Bragging rights at this year’s SoHo International Film Festival: The festival, which returns to the city May 14, is premiering more movies than at any time since its inception in 2010.
Festival organizer and filmmaker Sibyl Santiago said that out of this year’s 74 film submissions, 69 films were either world, U.S., East Coast or New York premieres.
“This is a true testament to the trust that the filmmakers put upon our festival and what drives us to do whatever it takes to provide the indie filmmakers a proper stage to showcase their films,” said Santiago, who has been involved in the film industry as an actor, director and producer for more than 30 years. “We pride ourselves in being a ‘filmmakers’ festival.”
Among the festival’s numerous competing filmmakers is self-taught Washington Heights-based cinematographer John Painz, who, along with two partners, produced the feature Stuck, about an agoraphobic man who hasn’t left his home in over two years, as his new therapist challenges him to leave his apartment in the next 30 days.
Painz, who admitted the film is “semi-autobiographical,” said that it was made for about $10,000.
Asked what he hopes to get out of the festival, Painz said he’s looking for exposure. “We worked with some fantastic people, and they’re all deserving of recognition,” he said. “I also hope that we meet some investors who enjoyed the movie enough to trust us to make a second film.”
Don Scime, the actor/writer and producer of The David Dance, explained that his LGBT film was actually based on things he felt in his own life.
“I live in New York City, but the film takes place in Buffalo, New York, where I grew up,” he said. “I always felt like kind of an oddball even as an adult (even with other gay people) and I feel that’s what this film addresses - this completely universal experience of feeling different.”
The David Dance recently scored an Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature Film at The Tallgrass Film Festival and the Long Island Gay and Lesbian Film Festival as well as an award at the Sunscreen Film Festival in St. Petersburg, Fla.
But, Scime added that having his film screened in the city is very important to him. “The SoHo Film Festival is actually the very first screening right in the city where I live - so I am very excited to have all my friends and family there,” he said.
Many of the festival’s selected films will also hold Q&A sessions with cast and crew members following each screening, as well as panels, social events, and other networking opportunities.
Filmmakers Annette Mia Flores and Jenny Joslin both volunteered for the festival in 2013.
This year, their film Chupacabra is in the festival.
“We met filmmakers and watched much of the programming,” Joslin said. “It really inspired us to want to make a film together.”
Their movie is about adopted sisters who take a trip through Texas hill country to fulfill their father’s bizarre last wishes.
Other titles in this years’ competition include the NY premiere of Darrett Sanders’ Kill Me, Deadly, starring Kristen Vangsness, Joe Montegna, Lesley-Anne Down and Paul F. Tompkins, as well as director Chandler Wild’s Mount Lawrence, a documentary about a young man who bikes 6,500 miles to Alaska to scale an unnamed mountain and name it after his father who committed suicide.
In addition, Santiago said the festival will also present the New York premiere of the film Sam, directed by Nicholas Brooks, executive produced by Mel Brooks and starring Natalie Knepp, Sean Kleier, James McCaffrey, Bryan Batt, Morgan Fairchild and Stacy Keach.