Published on April 21, 2022 at 1:20 p.m.
The Jim Thorpe Independent Film Festival offers a lineup of films that cannot be seen together anywhere else.
Some selections are made by designers from distant countries. Others are made by people who live in Carbon County.
“It’s become, beyond an ‘independent’ film festival, the I in JTIFF is starting to become more international,” said Todd Morris, co-founder of the festival.
The fifth annual festival begins tonight and will continue until Sunday. The home of the festival, Mauch Chunk Opera House, will host 10 feature films and 70 short films throughout the weekend. In addition, there are parties at Jim Thorpe establishments and live music.
The opening night feature begins with a performance by Philadelphia-based band Slomo Sapiens – playing catchy grunge-influenced rock – and an 86-minute Finnish horror film. A party at Marion Hose Bar follows.
Throughout the weekend, viewers have the opportunity to interact with the people who created them. On Saturday evening, the filmmakers celebrate with a gala at the Victor Stabin Museum with live jazz. Tickets are available to the public.
Many creators also host Q&A sessions, including the directors of Friday and Saturday night features. Scott Monahan, who directs and stars in the Saturday night feature, “Anchorage”, originally came to the festival to show a short film in 2019. He returns with his feature which has been in over 30 festivals, winning honors and getting articles in Hollywood publications like Variety.
Texas-based Jeffrey Garcia is another director who has transitioned from screening shorts to feature films at the festival. Known as the Kong of Wrong for his controversial films, Garcia is part of the late night No Kids Are Allowed to block Grindhouse on Saturday night.
The other feature films, made by a diverse group of directors, air throughout the weekend. Mixed in are blocks of shorts centered on themes such as “love hurts” and “the glory of mourning”. The movies might have a very different tone, but share a common theme.
“It’s everything from comedies to dark twisted tales that fit under this umbrella,” Morris said.
Two blocks, taking place Saturday and Sunday mornings, feature films made in Pennsylvania, including directors from Lehighton and Jim Thorpe. The local hero block, which takes place on Sunday morning, includes a short film by Lehighton-based director Ryan Sellers.
Films for the festival are chosen from hundreds of submissions. Morris and his wife, festival co-founder Jocelyn O’Neil, watch them in the months leading up to the festival. Choosing just 80 films can be a heartbreaking process, says Morris. Not only must the selections be of high quality, but they must also fit into a theme block.
“There are a lot of good movies that I send rejection letters to, and it breaks our hearts,” Morris said.
The festival continues to evolve as it enters its fifth year. This edition has more music than ever, thanks to a partnership with a Philadelphia-based music collective called Great Circles. It includes an audiovisual performance before the Saturday evening feature and a DJ during the filmmakers gala.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the setting. Morris and O’Neil moved to Jim Thorpe and envisioned a festival because it’s a destination with the necessary ingredients for a film festival – venues for screenings and parties, all within walking distance, and residents who support the arts.
“Successful, long-lasting film festivals, the ones everyone knows about, cities all have the same characteristics as Jim Thorpe,” Morris said.
Finnish horror film “Hatching” is the opening feature of the fifth annual Jim Thorpe Independent Film Festival. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS
“Anchorage” star and director Scott Monahan originally showed a short at the Jim Thorpe Independent Film Festival. His award-winning feature plays Friday night.
The Chinese film “Streetwise” closes the film festival on Sunday evening.