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Utopia Film Festival 2019: Tips for Viewing

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The Utopia Film Festival, celebrating its 15th year, is happening in Old Greenbelt this weekend (November 16–18)! This year’s festival will feature movies about adoption; conservation; immigration; race relations; health issues such as the opioid crisis, Parkinson’s, and toxins in our body; community unity; LGBTQ; artists and their vision; new technology; and more.

Several of this year’s films have won awards at other film festivals: “Doctor C,” “From Seed to Seed,” “Found in Korea,” “iRony,” “Mum’s Hairpins,” “Tyranny of Distance,” “Victory Swim,” and “Tele-phone.”

At least 20 of the film showings will include Q&A with the actual filmmaker! They’re arriving soon from as far away as California and Western Canada.

Here are some highlights to help film-goers decide what to see among the 44 films being shown. Most have trailers – click the title to watch.

Focus on the Opioid Addiction Epidemic

Frank Gervasi, the festival’s Manager of Operations, told me he’s especially excited about The American Opioid Crisis: Talbot County Goes Purple and Medicine in the Mind, two documentaries about the opioid epidemic. He’ll even be wearing purple for the festival’s opening, just like the anti-opioid activists in other Maryland counties, a movement he hopes will come to Prince George’s.

Along with his letter to the editor in this week’s Greenbelt News Review, Frank hopes the festival will focus more public attention on the scourge that has affected so many Greenbelters, both as victims and as grieving friends and family members.

Frank also passed along this tip – that “Bishop” about the Montgomery County murderer who vanished, is “jaw-dropping!”.

Nominees: Best Documentary in the Festival

“The American Opioid Crisis: Talbot Goes Purple” –  43 min – When the opioid crisis hit Easton, Maryland, the community rallied to fight the impact under galvanizing leadership of Sheriff Joe Gamble and Lucie Hughes of the Tidewater Rotary.

Doctor C.” – 66 min – A documentary about a physician who in the 1970’s fought for a hospital in a predominantly African American area of Southern Maryland.

“Found in Korea” – 74 min – A Korean adoptee travels back to Korea for the first time in 35 years.

“Victory Swim” – 56 min – The goal of a 65-mile swim across Lake Okanagan in Vancouver, Canada, is to raise funds and awareness for Parkinson’s after the swimmer’s aunt is diagnosed with the disease.

More 2019 Utopia Nominees

The winners will be announced during the festival.

Bᴇsᴛ Yᴏᴜɴɢ Fɪʟᴍᴍᴀᴋᴇʀ Aᴡᴀʀᴅ: The best work by a filmmaker under the age of 18
• iRony—by Radheya Jegatheva
• Robert Johnson: Making a Legend—by Sam Seliger
• Squirrel Hacker—by Felix Hass

Eʟᴇᴀɴᴏʀ Rᴏᴏsᴇᴠᴇʟᴛ Aᴡᴀʀᴅ ꜰᴏʀ Cʀᴇᴀᴛɪᴠɪᴛʏ: The most creative work 
• Four Points—by Cadell Cook
• Perpetuate—by Stephan Larson
• The Quiet—by Radheya Jegatheva

Bᴇsᴛ Sʜᴏʀᴛ Fɪʟᴍ Aᴡᴀʀᴅ” The best film under 40 minutes 
• Fraser Syndrome & Me—by Kyle Anne Grendys
• Mum’s Hairpins—by Tatiana Fedorovskaya
• The Tides That Bind—by Nick Natalicchio

Uᴛᴏᴘɪᴀɴ Vɪsɪᴏɴ Aᴡᴀʀᴅ: The best work in any category which reflects the value of cinema to help create a better world
• Farming for the Future—by Kieran Moreira
• From Seed to Seed—by Katharina Stieffenhofer
• The American Opioid Crisis: Talbot Goes Purple—by Canaan Smith
• The Medicine In the Mind—by Michael Snyder
• Twisp: The Power of Community—by Leslee Goodman

Greenbelters Making/Appearing in the Films

“Tele-phone” – 16 min – was produced by an employee of NASA Goddard here in Greenbelt. Topic: “In this age of cell phones, four seemingly unrelated stories are told through an old fashioned telephone booth.”
“Sally Davies Art” – 6 min – is by Greenbelt artist Sally Davis.

“Together We will Bring the Shad Fish Back” was produced by filmmakers from Hyattsville Community Television, and Greenbelters participated in the efforts to restock the fish to our local streams where they spawn.

Some Movies that Caught my Eye

About Nature:

“Conservation Kids: a Green STEM Documentary” – 86 min – STEM principles are used to explain the connection between Mother Nature and lands, waters, parks, and wildlife habitats.

“Farming for the Future”  – 11 min – The future of farming is emerging in some unexpected places: a school in west Baltimore, a garage in St. Louis, and a snow-covered farm in Maine.

“From Seed to Seed” – 86 min – A hopeful story, this Canadian perspective shows the effects of a global social movement that regenerates the land, farming, and communities toward a sustainable future.

“The Last Herd” T- 22 min – he Henry Mountain bison represent the last genetically pure herd that roams over a large area without fences, culling or roundups. This film documents the delicate balance and provides an example of how free-roaming bison and private interests can co-exist.

About Culture and the Arts

“Overload: America’s Toxic Love Story”  – 71 min – Soozie Eastman embarks on a journey to find out the levels of toxins in her body and explore whether there is anything she can do to change them.

“Robert Johnson: The Making of a Legend”  – 28 min – Robert Johnson, a 1930’s bluesman, went from obscure traveling performer to blues icon in the half century following his death.

“Sally Davies Art” – 6 min – This film is a time lapse study of her art work.

“Lola” – 23 min – Lola, a trans woman from Iran, has to escape for a better life.

Schedule, Locations

Here’s the full schedule. The films are arranged in 17 different screenings on Saturday and Sunday in two locations – the newly renovated Old Greenbelt Theatre and the Greenbelt Arts Center.


Tickets: An all-access festival pass for $20 gives you a choice of over 40 different movies to watch. A ticket for a two-hour block is $7.

Follow Susan Harris:
“Susan started blogging about Greenbelt soon after moving here in 2012, and that first blog has grown into this nonprofit community website. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog at GardenRant.com. In 2021 Susan joined the Board of Directors of Greenbelt Access TV.

2 Responses

  1. Susan Harris
    | Reply

    Thanks, Frank! And congratulations on a terrific festival!

  2. Frank Gervasi
    | Reply

    Cheers to Greenbelt Online for presenting this beautifully created site to view happenings in Greenbelt. We appreciate it’s excellent organization and finding about about opportunities in town and in nearby areas.
    Keep up the good work!

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