NEPA Scene Staff

Jim Thorpe Indie Film Festival opens with Ethan Hawke film ‘Blaze’ and live music on April 12

Jim Thorpe Indie Film Festival opens with Ethan Hawke film ‘Blaze’ and live music on April 12
Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

From a press release:

The second annual Jim Thorpe Independent Film Festival will roll out the red carpet for a special opening night event with the screening of the new Ethan Hawke film “Blaze” and a live musical performance by its star, Ben Dickey, at the Mauch Chunk Opera House in Jim Thorpe on Thursday, April 12 at 7 p.m.

Co-written and directed by Ethan Hawke, “Blaze” is inspired by the life of Blaze Foley, the unsung country songwriting legend of the Texas outlaw music movement that spawned the likes of Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. It stars Ben Dickey, Alia Shawkat, Josh Hamilton, and Charlie Sexton.

The film weaves together three different periods of time, braiding re-imagined versions of Blaze’s past, present, and future. The different strands explore his love affair with Sybil Rosen; his last, dark night on Earth; and the impact his songs and death had on his fans, friends, and foes. The braided storyline terminates in a bittersweet ending that acknowledges Blaze’s profound highs and lows, as well as the impressions he made on the people who shared his journey. The film is based on the memoir “Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze Foley” by Rosen, who also co-wrote the screenplay. “Blaze” was filmed in Louisiana and had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January, with its second screening at SXSW in March.

“Blaze” stars musician and first-time actor Ben Dickey in the title role, which won him the Sundance Special Jury Award for Achievement in Acting. Dickey will present “Blaze” in person on April 12, then play a live music set with his band, the Beaver Bayou Boys, at the Mauch Chunk Opera House (14 W. Broadway, Jim Thorpe) after the screening.

Dickey, who currently resides in Louisiana, has a Pennsylvania connection. Dickey lived and performed in Philadelphia in the 2000s, where he met his wife, Beth Blofson. In Philadelphia, he also met Jim Thorpe bookseller and former Philly resident Randall Sellers. Dickey and Blofson visited Sellers in the historic Pennsylvania town a decade ago. When “Blaze” was released, Sellers reached out to his old friend and invited Dickey to bring the film and Foley’s music to Jim Thorpe. Dickey, who is “in love with” the Mauch Chunk Opera House, is looking forward to his Keystone State homecoming.

JTIFF directors Todd Morris and Jocelyn O’Neil are thrilled to have such a prestigious Sundance-winning production launch the four-day festival, now in its second year. “We are so excited and honored to have Ethan Hawke’s beautiful film, ‘Blaze,’ kick off the second year of JTIFF and to have the artist who actually plays Blaze Foley introduce the film and perform live music from the soundtrack immediately after the screening,” Morris said.

The first Jim Thorpe Independent Film Festival, held last June, was well-received by audiences and filmmakers alike. JTIFF has been ranked in the Top 100 Film Festivals on FilmFreeway and, this year, JTIFF is proud to be partnering with PBS 39, one of the most important conduits of culture, education, and entertainment for millions of viewers throughout Eastern Pennsylvania and beyond. The festival is also supported in part with grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Lehigh Valley Arts Council.

Founded by Brooklyn natives Todd Morris and Jocelyn O’Neil, the couple moved to Jim Thorpe in 2014 after the birth of their first son. O’Neil is an actress, writer, and producer whose films have screened in festivals throughout the country. Morris is an award-winning commercial producer who has been working in the business for more than two decades. He’s also written and directed two indie features, several shorts, and screened his work in dozens of film festivals around the globe.

Tickets are $20 for opening night, $10 for individual film screenings, and $120 for all-access passes. For tickets, trailers, schedules, and more information, visit