2018 Official Film Selections

The 2018 West Chester Film Festival is presented by the Exelon.

Our Film Venues are Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center and Chester County Historical Society.

116 Cameras
Davina Pardo/NY/USA/Documentary/Female Filmmaker/16:05

A Holocaust survivor preserves her story interactively so that she will be able to tell it forever.

A Real Adventure
Josh Zuckerman/CA/USA/Drama/World Premiere/15:09

A Son’s first visit to his Father in prison unearths a lifetime of empty promises.

All Quiet on the Home Front
Harjus Singh Sethi/CA/US/Student Drama/24:42

Based on the true story of Bhagat Singh Thind, one of the first Asian-Americans from India who volunteered to fight in the US Army during WWI. Returning to the US at the end of the war, Bhagat and his fellow Asian-American soldiers find that their American citizenship had been revoked. With the help of his friend and fellow soldier, Bhagat ultimately appeals to the Supreme Court to reinstate the citizenship of those immigrants who bravely fought the war — one of the missing chapters in our history books!

Ryan Ward/CA/US/Drama/13:56

A portrait of two parents and their child struggling against the harsh realities of inner-city life in an alternate version of modern day America. “This is the kind of film that keeps us going. A very powerful film that makes us think and question ourselves. AMERIKA is a masterpiece. A MUST-SEE!” – Montreal Black Film Festival

George Nicholas/NY/US/Art/Experimental/12:40

A filmmaker is asked by his dying mother to write her obituary. A twelve minute meditation on life, death, presence, religion, family, emptiness and light.

Ashley Ashley
Ted Sananman/NY/US/Documentary/10:37

Ashley Ashley is a documentary short about siblings, competitive spirit, drive and the ability to succeed in America. Motivated by an unorthodox and accomplished father, Maurice and Alicia Ashley channel their passion, talent and competitive fire into a path out of the drug violence of 1980s Brownsville, Brooklyn. The documentary explores their paths to remarkable success in professional boxing and chess.

Watch the trailer.

Arik Kaufman/Israel/Student Drama/20:12

Miriam, an elderly war widow tormented by her young husband’s death, surrounds herself with archival recordings and writes his biography in her crumbling apartment. Though she wishes only to be left alone to complete her task, her aggressive neighbors, hungry to evict her, have other ideas.

Blows with the Wind
Hazhir As’adi/Iran/Student Animation/6:30

A clever animation from Iran depicting a scarecrow as it comes to life to fight the challenges of nature.

George Watson/United Kingdom/Drama/10:00

Over the course of one fateful night in East London, thirty-something Candice learns that first impressions are not always everything. ‘LOVED Candice! Great work!’ Tweet from DAVID HAREWOOD, (Actor, Homeland). Featuring Nicholas Pinnock – now starring opposite JK Simmons in Starz`s new series “Counterpart” and Olivia Poulet – playing opposite Elisabeth Moss and Gabriel Byrne in feature film “Mad To Be Normal” released by Samuel Goldwyn Films in the USA.

John Frohlich/Australia/Comedy/World Premiere/6:25

As Joe and his volatile girlfriend, Rose, flee from their latest heist, they find their escape route from a parking garage blocked by an elderly woman struggling with the automated ticket machine. As the sirens get louder with the approach of the police, Joe comes up with a plan. But has he underestimated the old lady?

Britt Raes/Belgium/Animation/Female Filmmaker/11:51

Catherine loves pets! But most of all, she loves her cat. As a young girl, she can not connect with other people. Her cat is her life, and little by little she grows up to be a crazy old cat lady… Will she ever find friendship, or love?

Character Study
Luke Brubaker/PA/US/Student Comedy/12:00

When a conceited college student’s primary goal of getting a date with a cute girl in class comes in conflict with his secondary goal of passing the class, he has to decide if saving his grade is worth doing homework with a girl he thinks he is too good for.

Watch the trailer.

Chosin: Baptized by Fire
Chris DiFiore/NY/US/Animation/4:22

This animated film was adapted from the graphic novel Hold the Line, inspired by the true story of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines. While delivering mail to the grunts of Fox Company, Private First Class Billy French is trapped in a massive surprise attack launched by the Communist Chinese Army during the Korean War. Produced in partnership with Veterans Expeditionary Media and HOPR Studios.

