NEPA Scene Staff

5th NEPA Film Festival screens drama, horror, and more in Scranton and Waverly April 1-3

5th NEPA Film Festival screens drama, horror, and more in Scranton and Waverly April 1-3
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From a press release:

After hosting a smaller event last year, the Northeast Pennsylvania Film Festival is back for a fifth year with three full days of screenings and programs at the Waverly Community House and The Ritz Theater in downtown Scranton.

Dedicated to nurturing emerging and independent filmmakers from Northeastern Pennsylvania and around the world, the festival correspondingly promotes cultural awareness and appreciation of film as an art form by exposing local audiences to unique and original cinema. Its growing reputation is built on a commitment to offer the region access to new and independently produced films by a wide range of emerging and established filmmakers.

It begins with a Friday night reception on April 1 at the Waverly Community House (1115 N. Abington Rd., Waverly). The event will feature cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, a discussion with Stephen Karam moderated by Helen Lavelle, and a screening of “The Humans.”

An OBIE Award winner, two-time Drama Critics Circle Award winner, and a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, Karam directed and adapted his Tony-winning play “The Humans” for the big screen, making his film debut as a director; he previously wrote the screenplays for the film versions of his play “Speech & Debate” and Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” which starred Annette Bening. Released in 2021, the film version of his comedy drama about a family from Scranton stars Amy Schumer, Beanie Feldstein, Richard Jenkins, Steven Yeun, and Jane Houdyshell.

A graduate of Scranton High School and Brown University, Karam is the son of Albert and Marie Karam and grew up in Green Ridge. His honors include the inaugural Horton Foote Playwriting Award, the inaugural Sam Norkin Drama Desk Award, two Outer Critics Circle Awards, a Lucille Lortel Award, Drama League Award, and Hull-Warriner Award.

The majority of the festival will be held at The Ritz (222 Wyoming Ave., Scranton). On Saturday, April 2, the theater will be showing two feature films, a short films block, a documentary block, and a horror movie block with “Texas Chainsaw 3D” and a Q&A with Dan Yeager, who played the infamous killer Leatherface in the 2013 film.

Sunday, April 3 will feature the popular audience favorite Mystery Box Film Challenge. Filmmakers who signed up received a cardboard box filled with objects that had to be incorporated into a short film. Each Mystery Box contained an assortment of plot devices, ranging from character names, a line of dialogue, a prop, a type of location, a plot element, or a wardrobe item. They then had roughly two months to write a script, cast, shoot, and edit their films based on those items.

The finished films will premiere at the festival, followed by a short Q&A and small awards presentation to recognize the best shorts. The Mystery Box Challenge is run by event organizer Desiree Zielinski in partnership with Luz Cabrales of Scranton Films.

Following that will be the “Breaking into the Business” panel with Los Angeles cinematographer and director of photography Tyler Weinberger, moderated by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker John Mikulak, then local PBS and NPR affiliate WVIA will present “WVIA Documentary Filmmaking for Digital Audiences” for aspiring filmmakers and indie producers.

The NEPA Film Fest concludes with “Marionette Land,” the winner of Best Documentary at the 2021 Omaha Film Festival, and a special Q&A with filmmaker and Clarks Summit native Alexander Monelli, along with his subject, Robert Brock. The feature-length movie goes behind the curtain of the Lancaster Marionette Theatre and Brock, its eccentric owner who lives above the tiny theater with his 85-year-old mother, Mary Lou. Together, they have been keeping this Lancaster treasure going for 30 years with unique takes on classic marionette shows for families (“Peter Pan,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Aladdin”) and cabaret-style grown-up shows featuring Brock performing as Liza Minnelli, Bette Midler, and other divas. He writes and performs all of the shows himself and even makes the marionettes. The film chronicles Brock’s unique relationship with his mother and the revival of his grown-up show while trying to prepare for the puppet theater’s big 30th anniversary, though unforeseen circumstances threaten the charismatic puppeteer’s plans.

Tickets, which range from $20 (day pass) to $95 (festival passport), are on sale now at

The full schedule is listed below.

2022 Northeast Pennsylvania Film Festival schedule

Friday, April 1

All films and programs at Waverly Community House (1115 N. Abington Rd., Waverly)

6 p.m.: Friday Night Reception

A cocktail reception featuring music, an open bar, and heavy hors d’oeuvres catered by Paul Wanas of Accentuate Catering.

7 p.m.: “A Conversation with Stephen Karam: Evolution of ‘The Humans’ from Stage to Screen”

Karam discusses his first feature film, an adaptation of his play “The Humans,” with moderator Helen Lavelle.

8 p.m.: Screening of “The Humans”

Erik Blake gathers three generations of his Pennsylvania family to celebrate Thanksgiving at his daughter’s apartment in lower Manhattan. As darkness falls and eerie things go bump in the night, the group’s deepest fears are laid bare.

Saturday, April 2

All films and programs at The Ritz Theater (222 Wyoming Ave., Scranton)

11 a.m.-2 p.m.: Features

“Marvelous and the Black Hole” by Kate Tsang (1:21)

A contrary teenager teams up with a surly children’s party magician to navigate her dysfunctional family and inner demons.

