BIFF 2017 – Day 2












Beacon Independent Film Festival (BIFF) and The CineHub will host a Filmmaker’s Breakfast at The CineHub, as part of its 5th annual festival. The breakfast event is open to the public and will feature a panel discussion on Access & Ethics: How documentary filmmakers walk the delicate tightrope of making their art. The panel will feature four prominent documentary filmmakers: Hope Litoff – Director, 32 Pills; Beth Levison – Producer, 32 Pills; Joy Haynes – Director, Voices From Within; and Mike Seely – Director, Exiled. The panel will be moderated by BIFF Committee Member and film and commercial director/producer, Benjamin Ryan Nathan.

The panelists will be introduced with a short clip from their respective films, which demonstrate the issues and challenges surrounding access and ethics that they have wrestled with throughout their creative process.

Following the discussion, the audience will have the opportunity to mingle with the panelists, after which the afternoon film block, entitled “Failed Institutions,” will screen all three films represented by the panelists.

Hope Litoff (Director, 32 Pills) is a 20-year veteran film editor. 32 Pills is her directorial debut. She began her career assisting filmmakers such as Ken Burns and Stephen Ives on The West, as well as Miss America, dir. Lisa Ades (PBS) and Blue Vinyl, dir. Judith Helfand and Dan Gold (HBO). She went on to edit such verite projects as Keeper of the Cohen, dir. David Gaynes, College Boys Live, dir. George O’Donnell, and Seeing Sally, dir. Peter Goodman, all of which played in multiple film festivals. Her television credits include Chasing the Crown (WE), The Well Seasoned Traveler, dir. George Billard (A&E), and Indie Sex, dir. Lisa Ades (IFP). Hope is confident that her many years as an editor will serve the storytelling and narrative challenges that she will inevitably face directing this personal film.

Beth Levison (Producer, 32 Pills) is an independent producer/director and the recipient of two national Emmy Awards and three Peabody Awards. Prior to 32 Pills, she produced The Trials of Spring (2015), a cross-media project including a feature-length documentary (dir. Gini Reticker) and six shorts about women human rights activists in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen. Her independent documentary directorial debut Lemon (2011) about Brooklyn-born poet and performer Lemon Andersen was executive produced by Impact Partners and Russell Simmons, shown at some 40 festivals around the world, selected for U.S. State Department’s 2014 American Film Showcase, and broadcast on PBS stations nationwide. Levison got her start in television working for HBO, PBS, Sundance Channel, and others.  She is on the producing faculty with the MFA program in Social Documentary Film at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) and brings her creative producing expertise to 32 Pills.

Joy Haynes (Director, Voices From Within) was born in Mexico City, Mexico, grew up in Washington, DC and has lived in six states and four countries. With six brothers and sisters ranging in age from 23 to 50, she is neither the oldest nor the youngest. When she was just 12 years old she took herself by city bus to the Kennedy Center to attend her very first audition, which was for the musical Dick Whittington and His Cat. From that experience, she learned she can’t sing. Having been bitten by the acting bug, however, she attended the Duke Ellington High School of the Arts in Washington, DC, where she graduated at age 16, and earned her BFA in Theater from Stephens College at just 19 years old. She earned her law degree cum laude from the Georgetown University Law Center. Currently working both in front of and behind the camera, Joy also practices immigration law, striking a challenging and exciting balance between her entertainment and legal careers.

Mike Seely (Director, Exiled) is a filmmaker and director of photography based in San Francisco. He has produced, directed and photographed several award-winning films, and has experience working on dozens of cross-cultural and international projects. His work has been broadcast in the US and screened at festivals internationally including Slamdance, Tribeca, Toronto International Film Festival, and the San Francisco International Film Festival. As a director of photography, he has worked with various independent directors, as well as non-profit and broadcast clients such as National Geographic, MTV2, Frontline World, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In 2005, he completed his MA in documentary film production at Stanford University, and for 2010 he received a Fulbright grant to work in Lodz, Poland on a project exploring the Polish documentary film tradition.

Benjamin Ryan Nathan (Director/Producer) is the founder of Footage Films, and is an award-winning director and producer, specializing in creating socially-conscious films, commercials, and PSA’s with the aim to inspire direct positive action in their audience. Based in New York, Ben has produced, directed, & edited major commercial campaigns, PSA’s, documentary films, and viral videos, working with brands and organizations including UN Environment, The People’s Climate March, Sesame Workshop, The President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities, and Oxford University Press. He has collaborated with top creative talent, including Ken Burns, Martin Sheen, Debra Messing, Blythe Danner, and James Cromwell. Ben is currently in post production on his feature documentary film I Can Dance!, about the power of dance to transform children’s lives in NYC public schools, and is in development on a feature documentary film about human and labor trafficking in the United States.