Brian MacNeel/OH/US/Student Drama/16:21

When Jace’s cousin, Dakota, visits for the weekend, Jace is more than a little annoyed. If his group of roughhousing friends discover that Dakota is transgender, the damage to Jace’s reputation would be irreparable. When Dakota’s transgender identity is finally revealed, Jace is confronted with a decision: betray his cousin or stand up to his friends and lose face in this small community.

DeKalb Elementary (Oscar Nominee)
Reed Van Dyk/CA/US/Drama/20:23

A suspenseful film inspired by an actual 911 call placed during a school shooting incident in Atlanta, Georgia.

Extra 1104 – The Story of the Rockport Train Wreck
John General/NY/US/Student Documentary/21:05

The tragedy of the “Extra 1104” 1925 stands today as one of the most disastrous train wrecks in New Jersey’s history. For over 90 years, the full story remained largely untold until local filmmaker John General set out to reveal what really happened on the fateful night that put courage, selflessness and pure heroism to a true test. Extra 1104 – The Story of the Rockport Train Wreck is the only film to document the horrific story that left the village of Rockport shaken for decades.

Fall Repeat
Elise Sievert Bhushan/NY/US/Drama/Female Filmmaker/4:04

A dancer compromises for the sake of ambition while her mentor pushes boundaries of power.

Jeannie Donohoe/CA/US/Drama/Female Filmmaker/15:00

A new kid in town tests the limits at the high school basketball tryouts.

Garden Party (Oscar Nominee)
Théophile Dufresne/France/Student Animation/7:25

The frogs are having a party.

Tanja Mairitsch/Austria/Art/Experimental/Female Filmmaker/18:27

Every tear drop tells a story.

Bijan Aarabi/Iran/Drama/25:14

Larvae follows the tension between a husband and wife as they prepare to leave their country and move to Europe — all with the help of traffickers and false papers. Originally hoping that her pregnancy would secure new citizenship in Europe, they must make a difficult choice when they find out the trafficker has been arrested…

Watch the trailer.

Last Friday in April
Eric Nolle & Brian Pennington/MD/US/Comedy/8:23

Denny Murray – tree enthusiast – celebrates Arbor Day and attempts to share his love of the holiday with others…without losing his job.

Lost Face
Sean Meehan/CA/US/Drama/14:18

Subienkow is in mortal danger. The fort he and his fellow fur thieves have erected is in flames – attacked by the very tribe they enslaved to build it – now only he and Big Ivan remain. As Ivan is slowly tortured to death before him, Subienkow attempts to bargain for his own life. Based on a story by Jack London.

Mary & Marsha in the Manor of Madness
Kris Theorin/PA/US/Student Drama/3:00

Sinister secrets await as Mary helps her girlfriend Marsha escape from her parent’s gothic mansion one dark and eldritch night. This hand drawn and digitally animated ‘one shot’ film takes us on a Lovecraftian escapade through the Manor of Madness. Our goal with this film was to combine the creeping horror of H.P. Lovecraft with the wacky action of classic Saturday morning cartoons. This bizarre juxtaposition of styles helps emphasize both the weirdness of the horror and the silliness of the humor. Also the idea of “Scooby-doo chases in H.P. Lovecraft” is just inherently funny, to us at least. The “side-scrolling” cinematography both suited the 2D animation and helped emphasize the eerie atmosphere of the mansion surroundings. It also makes it easy to understand where everything is in relationship to each other during the chaotic chase sequences.

Mindfulness Matters
Stacey Grant/PA/US/Documentary/World Premiere/6:53

With the recent hostility and unsettling events in the world, positive psychology expert Pax Tandon urges the public to take control of their own internal tranquility. As a mindfulness coach, Pax experiences with the viewer the power of one’s journey venturing from chaos to peace. Just by pressing pause.