“Sweet Disaster” by Laura Lehmus (1:30)

Frida unexpectedly falls pregnant and Felix, the father of her child, breaks up with her. Frida attempts to win him back using methods which are absurd and often hilarious.

2:15 p.m.-3:15 p.m.: Shorts

“Quehaces Aqui? A Documentary About Karen” by Rob Rook (25:22)

For Karen, a former prosecutor living in Chicago, her world changed forever when she accidentally fell in love with telenovela.

“Everybody Knows Schpay” by John Mikulak (6:00)

Hardcore drummer/guitarist Steve “Schpaybo” Spirko has had a rock ‘n’ roll dream since the 1970s – and he’s not about to give up on it!

“Hold for Applause” by Gerald B. Filmore (5:00)

During the lockdown, everyone in Spain shows their gratitude to the health care workers by applauding from their windows at 8 p.m. Greg would like to join them but he’s too busy solving an international online relationship crisis.

“Parrot” by Kyle B. Thompson (6:00)

A drag queen protects a child during a crisis as prejudices reach a breaking point.

“Very Pig Trouble” by Chris Ruppert (13:00)

A meteor passing the Earth for the next 13 hours is making animals become violent. Will a father and daughter survive the night when the guinea pigs decide to attack?

“Writer in the Storm” by Zack Wilcox (2:00)

An art house film rendering of what it is to be a screenwriter. The film encapsulates the feeling of the manifestation of the first draft of a screenplay and is dashed to bits by the delivery of first notes.

3:30 p.m.-6:15 p.m.: Documentaries

“Why We Walk” by Eric Bishop (55:00)

This chronicles the journey of three black men from across the globe united to empower urban communities of color and their participation in the great outdoors. After years of city exploration, The Urban Hikers strive to introduce the power of walking to a community that has historically been underrepresented in this space.

“Queens of Pain” by Cassie Hay and Amy Winston (1:30)

The film follows three women – Suzy Hotrod, Evilicious, and Captain Smack Sparrow – as they fight to balance life in New York City with the work needed to keep their spots on the world’s best roller derby team.

6:30 p.m.-7 p.m.: Meet and greet with Dan “Leatherface” Yeager

An opportunity for photos and autographs in the reception area.

7 p.m.-8:30 p.m.: “Texas Chainsaw” (1:30)

This is the seventh installment in “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” franchise, first presented in 3D. It serves as a direct sequel to the 1974 film and was originally intended as the final chapter of the franchise, ignoring the events of the subsequent installments. The 2013 film stars Dan Yeager, Alexandra Daddario Trey Songz, Tania Raymonde, Scott Eastwood, Thom Barry, Paul Rae, and Bill Moseley and was directed by John Luessenhop.

8:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m.: Dan Yeager Q&A

A question and answer session moderated by filmmaker and movie reviewer Jeff Boam. Yeager will join guests for an afterparty following his appearance.

Sunday, April 3

All films and programs at The Ritz Theater (222 Wyoming Ave., Scranton)

Noon-1 p.m.: Mystery Box Film Challenge presented by Independent Film Creative Hub co-founders Luz Cabrales and Desiree Zielinski

“Sketch” by Dawn Daignault and Carla Hadley of Route 22 Filmworks (08:13)

“A Date to Remember” by Anthony Cutro (3:50)

“Eve” by Vinnie Langdon III (4:32)

“Slashing Grounds” by Michael Buttino and Golden Groves (4:10)

“Reservoir Dudes” by James Worthington of ElectricCiné Films (4:16)

“Game of Solitaire” by Zack Wilcox and Tony Susi (4:38)

“Haze” by Desiree Zielinski and Luz Cabrales (9:32)

1:15 p.m.-2:15 p.m.: “Breaking into the Business – Behind the Camera”

Moderated by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker John Mikulak, learn how to make it in the highly competitive world of cinematography in a talk with an industry professional – Los Angeles cinematographer and director of photography Tyler Weinberger.

2:30 p.m.-3:15 p.m.: “WVIA Documentary Filmmaking for Digital Audiences”

Calling all filmmakers and independent producers – don’t miss a chance to meet with the area’s most award-winning filmmaking team, WVIA. Learn about the process of making documentaries for television and digital and how to successfully distribute them from filmmakers, including Kris Hendrickson, Ben Payavis, Al Monelli, Jim Donnelly, and more. Enjoy behind-the-scenes footage, exclusive sneak peeks, and take part in an engaging conversation highlighting the ins and outs of making high-quality documentary films in today’s fast-paced environment.

3:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m.: “Marionette Land” by Alexander Monelli

“Marionette Land” is an intimate portrait into the wonderful world of Robert Brock, a man who lives above his own magical marionette theater with his mother, Mary Lou. He creates and performs classic marionette shows for families as well as grown-up shows where he straps on his heels to become famous Hollywood divas of the past, but new personal and professional challenges emerge as Robert and Mary Lou struggle to keep the marionette theater open while preparing to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

Photo by Rich Howells/NEPA Scene