Manasquan, New Jersey- The 3rd Annual RE:IMAGE Film Festival took place at the historic Algonquin Arts Theatre in Manasquan, New Jersey this year. The event featured some 20 original film shorts vying for titles in three experience levels, and included film maker panels, guest speakers, and a special presentation of the inspiring Emilio Estevez/Martin Sheen collaboration “The Way.”
The mission of RE:IMAGE is to support and encourage the next generation of visual storytellers to explore the glory of God and His creation, to persevere for justice and truth, and to uphold and defend the dignity of the human person. The RE:IMAGE Film Festivals were created to showcase the work of artists and filmmakers who deliver inspiring, uplifting, and faith-filled messages through film and digital media. Presented by the Diocese of Trenton, the Festival is a collaborative project of the Department of Radio and Television, the Department of Youth, Marriage and Family Life, the Department of Media and Public Relations, and The Monitor newspaper.
This year’s day of film kicked off with an 11:00 a.m. mass at the gorgeous St. Denis Church. Featuring a message from Father Everett, the well-known Catholic chaplain at Jersey Shore Medical Center, service was led by Rev. Stanley Lukaszewski. The fun-loving and energetic pastor announced he would be leading festival-goers from the church to the theater (requesting church-goers “just give me a few minutes to change my duds“), and then headed a two-block post-mass procession to the Algonquin. The day at the theater was opened in prayer by Msgr. Gregory Vaughan, vicar general of the Diocese of Trenton.
Entrants competed for prizes in three categories: High School (age 13-18), Young Adult (age 19-29), and General (open to all ages) with awards as follows:
Best Picture– Best overall execution of a film in terms of direction, storyline, aesthetics and technical quality, as well as a strong adherence to the RE:IMAGE mission criteria.
Mission Excellence– The film that best reflects the mission of RE:IMAGE; that best explores the glory of God and his creation, captures the perseverance for justice and truth, and upholds and defends the dignity of the human person.
Viewer’s Choice– The film that most captivates the audience, to be voted on by the audience.
The first category of the day took off like a rocket as the screen boasted seven newcomer-produced films including “In Human Terms,” “The Voices,” “Consider It,” and “Starving for Attention“- all written/produced by teens. Each of these efforts undertook to examine social issues: forgiveness of a murderer, teen suicide, bullying, and homelessness, respectively. While each film did a good job of telling a story not soon forgotten, “In Human Terms” was a stand-out, and took the evening’s first award of Best Picture, Viewer’s Choice in its Category, and Best Actor for Ryan McGinnis.
Penned by and starring McGinnis, a student at Notre Dame High School in Lawrenceville, and directed by Desmond Confoy, “In Human Terms” follows a teen who must come to terms with forgiving another teen who has murdered his parents. Earning high marks from this unofficial judge for avoiding the treacle, the film’s scenes depict a series of convincing grief counseling sessions with the main character’s priest, as well as scenes that depict both flesh-based and spirit-based post-loss decision-making. McGinnis, who told the crowd “it‘s important that we, as Catholics, read and know the Bible,” was keenly interested in portraying how God sees life, as with a perspective looking to eternity vs. one in the here-and-now
“The story came to me when I was considering what’s written in the Bible about the race- running the race,” McGinnis confirmed, referring to Galatians 5:7. In his screenplay he uses precise dialogue to further enhance the “eternity perspective“ as the priest quotes from the Bible at 2 Peter 3:8, telling his counselee, “…with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” McGinnis knows a thing or two about death, having a friend who lost both parents to the 9/11 incident, and the film does a good job of depicting someone who has been stopped short, blind-sided, and caused to be without a clue as to how to move forward.
The teen team enthusiastically credits their RE:IMAGE film advisor, Bonnie Tormey as catalyst for their success. Tormey assigned twelve teams to produce treatments. Out of twelve treatments, she chose five to develop and then assist in writing. The project was energizing for the most part, McGinnis said, but at times daunting. “We wanted the murderer to be an adult,” he told me, “but we just couldn’t find anyone to play the part.” This dilemma stopped them in their tracks for a time. “We didn’t know if we would finish the film,” he said. They did- to McGinnis’ credit- as, two days before their deadline, he penned lines for a different character and a brand-new actor who undertook the role the day of shooting… Now that’s show biz…
Film maker Megan Kugel, in from Wisconsin for the event, bested six others to take the prize of Mission Excellence in the College/Young Adult category for her documentary “God is Good: The Life and Lessons of Father Lorenzo.” In this surprising work we come to know a man of God who has been rescued from being a man forced into war- and torture- during the El Salvador Civil War. Discovered during a parish missions trip to South America, Father Lorenzo is hosted by a Catholic church in Madison, New Jersey for the express purpose of learning better English. The warm and lovable priest quickly becomes a part of congregant’s hearts- and of that of the film maker.
