New Hope has long been a destination that offers up theater, art galleries, good restaurants, and just the right amount of kitsch for a perfect summertime escape, just ask Doug (or D.F.) Whipple.
“New Hope has a storied history in the arts. As early as the 1940s we were launching people from the stage at Bucks County Playhouse. People such as George C. Scott and Robert Redford graced the stage in New Hope and went onto great things. New Hope is still very much a cultural center. It has art galleries and artists galore, but it didn’t have a film festival. I think in the modern age, film is so important. It was time for New Hope to have a film festival and launch artists in the film industry into the professional film industry as well,” says Whipple, chairman of the New Hope Film Festival.
Now in its fourth year, the festival is attracting attention for becoming a bridge between indie obscurity and mainstream filmmakers, and earlier this year an article in the Huffington Post called the festival an “emerging Sundance East.”
This year’s festival runs Friday, July 12, through Sunday, July 21, and includes 108 official selections from 17 countries, including the United States, Canada, Turkey, Chile, Russian Federation, Jordan, India, Germany, Poland, France, People’s Republic of China, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, Australia, Czech Republic, and Belgium.
Judges selected this world-class lineup of independent films including nine full-length feature films (including two student features), 15 documentaries, four Mid-Atlantic category films, 11 music videos, 12 screenplays, 24 short films, 32 student shorts, and the festival’s first webisode (events or showings available online).
Films will be screened in three venues: New Hope Arts Center, Stephen J. Buck Memorial Theater in New Hope, and the County Theater in Doylestown.
The New Hope Film Festival was founded by Whipple, an author, screenwriter, and long-time resident of New Hope and Bucks County. He formed it with established artists who shared his passion for discovering and nurturing independent filmmakers, especially those who have been overlooked by established festivals. That group includes composer and writer Marianne Speiser, photographer Danny Sailor, and award-winning independent film producer and actor Thom Michael Mulligan. Hollywood screenwriter Mark Rosenthal serves as an ongoing festival advisor.
“The first year was rough in terms of getting it going, but we are here to stay,” says festival executive director Mulligan in the above mentioned Huffington Report article. Mulligan is in charge of submissions that span the globe. “From the very first year, we became an international film festival with filmmakers coming from all over the world even though we are not New York City or Philadelphia,” he says. “It’s no longer necessary to go to Cannes to see great independent films.”
Initially every entry gets viewed by Whipple. Then the group of volunteer artists and filmmakers go through the vetting process and ultimately select what will be shown at the festival.
Says Whipple, “We want to be selective. It’s increasingly a difficult time for filmmakers to get recognition and distribution. We want to make sure there is a forum to keep these lower-budget films alive. Every film submitted will be watched with a keen perspective on quality and artistic expression. Our artistic standards are extremely high, and neither budget nor name recognition will be a determining factor — the art must shine through. The best films are selected.”
“The New Hope Film Festival is a reflection of my own personality,” says Whipple. “I love to travel and interact with people of different cultures. It was important for this to be a global film festival. Bringing something so unique to Bucks county, it would be a shame if local filmmakers didn’t have an opportunity to participate in some way. So we created the Mid-Atlantic category and Mid-Atlantic student category. We are a very youthful film festival. The average age of our film makers is around 30.”
Whipple talks about the categories. “A short film is an opportunity for a brand new filmmaker to make a film on a relatively low budget and really put a calling card out there in the industry. It shows people what they can do and attract attention out there to their art.”
Whipple, who has an MBA from Wharton and spent 15 years on Wall Street, is originally from Bucks County and eventually returned after living in London, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. He now works with his father at their company, Mallard Medical. His parents instilled a strong work ethic and passed on the entrepreneurial gene to his son — both attributes necessary to get the New Hope Film Festival off the ground.
An avid traveler, Whipple loves finding films that bring other parts of the globe to the audience. This year’s lineup includes a film about Antarctica. It’s a difficult place for most people to get to, but “No Horizon Anymore,” directed by Keith Reimink and filmed at the South Pole, brings the stark beauty of the Antarctica to the audience. There are other standouts. First is “Pechorin,” directed by Roman Khrushch and based on Micheil Lemontov’s 19th-century Russian novel “A Hero of Our Time.” This feature film follows the events of a dying hero trying to answer the ultimate question: was his life worth the effort?
“Pechorin” will be paired with the German film “Spaghetti for Two.” Directed by Matthias Rosenberger, the film lets the audience follow a lonely man who experiences life-changing moments on his way to lunch.
Also on the schedule is an appearance by the adopted daughter of legendary film actress Joan Crawford, Christina Crawford, who will be on hand on Saturday, July 20, at the Stephen J. Buck Memorial Theater to receive the festival’s lifetime achievement award as well as present the documentary based on her one-woman play, “Surviving Mommie Dearest.” The film and production are based on the younger Crawford’s book of reputed abuse from her stepmother.
New Hope Film Festival, New Hope Arts Center and Stephen J. Buck Memorial Theater in New Hope and Country Theater, Doylestown. Friday, July 12, through Sunday, July 21. $6 to $20. newhopefilmfestival.com or 800-838-3006.