Not Yet
Arian Vazirdaftair/Iran/Drama/14:50

Hasti is studying abroad so her parents help her celebrate her birthday via Skype from their home in Iran. This short drama illustrates how the joys, sorrows and struggles of family life are universal.

Panic Attack!
Eileen O’Meara/CA/US/Animation/Female Filmmaker/3:00

You know the nagging thoughts that start with “did I leave the coffee on?” and turn in to “am I pregnant with a devil-baby?” This hand-drawn animation explores anxiety, obsession, and one woman’s slippery hold on reality.

Hillel Rate/Israel/Drama/10:43

An ultra-Orthodox young Jewish woman agrees to meet her brother, whom she has not seen in many years. When she finally lays eyes on him she understands that, if she wants to reestablish the childhood bond between them, she must accept his new identity.

Robert Waters/DE/US/Drama/3:58

Sometimes the toughest part of your day is explaining it to a loved one.

Jules Tardif/NY/US/Student Drama/World Premiere/21:39

In order to reconnect with his dead son, Michael tries to pursue his son’s lego construction that was left behind. It becomes an obsession.

Watch the trailer.

Amy Tiehel/PA/US/Drama/Female Filmmaker/18:49

Three British soldiers pillage the home of a woman, her daughter and two grandchildren during the Revolutionary War and get more than they bargained for in this dramatic short with a twist.

Rise of a Star
James Bort/France/Drama/Pennsylvania Premiere/18:23

Emma is about to be the new Ballerina at Paris Opera. But something upsets her. A secret. A secret liable to undermine what she has spent a whole life pursuing.

Road to A.I.
Brett Abramsky/NC/USA/Documentary/17:02

How do you teach a car to drive? For many self-driving car makers and artificial intelligence researchers, the answer starts with data and sharing. ROAD TO A.I. looks at the current state of the emerging autonomous vehicle industry: how it is shaping the future of public transportation, why it is the best use case for advancing artificial intelligence, and where open source can best fill the gap between the present moment and the future of autonomy.

Gabe Hohreiter/CA/US/Drama/World Premiere/14:05

A young woman from a rural town finds difficulty adjusting to life in Los Angeles with her fiance.  When she discovers he is cheating, she sets out to exact her revenge.

Faraz Arif Ansari/India/Drama/15:00

The language of love — the beauty, the poetry, the intricacy and the eloquence. A first-of-its-kind LGBTQ film from India, Sisak is the moving, silent depiction of a romance that develops slowly and intoxicatingly, nestled in the silences and quiet comforts of the commute home. This heartbreaking film allows us to witness a forbidden love as it builds from one day to the next.

Sliding Away
Bob Findlay/Canada/Drama/US Premiere/14:35

This film expresses the struggle each generation has to redefine itself. We take the lessons of the past, examine them, and find a way to choose to be different in the world. A son played by Kerry van der Griend (Night at the Museum, With Child) attempts to connect with his dying father, Ray Winstone (The Departed, Sexy Beast) through images of the father’s life while trying to be present for his young daughter.

Watch the trailer.

Sound is Half the Picture
Dede Maitre/PA/US/Documentary/Female Filmmaker/12:30

Sound is Half the Picture connects a human face to the hidden art of sound design and music for film. Through a humorous character study of Philadelphia-based composer John Avarese, this doc short visualizes the invisible techniques and central value of film sound– preserving its distinct residence within the filmmaking process.

Watch the trailer.

That Smell
Kyle Lavore/NY/US/Comedy/11:29

This unusual comedy takes us into the secretive and persecuted world of book sniffing. Nate is an awkward man who is pulled into the world by Trisha, the underground movement’s leader. She teaches him the ways of the book sniffer while avoiding the villainous shadow men hell bent on stopping them.  Filmed locally in West Chester at Baldwin’s Book Barn.

The Devoted
Mariam Modarres/Iran/Comedy/Female Filmmaker/1:37

The young man prays earnestly for a closer relationship with God. “If there is something in my life preventing me from being closer to you, Lord, please remove it from my life.” Be careful what you wish for…

The Dream Factory
Michal Pinsky/Israel/Student Drama/Female Filmmaker/19:05

Ben is a technical illustrator who spends his days drawing nuts and bolts and his nights painting colors and dreams. His ambition to publish his comic book meets with frustration and failure until his little daughter, Maya, takes him on a magical journey to the sinister interiors of his own creation —the Dream Factory.