“Working with Father Lorenzo was one of the most hectic times for me but also one of the best times,“ Kugel told me. “Throughout the entire time we were rushing to stay on schedule. Sometimes things would go wrong, but he would always tell me ‘Don’t worry, God will take care of everything’ and it seemed He truly did.” But there was a lot of fun behind the scenes, too. “He would often just turn and start to talking to me while I was shooting,” she said. Seems the affable priest might have the gift of miracles, too. “One day the mike went completely dead,” Kugel added, “but for whatever reason I was able to fix it in, like, a minute.” Great reminder to bring God into the process of everything…
The General Competition award went to Mato Oput, the inspiring product of Tim Guthrie, John O’Keefe, and Carol Zuegner’s to chronicling the attempts of the people of Northern Uganda to foster reconciliation, peace, and justice following a 20-year civil war. This category also presented some stand-outs which did not receive award recognition, including gospel singer Maria Munizzi’s collaborative effort with her sister, Marvelyne Engel, “The Drop,” a joyful depiction of the true-story of a young man who triumphs after the loss of two years of his life-and his eyesight- as result of an auto accident. A full list of entries appears below.
Judges for this year’s event in the High School category were Michael Days, managing editor of The Philadelphia Enquirer, Mike Laskey, program coordinator at the Center for FaithJustice, and Father Guilherme Andrino, pastor of Blessed Sacrament-Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd Parish, Trenton.
Judges in the College/Young Adult category were Rob Kaczmark of Spirit Juice Productions, Vince McNeil, former guest on Realfaith TV (the diocesan faith-based teen talk show), Craig Santoro, WHYY’s director of media instruction and creator of the station’s first youth media program, and Joe Williams, production editor at BustedHalo.com.
Judges in the General category were free lance photographer Jeff Bruno, Marlene Lao-Collins, executive director of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Trenton, John Mulderig, assistant director for Media Reviews of Catholic News Service, and producer Marybeth Sprows, one of the producers of the hit television drama series “Brothers and Sisters,” and of pilots for “Dirty Sexy Money” and “Eli Stone“ fame).
The 540-seat Algonquin Arts Theatre was reopened to the public in 1994 following an extensive renovation. Featuring both ample stage and film screen, it was a uniquely qualified venue for entry screenings, film maker talks, award presentation and also the standing-room-only screening of the award-winning centerpiece film, “The Way.“
Written by Emilio Estevez and starring his father, Martin Sheen in the role of a father grieving the loss of his son by completing his son’s spiritual trekking journey, this cinematically beautiful film couldn’t have been a more perfect- and inspiring- pick for this occasion.
Planning committee for the event this year included the following Diocese of Trenton staffers: Marianne Hartman, Ann Pilato, Linda Richardson, Matthew Greeley, Frances Koukotas, Rayanne Bennett, Jennifer Britton, Lois Rogers, Rose Kimball, and Patrick Dolan, diocesan film consultant. The RE:IMAGE Film Festival event will take a break next year as staffers focus on the upcoming Eucharistic Congress.
Many of the film makers, producers, and actors had advice for those who would like to become involved in producing spiritual/inspirational film. The best take-away, in my opinion, however, was Melanie Kugel’s advice to those who aspire to tell stories in film- “Films just find us,” she said. “Keep your eyes open and look to see what God wants you to do.” Amen and amen.
2012 RE:IMAGE Film Festival entries by category:
High School Competition
-"In Human Terms" by Desmond Confoy and Ryan McGinnis, Winner of Best Picture/High School, Viewer's Choice/High School, and Award of Distinction for Acting
-"Plugged In" by Anna Dodd
-"The Voices" by St. Mark Parish CYO, Sea Girt, NJ
-"Starving for Attention" by William Seddon, Gunterh Billhardt, Adam Zuzola, - Giuliana Yandoli and Allie Morris, Winner of Mission Excellence/High School
-"Wishes" by Natalia Bougadellis
-"Consider It" by Cassidy DeStefano, William Lee, and Margaret Svikhart
-"Death By Texting" by Eugene Tyrell
College and Young Adult Competition
-"Fixated" by Josh Therriault, Winner Award of Distinction for Editing
-"Hiking with Peace" by Thomas Fairbank
-"Shake, Rattle and Roll" by Jessica Landolfi, Winner Viewers' Choice/College&Young Adult
-"The Voices of the Street" by Joe McQuarrie and Joe Martin
-"Project Hopeful" by Kelsie Kiley, Winner Best Picture/College&Young Adult
-"Hide and Seek" by Aminder Dhaliwal, Winner Award of Distinction for Artistic Merit
-"God is Good; The Life and Lessons of Fr. Lorenzo" by Megan Kugel, Winner Mission Excellence/College&Young Adult
-"Mato Oput" by Tim Guthrie, John O’Keefe, and Carol Zuegner, Winner Best Picture/General and Award of Distinction for Cinematography
-"The Drop" by Crystal Clear, Martha Munizzi, and Marvelyne Engel
-"Gray Hair and Wrinkles" by Therese Boucher
-"Kevin’s Journey of Hope" by Joan Kret, Winner Mission Excellence/General and Award of Distinction for Music
-"Are We Listening?" by Andrew Sensenig, Winner Award of Distinction for Writing
-"Children of Terror" by Gina Grosso and Shawn Kildea, Winner Viewer's Choice/General
For more information about the RE:IMAGE Film Festival please visit the web site: www.reimagefilmfestival.com
Text Ó2012 M. D. Caprario
Photos Ó2012 Jane Lindman
M. D. Caprario is a journalist, editor, and author, covering for the media books, film, television and the stage- and good people and things that make our World a better place. Reach her at [email protected].