Film Fest features local and international talent

Movies with a local focus as well as films from several countries will be shown Saturday and Sunday at the Youngstown Film Festival.

This is the second festival organized by filmmaker Adam Michael, who lives in Poland. It will take place at the Tyler History Center in downtown Youngstown.

“I remember looking for film festivals to attend, and the closest ones were in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Columbus,” Michael said. “We have such an amazing arts community here. Why isn’t there one in Youngstown? So I decided to start one myself.

“It’s really to raise awareness of the arts community in Youngstown. There are so many people who are writers, directors, actors, directors of photography. Let’s bring more eyes to what is happening here.”

Michael has directed several features and short films, including a documentary about former Opera Western Reserve and Youngstown Playhouse Director David Vosburgh that will be screened next month at Stambaugh Auditorium, but he won’t be showing any of his own work this weekend.

“I didn’t want anyone viewing it as nepotism or self-promotion,” he said. “It’s really a film festival for Youngstown.”

A different lineup will be shown each day, and the selections range from productions about the Mahoning Valley to movies from China, France and Iran.

Each evening will end with an awards ceremony. Categories include micro-budget film (less than $1,000 total production cost, any genre), best short film, best feature film, best first-time filmmaker, best documentary, best LGBTQ+ film, best animated film, best director, best actor, best actress, best cinematography, best screenplay, best international film, best movie / television trailer and best Youngstown area film.

Makayla McIntosh, a Newton Falls native who now lives in New York and Vancouver, appears in “Cul-De-Sac,” which will be screening Sunday. She plays a woman dying of cancer who gets involved in a plot to kidnap a child with Down syndrome to try to raise the money to pay her medical bills.

“A lot of things go wrong,” McIntosh said.

She believes festivals like this serve a valuable purpose.

“I had no idea how much film is being made in Youngstown,” McIntosh said. “If I’d known, I don’t know if I would have gone back to New York. Ohio’s certainly a more affordable place to make films than New York or Los Angeles. Some of the filmmakers are using local talent, which keeps people in the area, and some of them are telling stories that represent Youngstown and you wouldn’t be seen on a big screen unless it was at a film festival like this.”

It also exposes local audiences to voices from other countries.

“It’s so important have a local film festival which is able to show perspectives you’re not going to get from a Regal Cinemas or AMC, those settings that require a lot of sales,” she said. “These might not be that, but it doesn’t diminish the value of what they (the filmmakers) have to say.”

If you go …

WHAT: Youngstown Film Festival

WHEN: Saturday and Sunday with red carpet at noon each day, followed by movies and Q&A sessions from 1:30 to 8 p.m. and awards ceremonies at 8:30 p.m. each evening.

WHERE: Tyler History Center, 325 W. Federal St., Youngstown

HOW MUCH: Tickets are $30 each day or $50 for a two-day pass and are available online at filmfreeway.com/YoungstownFilmFestival/tickets


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