Boonies fest Underway

The Boonies International Film Festival has returned to Warren, after a 2-year hiatus, with, “ten or twelve more films,” than first festival held in 2011, according to Jeff Clark, executive director.

The festival will run from Wednesday through Saturday, August 17, with venues at the Struther’s Library Theater, the Warren Public Library, Allegheny Outfitters, Cambridge Warren and Blair.

“People came to the first film, which is a good thing. Even in larger festivals, it’s an issue,” Clark noted.

He said there has been ten times the emails and phone questions about the festival than there was for the first festival.

“This time around, it’s known ground. We are way more prepared,” he added.

Clark said this year there are 72 films and 13 music videos, including the 10,000 Maniacs new release.

“We show shorts and features, this year there a lot more features because people who were making shorts last time are now making features. They are delicious shorts, like a smorgasbord,” he added. “It’s important and nice that we have return filmmakers. A couple of dozen more have shown interest, asking about lodging in the area. Some come to camp during the festival.”

He spoke of some achievements that started in the first year.

“The filmmakers could sit at sidewalk cafes and talk with other film makers over a cup of coffee,” a tremendous advantage for aspiring artists to have learn from others’ experiences.

One of the experienced hands returning, although without a film this year is Levi Arino. His film “God of Love,” was screened at the first Boonies Festival, and won an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short that same year.

Counting the United States, there are films from 13 nations that will be screened, including Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Switzerland, Australia and others. Clark said that there are two films from Iran. One deals with mental illness, and, “cuts through pre-conceived ideas about people.We are all humans.”.

Speaking on the content of the films, he said, “We try to show good films. That’s what we’re about. Sure, some are about social issues, but we have sci fi, drama and comedies.

About a half dozen of the films have local connections, whether through film makers or actors.

Scott Erickson is not local, but has Warren roots. His film “How War Ends” will be screened on Saturday, and he will be Skyping an introduction and a question and answer session from California.

Mark Robinault of Warren is a recent film and video production graduate from Edinboro University. His documentary “Sungazing,” features Stanley Barton and Dr. James Spangler, each bringing an opposite perspective to staring at the sun either in the first our of daylight, or the last. The practice originated in India as a health improvement, although Barton does it only occasionally for pure enjoyment. Robinault created the film for his final class project at Edinboro.

Another local connection comes via filmmaker Melodie Bryant’s short film “A Home in the Theatre” that tells the story of the struggle of former longtime Warren resident Edith O’Hara, who is now in her 90s.

The struggle to keep and preserve her 13 Street Repertory Theatre in Greenwich Village, which is also her home, is ongoing as developer’s desires come up against indie theater and Edith O’Hara in this charming and insightful real life documentary.

The Local Short Series will be viewed at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Warren Public Library.

The festival takes a great deal of effort by around 20 volunteers, ranging from ushers to a film production staff that transfers digital films to DVDs for the shorts.

Joey Roy, the festival manager said, “I’ve been working with Jeff for about four years on the Boonies. It’s a good opportunity to assist the downtown economically. I am one of the programmers that watch all of the films to determine which will be shown, and whittle the shorts and features down to five each for the competition.”

A jury will then determine which are the best of the best.

He added that film students that volunteer benefit from a real-life work experience.

Both Clark and Roy were enthusiastic about the work of Paul Sherer, from the “Ackley Russell” area.

Clark said, “We wouldn’t be here without him,” and Roy added, “Paul stepped up and really helped us out.”

Sherer, a senior at Clarion University majoring in both computer and political sciences with a minor in psychology took over the website, updated it and maintains it. He also uses social media like Facebook and Twitter to get the word out.

Production stills and promotional photography is being provided by volunteer Trevor Snook, of the Picture Place in Warren.

In addition to the film screenings, there will be a technology display at the Library Theater from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., hosted by Volt Vision of Warren.

Clark said the display, “will blow you away.”