New Jersey Short Film Festival Highlights Local Artists and Themes

WESTAMPTON – Watch out, moviegoers. The first Burlington County Film Festival is scheduled for this month with two feature films spotlighting New Jersey’s beloved Pinelands.

The two-day juried short film festival will be held May 12-13 at the Burlington County Library, 5 Pioneer Blvd., Westampton. Twenty-seven films will be screened starting at 5 p.m., including stories, documentaries and animation.

Allison Eckel, Burlington County Commissioner and Department of Resource Conservation and Parks Liaison, shared her excitement about the festival to further cultivate the local arts community in a press release.

“The next Stephen Spielberg or Alfred Hitchcock could be here in Burlington County, so we want to encourage moviegoers of all ages to come see these amazing shorts,” Eckel said.

Among the 27 films screened, two are particularly interested in the Pinelands. The short “Chatsworth” details a mysterious disappearance in the Pine Barrens, while “The Rancocas Creek: What I Love” features the panoramic views of the Pine Barrens.

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Other films scheduled to screen include “Who Says,” a documentary about a New Jersey program for teens and young adults with developmental disabilities; “Midnight Paper,” about a student’s frantic attempt to meet a deadline; “We are Suns”, a documentary about a student’s quest to meet his biological father, and the animated film “Dams: for and against”.

The filmmakers come from a variety of backgrounds, including Moorestown High School students and a Burlington Township media television class. The films submitted were also from amateurs and professional filmmakers.

All films screened are 30 minutes or less and are approved by the organizers for families, although some films shown on the second night feature more mature themes.

The film

Admission to the festival is free on both evenings and will end around 8 p.m. after a period of discussion with the filmmakers.

The Parks Division will announce the 11 winners of Best Animated, Documentary, Narrative and Best Motion Picture “Parks,” a special category for films about nature or the Burlington County parks system. Several other films will also receive special honors from the jury.

A panel of three professional filmmakers and educators judged the films.

The Burlington County Parks Division organized the new festival with support from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

Films scheduled to screen on Thursday, May 12, as outlined by festival organizers:

“Dan the Man” is a short documentary that highlights the life of Dan, a young man with Down syndrome, and his love and passion for sport. Director: Drew Rosania

“Who says”: The Kate’s Place program wants everyone to know that even though their program is made up of people with developmental disabilities, they love the things everyone else does. Director: JoAnn McNamee

”At Kate’s: cool”: Kates Place Summer Video. The program produces a film each summer as a fun activity for the group. Director: JoAnn McNamee

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”The better half”: A young girl struggling with her self-image wants to be popular and like the girls she sees around her. Her wish comes true, but not in the way she could have imagined. Director: Claire Delany

“Princess and the Z”: The duo of Princess and Jio do their best to survive the zombie apocalypse, while encountering a new threat: mad scientist Dr. Dynamite. They must overcome their crumbling friendship if they want to survive. Director: Javier Cortez

In the short film "better half," Filmmaker Claire Delany tells the story of a young girl struggling with her self-image, who wants to be popular and like the girls she sees around her.  Her wish comes true, but not in the way she could have imagined.  To see "better half" at the first Burlington County Juried Short Film Festival on May 12.

”Go away !” : Two children imagine themselves in the Wild West as outlaws and bounty hunters. In the midst of their incredibly tense confrontation, they keep getting interrupted by their occupied house. While the two are eager to win the fateful duel, they also have chores to do. Director: Gabriel Pascual

“The chain mail”: Newton has a great fear of pink erasers. When her friend, Roberta, pulls out a pink eraser, she gets fired by Newton. After this incident, Newton receives a chain mail threat saying that if he doesn’t send the email to 15 other people, he will be haunted. When Newton ignores this message, the pink eraser haunts him. Director: Kong Chen

”Bullies”: This film shows how young people experience the emotions of growing up and how to prevent bullying by having a support team. Director: Daja Joseph

”Midnight Paper”: After playing a game with his friend for a little too long, Harrison realizes his homework is due in an hour. Director: Benjamin Matsko

”Everything for Sergio”: Sergio and Lucia, a teenage couple, reminisce about their last trip to Paris when Sergio spots someone familiar – his Parisian waitress, Alessandra. Director: Victoria DeNittis

“A green dream”: Tired of the struggle of a push lawn mower, a team of rebellious teenagers come together with the goal of stealing a riding mower. Director: Colin Llewellyn

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“Solomon grundy”: Based on a 19th century British nursery rhyme, it chronicles the life and death of Solomon Grundy, whose health deteriorates as the weather becomes pleasant. Director: Maisie O’Brien

“Dams: Advantages and Disadvantages”: Dams are a perfect example of man altering his environment with unintended consequences. Director: Ava Barton

“Can trees communicate?” : The film explains what mycorrhizal networks are, what they do, and how they could be used to improve global food security. Director: Ava Barton

“The Rancocas stream: what I like”: From the peaceful and scenic Pine Barrens, through downtown areas, under freeways and past public parks, Rancocas Creek empties into the Delaware River. Director: Heidi Winzinger

“Waterfall”: A music video for a cover of Maggie Rogers’ song “Fallingwater” by Tommy Zieger. Director: Daniel Marcus

“From shift work to a paradigm shift”: This film explores the history of child labor and discovers that Burlington County played a significant role in ending oppressive child labor.

Films scheduled for showing on Friday, May 13:

“A True History of Civil War in Gettysburg”: The unusual and true story of a Civil War veteran’s surreal experience when visiting Gettysburg on Memorial Day after the war. Director: Joseph Wilson

“Civil War Prisons”: During the Civil War, both sides neglected the fate of their captured soldiers, which directly led to the death of 56,000 prisoners. Abandoned soldiers died of disease, exposure and starvation in dastardly prison camps awaiting help from their respected governments which never materialized. Ideology took precedence over humanity in one of the saddest and least covered chapters of the war. Director: Joseph Wilson

“Ernest Kaufman: WWII Hero, Holocaust Survivor”: This is an interview with the Armed Forces Heritage Museum (AFHM), a nonprofit military history organization that features Ernest Kaufman, Burlington County veteran, Holocaust survivor, and World War II hero. Kauffmann intervened with a German occupying army to prevent a German town of over 30,000 from being killed and wounded without a shot being fired. A brave effort that is one of many captured in his book, “From Flight to Fight to Farm,” written in his post-war days as a self-employed poultry egg farmer in New -Egypt, New Jersey, for over 30 years. Ernest died aged 100 in 2020, but his legacy lives on.Filmmaker: Roy Plummer

“Michael Ryan Lawrence: Filmmaker”: A deep dive into the career and lifestyle of independent filmmaker Michael Ryan Lawrence. Director: Colin Llewellyn

”Bordeaux”: A castaway is abandoned in a place he does not understand. Director: Alec Sutherland

”All in you”: A college student attempts to complete an essay but is thwarted by a mysterious demon, and it’s up to him whether to succumb to his temptation or use it as motivation. Director: Javier Cortez

“Strawberry Shakes”: Layla and Nora meet and begin to fall in love, but as the relationship grows, Nora begins to question her sexuality and their relationship. Director: Ava Barton

“We are suns”: Sam Spencer was a student when he crossed the country to meet his biological father in this semi-psychological drama road movie. Director: Sam Spencer

“Stacy”: Stacy tells the story of a 45-year-old woman searching for her birth family and family connections. Director: Philip Garrison

“Chatsworth”: In 2004, a New Jersey ranger trying to come to terms with the recent disappearance of his wife seeks a colleague deep in the Pine Barrens after he fails to check in regularly at the end of his shift. Directors: Jesse Cornaglia & Joseph Junod

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