FirstGlance Film Festival celebrates 20 years of Philly premieres

A still from 'Not All Who Wander Are Lost,' a music video directed by Philly's Benjamin Pollack.

The FirstGlance Film Festival has operated in Philadelphia since 1996, featuring independent, mostly short films, some features, and even a few web series. The festival is marking its 20th anniversary this year and will take over the Kimmel Center and Painted Bride Art Center on Friday, October 6, through Sunday, October 8.

The festival may lack the star power and Oscar cachet of that other local October film festival, but it makes up for it with some true independent spirit, and festival founder and executive director Bill Ostroff is a Temple grad. The festival will unfold in a series of screenings throughout the weekend, each containing a feature as well as multiple shorts. The Friday-night screening will take place at the Kimmel, with the rest of the festival held at the Painted Bride. Sunday night will feature the festival’s first-ever live awards ceremony.

Homegrown movies

“Most of the projects that we show are premieres — either world premieres or Philadelphia premieres,” festival spokesperson Andrea DiFabio (another Temple alum) says. While the festival includes four features and three documentaries, the majority of the screenings are of shorts.

Several screenings feature filmmakers with local ties, like 16-year-old Yoni Azulay, who directed the short S’eclipser. The horror short Tagati was directed by local filmmaker Bill Haley. The music video God Came Around was directed by Drexel Hill native Derek Frey. Philadelphia directors include Matthew Slutsky, who directed the short documentary Extra Credit, and Robert Benjamin Jaffe, who directed the short Friend Zone. And Kristin Malko, a New Jersey native, created the web series Out of the Box.

Featured films

Michael G Kehoe’s The Hatred follows four college students who travel to their professor’s country house, which turns out to be haunted. It screens on opening night. Thriller Nowhere, Michigan, directed by Robert Vornkahl, concerns a man on the run from a murder hiding out in a small town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (the film is the product of a crowdfunding campaign).

Sloan Copeland’s Life Hack, screening October 7, is an ensemble comedy about modern-day technology and its impact on privacy. On the drama front, Jimmy the Saint (directed by Branden Morgan) is the story of a Russian mob associate in Los Angeles who befriends a young sex worker (screening October 7).

Festival documentaries tackle something for everyone. Emilie Bunnell’s award-winning Bean is a real-life love story about a woman with lupus who found both romance and a live-saving kidney on Tinder (screening October 8). Chris Love is both the director and subject of his Becoming a Spartan. Love has cystic fibrosis and, after losing his brother to the same disease, begins competing in Spartan races (screening October 7). And for music fans, Paul Kaplan’s Almost Boss is the story of the B Street Band, the most popular of the world’s many Bruce Springsteen tribute bands (screening October 7).

The festival will also feature about 20 short films, four web series, four student films, and three music videos. Visit online for tickets and the full schedule.