32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide (Sneak Peek)

(Director: Hope Litoff; Producer: Beth Levison) (5 min)

She’s beautiful, artistic, loved and can’t stand to be alive. 32 PILLS: My Sister’s Suicide traces director Hope Litoff’s efforts to piece together the life, mental illness, and suicide of her sister Ruth.



(Director & Producer: Mike Seely) (30 min)

Two military veterans, both green card immigrants willing to die for their country, find themselves deported and are now fighting to be heard. A persuasive and intimate look at the human consequences of current U.S. immigration policy.


Voices From Within

(Directors: Joy Haynes & Ellie Walton; Producers: Video Diary Productions and Meridian Hill Pictures) (20 min)

Found not guilty by reason of insanity, two long-term residents of Saint Elizabeths, Washington DC’s public psychiatric hospital, use video diaries to share their daily struggles with mental illness, isolation, and the journey for redemption.


That Way Madness Lies

(Director & Producer: Sandra Luckow; Co-producer: Dewey Wigod) (101 min)

One woman and her family trek the broken mental health system in an effort to save her brother as he descends into madness. Beginning as a testimony of his sanity, his iPhone video diary ultimately becomes an unfiltered look at the mind of an untreated schizophrenic.



A BIFF LAFF (4:45pm-7pm)


Annie Waits

(Director: Marnie Paxton-Harris; Producers: April Kelley & Sara Huxley) (9 min)

Based on, you know – life. We’ve all waited for ‘the one’. The one who catches our eye, the one who keeps our interest, the one who won’t expect us to trudge down that conventional path. Annie Waits tells the story of lust and disappointment, as a twenty-something waits for her adult life to begin.


Die Herberge

(Director & Producer: Ysabel Fantou; Producer: Sanne Kurz) (9 min)

“The Shelter” is a German-Arabic culture-clash comedy, based on true events: Erwin and Hildegard get lost whilst on a hiking holiday in Bavaria.


Black Cat

(Directed by Peter Pardini; Producers: Grant Garry & Katherine Muise ) (85 min)

When a near-decade-old murder case involving a movie star threatens to reopen, adult child Duke Moody decides to make a true crime documentary, financed by his mother.



Grab a bite, have a drink and enjoy a live performance from Beacon’s own Pontoon.




FIGHTING FOR FAMILY (7:30pm-9:45pm)


Think of Calvin

(Director & Producer: Kelly Amis ) (19 min)

After a long week at work, Calvin Davis, still wearing his scrubs, joined his family in SW Washington, DC. While his two boys rode bikes around the block, a police officer followed his fifteen-year old home. Calvin intervened to ask ‘Why?’ and ‘What did he do?’ How these questions escalated into a night in jail for a father with no prior record will make you Think of Calvin next time you question racial profiling or how America has become the world’s most prolific jailer.



(Director: Jonathan Olshefski; Producer: Sabrina Schmidt Gordon) (105 min)

Filmed with vérité intimacy over the course of a decade, the documentary feature debut is a portrait of a family living in North Philadelphia. Set against the backdrop of a neighborhood assaulted by inequality and neglect, it follows Christopher “Quest” Rainey, and his wife Christine’a, “Ma Quest,” as they raise their children and nurture the creative sanctuary offered by their home music studio.



FRIGHT NIGHT AT THE CINEHUB (10:15pm – 11:30pm)


(Director: Adam A. Losurdo; Producers: Adam A. Losurdo & Anja Gundersen Gøystdal) (11 min)

A senseless wandering ghoul, roaming a world full of hateful humans and the hunger-less undead, discovers a craving that leaves him completely and utterly without hope.


Dead Air

(Director: Emmet O’Brien; Producer: Simon McKeown) (12 min)

In a time when zombies rule the earth, one man rules the airwaves. Has he found his calling?


The Hobbyist

(Director: George R. Vatistas; Producer: David E. Munz Maire) (9 min)

A short neo-noir thriller centered around a mysterious druggist. He is visited by Sangstrom, a seemingly ordinary man in search of an undetectable poison. Yet, Sangstrom winds up getting more than he bargained for from the sagacious alchemist.

Only Five Minutes

(Director & Producer: Mohammad Mohammadian) (5 min)

A short experimental film that follows a blind girl walking, navigating traffic and multiple obstacles.

Flies In May

(Director & Producer: Caroline Jiang) (5 min)

A young, shy girl, May, is bitten on the chest by a fly. As the days pass, the bite grows into a monstrous, parasitic maggot. As May struggles with the uncontrollable growth of the maggot, her negligent parents remain oblivious.


Stardust 73

(Director & Producer: Kai Van Der Putten) (12 min)

Follow Roger Kapchick as he spends one wild night at the Stardust motel where he goes from grieving widower to Peeping Tom to creepy lothario to dead. And what is the meaning of life exactly? Who knows!


BIFF – Day 1     BIFF – Day 3