

“Ice Grill, USA is sharp and edgy drama," notes Kwasnik. "Augie Logan, portrayed by Connor Fox, gives a very strong and understated performance. The film displays the paradox of Atlantic City, a town known for opulence and wealth as well as its poverty and crime. Santarsiero and Bernardi pulled off some amazing scenes that most low-budget independent filmmakers would never even attempt, most notably shooting in actual casinos! The film will also keep you interested by the use of several sub-plots and story lines with stand-out performances from co-stars Denise Ramirez and Michael Angleo Ortiz.”

Saturday’s matinee screening featured the documentary “The Color Bearers,” directed by local filmmakers John Foley and Steve Newbert about the personal stories revealing the meaning of the American flag and patriotism from 1776 thru the 21st century as told by average Americans. The event was hosted by former Philadelphia Eagle Vince Papale.

On Sunday October 25th, Rob Stuart and Tara Nurin , both local directors screened their documentary, “Free the River Park,” the story of citizens’ fighting for the Schuylkill River Park featuring Mayor Michael Nutter.

And finally to close off the weekend, the last feature film “How I Got Lost” by Joe Leonard starring Aaron Stanford, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Nicole Vicius debuted. The storyline is centered around a reckless young banker who convinces his broken-hearted best friend to leave New York with him after 9/11 to look for the things they've lost. The friends discover that sometimes you have to get lost to figure out where you are going.

All in all, the Indy film weekend in Philly gave us one more reason to be proud of where we are from.