New Hope Film Festival opens this weekend, continuing its 14-year mission of highlighting independent filmmakers

The festival features 85 films from 16 countries. All screenings are happening at the New Hope Arts Center.

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The 14th annual New Hope Film Festival runs from April 5-14. (Courtesy of the New Hope Film Festival)

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Lights, camera, action!

The New Hope Film Festival opens this weekend, with screenings and events scheduled through April 14.

In its 14th year, the festival features 85 films from 16 different countries, focusing on local, regional, national and international topics and issues. A few of the productions were shot and filmed in New Hope.

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Festival president Doug Whipple said the festival is “roaring back” after weathering COVID-related setbacks.

“It’s been an endurance test, in many ways. But we’ve always had, I think, a core mission that resonated with filmmakers, and with the communities that support us,” Whipple said. “And I think that’s why we’ve had so much staying power over the years.”

The festival’s core mission — “to discover and nurture overlooked and underappreciated filmmakers who demonstrate exceptional talent” — is part of why it has become “important” to the town, Whipple said.

“New Hope has a long tradition of nurturing emerging artists. It goes back to the Bucks County Playhouse in the 1940s, and mostly stage, but there was film production back here, I think, as early as the 1920s,” he said. “New Hope is an art town, in its core.”

For filmmakers such as Esaú Meléndez, director and producer of the documentary, “Pioneering Women Muralists of Hyde Park,” inclusion at the festival provides a “boost” with the opportunity to reach new audiences. He said the screening will support him when he looks to distribute the film in other venues and spaces.

Meléndez’s documentary tells the story of women muralists in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood whose art has become an integral part of reflecting and preserving history. The subject also has an unexpected connection to the Greater Philadelphia region.

“Having the opportunity to show in New Hope and close to Philly was very significant for us, because it’s a way so we can show this type of story in another place in the country that has a lot of art,” Meléndez said, noting that one of the featured artists was inspired by Philadelphia artist Isaiah Zagar’s famous mosaic murals.

Whipple said that supporting filmmakers is at the core of the festival’s work beyond the screenings themselves.

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“For a lot of filmmakers, it’s their first press, and they can quote the film festival and what we say about their films. So it’s really a dynamic and wonderful opportunity for many of these emerging, independent filmmakers,” he said.

Whipple encouraged people to join the roughly 2,000 audience members who typically attend the festival and “see films that you can’t see anywhere else.”

“A movie ticket is such an inexpensive way to have a special experience. Because you can see a film, let’s say, from France, here at a film festival, for the price of a movie ticket, and get a sense of what the culture and environment is like in a different country without actually traveling there,” he said.

The New Hope Film Festival runs April 5-14. Ticket information varies and can be found online.

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