Eagles fandom, medical marijuana and rugby stories give Philly Film Fest a local flavor

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A scene from

A scene from "Maybe Next Year." (Courtesy of the Philadelphia Film Festival)

The title of the film “Maybe Next Year” is a bit of a misnomer. It starts as a documentary tracking a season of the ups and downs of Philadelphia Eagles fans anticipating another disappointing season. 

“I can’t take it. I can’t keep talking about the Eagles. They drive me crazy!” said Shirley Dash, known on radio station WIP as the caller “Eagles Shirley.” 

“I don’t know what else to do! They drive me crazy!” 

Then she rubs her forehead and takes a deep breath. 

“I got to get ready for work,” she said. “I got a headache. Oh my god.” 

But something happened during the course of shooting the film: The Eagles won. This was the miraculous 2017 season when they went all the way to the Super Bowl.

They were not “maybe next year.” That was the year. 

One of the secrets of filmmaking is to use dramatic music and building sound to drive toward your climax. But when that moment arrives — when the Patriots send a Hail Mary pass into the end zone, when the clock ticks into its last five seconds, when the ball descends into a leaping crowd of white and green uniforms … 

… You cut to absolute silence.

We know what happens next. The yelling in the streets. The parade. The speech. We remember the months of elation as the championship crown settled onto the city. A silent hole in the soundtrack quickly fills with all that memory.

Two years after that momentous victory and its aftermath of noise and pomp, what “Maybe Next Year” documents is the football fan’s quiet desperation. 

Fandom is performative — “Maybe Next Year” keeps rolling after the facepaint fades. Some fans admit to using the team to overcome setbacks in their personal lives.

“We’re not expected to win it. That’s why we’re gonna win it,” said an unidentified fan on the street during the playoff run. 

He’s on the edge of weeping, not convinced of his own prediction. “We’re gonna have a 4 million people parade down Broad Street. That’s what we’re having.” 

His voice cracks as he points to the street he is standing on. He might be a little drunk. “That’s what we’re having.”

“Maybe Next Year” screens on Saturday night as part of this year’s Philadelphia Film Festival at the Ritz East Theater.

 Sunday afternoon, another documentary of quiet desperation screens. “Waldo on Weed” tells the story of Brian Dwyer, who made a splash in Philadelphia several years ago as the eccentric co-founder of Pizza Brain, a Kensington pizza shop and museum.

“Pizza’s a lifestyle, man,” Dwyer says in old footage of the opening of Pizza Brain, with his signature pile of red curls stacked on top of his head. “I’m not slowing down. I’m 28.” 

Underneath the pizza world he created was his fight for his infant son. At just a few months old, Waldo developed a rare form of cancer in his eye. “Waldo on Weed” documents Dwyer’s struggle to medicate his son with marijuana, which was illegal in Pennsylvania in 2014.

A scene from “Waldo on Weed.” (Courtesy of the Philadelphia Film Festival)

“It’s highly illegal. If it were to be found out, there could be a lot of legal ramifications, including child protection services,” Dwyer says into a video diary he recorded with his “dad-cam” for when — or if — Waldo grew up.

“Waldo, if you’re watching this, I was willing to go to jail for you,” he tells the camera. 

Director Tommy Avallone has made films in the past that have played with eccentric characters and pop-culture phenomenon, like professional Santas (“I Am Santa Claus”) and people who had personal encounters with comedian Bill Murray (“Bill Murray Stories”).

Originally from Haddonfield, New Jersey, Avallone knew Dwyer and approached him to develop a film idea about pizza. But Dwyer showed him his dad-cam footage from the cheap digital recorder he used daily for years. 

Avallone saw that the footage was really Dwyer’s form of therapy.

 “He needed that dad-cam to get himself through his son having eye cancer at 6 months old,” Avallone said. “He would tell that camera stuff that he never told anyone.”

A third Philadelphia film is a fictional narrative feature based on a real-life North Philadelphia school that was part of the district-wide school closures in 2013. 

“The Nomads” is about a displaced high school rugby team that succeeds despite systemic setbacks. It screens Sunday afternoon.

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