Film Festivals | Internet | New England

Festival of the Future

31 Aug , 2009  

Written by Kerry O’Donnell | Posted by: launches the first annual Online New England Film Festival, playing this and next month... online!

Michele Meek, founder and publisher of, feels that the future of festivals is online. That’s what motivated her to establish the First Annual Online New England Film Festival, which runs September 1-October 15, 2009. “It’s something that isn’t being done in general in this area,” said Meek.

The Online New England Film Festival showcases 19 films, all with a runtime of 30 minutes or less, in the following categories: animation, comedy, documentary, drama, and New England Women Above the Line. The films from the first four categories were selected by staff and the festival’s jury. The festival has partnered with Women in Film & Video/New England (WIFV/NE), which juried the category New England Women Above the Line, for films under 30 minutes produced, directed, or written by a woman or women based in New England. Four films were selected for this category.

During the online festival, viewers will be able to post comments on films, share films with friends, and vote on their favorites. A selection of films will be screened as part of a festival awards ceremony and screening at the Coolidge Corner Theater in Boston on October 15th at 7pm. There will be one jury winner and one audience winner per category.

Was Meek pleased with the submission response from filmmakers? “When we started planning this, we were looking for the 100-200 range. We met that goal.” And although having ties to New England wasn’t a criteria for submission, most of the finalists do have a local link.

The festival’s jury is comprised of an esteemed list of filmmakers — an eclectic mix. According to Meek, this made for great feedback and a wide variety of film choices picked as finalists. Below is a snapshot of a handful of picks. invites community participation in this (virtual) groundbreaking event. (Editor’s note: Kerry O’Donnell, a writer for, did not select films for the festival but did choose which films/filmmakers to highlight below.)

Did You… is a day in the life of a high school student who seems to have everything going for him. But is everything as it seems? The film, written, produced and directed by brothers Chris and Corbin Record, was shot entirely in Boston. Filming locations included UMass Boston, Carson Beach, South Boston and Allston. According to Chris Record, the idea for the film came entirely from a short story that his brother Corbin wrote while in college. The story, loosely based on the brothers’ own high school rebellion, focuses closely on details and the goal was to bring those details alive in the film. Record compares the main character in the film, Kane, to the character of Holden Caufield in Catcher in the Rye. “You understand where his angst comes from,” says Record, “but he’s still a loveable character.” There is an unexpected twist at the end of the movie that Record hopes leaves the viewer wanting more.

The Other Way Out is a film about a woman’s 15-year battle with heroin addiction and her successful escape from it. The story, illustrated through stop-motion animation and time-lapse photography, is narrated by the film’s subject. A friend’s victory over heroin addiction provided the inspiration for documentarian Tristan Dyer’s first animated film. Dyer’s friend had overcome his addiction using the controversial method of recovery called Ibogaine. Never having heard this method before, Dyer’s interest was peaked and the journey began. The Other Way Out is a culmination of what he learned. The choreography between the film images on screen, the soundtrack, and the narrator’s story are both entertaining and disturbing. If you have ever watched someone struggle with addiction, this glimpse into the addict’s psyche will be familiar. For those who have not had the experience, the film may provide insight into the ravages that a drug imprints on an addict’s soul.

White Elephants is a sensitive, slice-of-life story involving a young couple going through the normal course of their day, while coming to terms with an unexpected medical diagnosis. The film is a reflection on the unfortunate hardships that can befall any couple, the decisions we are sometimes forced to make, and the ability to support one another as best as one knows how. Written by Chris and Ellen Portal, the film marks Chris Portal’s directorial debut; he was focused on a career as a software development engineer, but the call of storytelling and filmmaking beckoned. Based on the response to his first film, it was a good call. White Elephants has been screened at numerous festivals, including the Boston International Women’s Day Film Festival, Boston International Film Festival, and Independent Film Festival of Boston. Portal says that he finds the way people have responded to his film very rewarding. He has created a story, using visual and audio, where the viewer may feel they are right there with the characters. “Writing is not my strong point,” says Portal, “so I used the visual to project the story elements.” The ticking of the clock for just a few seconds does seem like an eternity as we wait, along with the characters, for the medical results……

Larry and Roz, an animated film by multi-media artist Kristen Palana, is the tale of her grandparents’ 60-year courtship. Based on real audio recordings from 2002, Palana uses individually painted digital images to imagine and recreate her grandfather’s first attempts to woo his beloved Roz. Palena says she always saw her grandparents’ relationship as an ideal — one that she someday would like to have. “It wasn’t a perfect movie or fairy tale type of romance of course,” says Palena. “Rather it was one of those where the husband puts his wife on a pedestal and she loves him, warts and all. I later learned that these types of relationships make for the happiest and longest-lasting marriages.” Palena shared that she also liked that theirs was not a “love at first sight” story for grandmother. “She found my grandfather annoying and even described him as ‘ugly’.” She said she decided to make the film after her grandmother passed away and her grandfather was left pondering all day in a nursing home. He sometimes thought he saw his wife in the other residents and it wasn’t clear if he understood that she was truly gone. “When he finally died four years after her, I wanted to take the audio I had of them telling their story and imagine and recreate their first date that started their six decade relationship.”