The Eleven O’Clock (Oscar Nominee)
Derin Seale/Australia/Comedy/14:00

The delusional patient of a psychiatrist believes he is actually the psychiatrist. As they each attempt to treat each other the session gets out of control.

The Gravedigger’s Daughter
Shira Gabay/Israel/Drama/Female Filmmaker/16:32

Esther’s father was a gravedigger who in his last will and testament left only one significant request: that one of his sons continue with his profession. None of his sons have the slightest interest in doing so. Esther is the only daughter in this traditional ‘Sephardic’ North African home, and embarks upon a struggle to carry on her father’s legacy of humility and kindness over the objections of her family and community.  A feminist film with a sprinkling of graveyard humor.

The Jacket
Sergio Vaccaro/NY/US/Drama/World Premiere/16:15

The Jacket follows a reclusive man named Vincent on his strenuous journey to reach out to a woman he fell for after finding, what he believes, is her lost jacket.

The Long Wet Grass
Justin Davey/Ireland/Drama/14:11

The Long Wet Grass depicts the tensely dramatic and surprisingly intimate encounter between a woman and her sinister captor on the shores of a remote lake in Western Ireland. With haunting original music by Academy Award Winner Markéta Irglová. This short film, based on The McGowan Trilogy by Séamus Scanlon, and directed by Justin Davey with DP Lakshika Serasinhe, stars Anna and Paul Nugent.

The Other Dreamers
Luis Blanco Nazoa/TX/US/Documentary/World Premiere/20:00

Documentary short exploring the cultural shock and mental anguish lived by US ‘Dreamers’ forced to return to their birthplace by circumstances or deportation.

The Pirate Cruncher
Paul Conner/CO/US/Student Animation/9:58

One night in Port Royal a band of pirates meets an old fiddler with a map leading to treasure. As they set out across the sea they learn that the treasure is guarded by a monster called the Pirate Cruncher and that not everything is what it seems.

To Wendy who kicked me…
Dan Castella/United Kingdom/Comedy/North America Premiere/10:29

A strange romance about two lost souls; Wendy (one good eye) & Sidd (short for Siddartha) try to connect in a mid-range airport hotel.

Traffic Stop (Oscar Nominee)
Kate Davis/NY/US/Documentary/Female Filmmaker/30:26

Traffic Stop tells the story of Breaion King, an African American schoolteacher from Austin, Texas, who was stopped for a routine speeding violation. The encounter between her and her arresting officer — caught on multiple police dash cams – escalated into a violent ‘take-down’ of Breaion.

Andrew Broadhurst/WV/US/Art/Experimental/5:08

A beautiful story of hope told through artistic expression and music.

Watu Wote – All of Us (Oscar Nominee)
Katja Benrath/Germany/Student Drama/Female Filmmaker/21:33

For almost a decade Kenya has been targeted by terrorist attacks of the Al-Shabaab. Watu Wote is the dramatization of a 2015 event in which Muslim and Christian passengers find common ground when they are attacked on a cross-country bus journey.

Witnesses (Temoins)
David Koch/France/Drama/28:57

Witnesses follows Stéphane, a French war correspondent as she covers the daily existence of a young Syrian couple in their bombed-out, metropolitan war zone. Stéphane takes a photograph of the couple that unwittingly places them all in grave danger. What follows is their harrowing escape from the war zone.

You and Me
Mrigank Dubey/India/Drama/24:56

Years after their days together in college, two friends reunite for a Sunday drive, leaving their bustling city lives behind. As they amble through the countryside, they reveal old longings and hidden pasts. Their rose-tinted nostalgia is broken as they come face to face with their imperfect lives.

Zebrafish: Practically People
Jennifer A. Manner/MD/US/Documentary/Female Filmmaker/9:46

Zebrafish: Practically People documents the surprising similarities between this common aquarium fish and humans, making them ideal for studying human disease.