By CHELSEA M. REYHER
Before “On Blitzen” was entered into West Chester’s annual film festival, it was shown for the first time on Christmas Day in Michael and Sherri DiMenna’s living room in Birmingham Township.
“She just cried through the whole movie, the whole time,” said Michael DiMenna of his wife, Sherri. “It was a pretty amazing moment.”
The 22-minute documentary started as a present from Michael to Sherri, but became a film with a larger message about the connection between a dog and its family.
“Anyone who’s ever had a great dog, you’re going to appreciate this,” said DiMenna.
Blitzen, a German short haired pointer, was one of the last dogs that Sherri DiMenna’s father bred. The two were inseparable, said DiMenna, but he was also a family dog.
“We would have a party for him every year on his birthday, and each year they got bigger and bigger with more people,” he said.
After both of Sherri’s parents passed away, Blitzen moved in with the DiMennas, and that is when Michael DiMenna decided to capture video and photos of Blitzen and Sherri together. Blitzen lived to be 15 years old, and passed away about a year ago.
“I have a lot more stuff than I ever thought I would, and (Sherri) was really traumatized by losing (Blitzen) because he was the final tie to her parents,” said DiMenna.
DiMenna asked Greg Koorhan, a filmmaker from Lower Merion whom he had met through the West Chester film festival in previous years, if he could put something together with the footage that he had.
“His style of film making I thought captured best the kind of film I would want to make,” said DiMenna. “I didn’t even have any idea that it was film-worthy.”
Koorhan was happy to work with DiMenna and had an idea of what he wanted the film to be.
“I didn’t want to make a film that was only appreciated by one person,” said Koorhan. “I wanted to make the film bigger, so that I could reach more people.”
“On Blitzen” is just one of 52 films in the 10th Annual West Chester Film Festival which runs from April 25 through April 27. About 220 films were submitted this year from all over the world.
“It is not a local film festival. It is a film festival that shows films from all over the world,” said Carol Quigley, president of the West Chester Film Festival.
One thing that sets the West Chester Film Festival apart from other film festivals is that it is for short films only — submissions can’t be any longer than 30 minutes.
“I think it’s far harder to make a really good short film than it is to make good feature length film,” said Quigley. “I applaud the filmmakers who do so successfully.”
The West Chester Film Festival was originally started by a committee interested in bringing a theater to the West Chester Borough — an endeavor that has since been undertaken by the Uptown! Entertainment Alliance. While opening a theatre proved to be difficult, said Quigley, the original board did start a very successful film festival.
“Every year that we have it we are told by our patrons again and again how happy they are to see something different than they would in the large multiplex theaters,” said Quigley. “It is beloved by many and we are happy to put it on again and again.”
The film festival runs from April 25 to April 27 at these venues in downtown West Chester: The Note, 142 E Market Street; The Knights of Columbus, 110 West Market Street; The Warner Hotel, 120 North High Street; Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant, 3 West Gay Street; Fennario, 111 North Church Street; Pietro’s Prime 125 West Market Street. Tickets are available at the door of all venues (cash only), or online at www.westchesterfilmfestival.com. Ticket prices are: $8 per 2-hour block of films; $6 with Senior Citizen or valid Student I.D.; $5 with WCFF Membership; Youth Filmmaker block is $5. Get The Festival Pass for $50 and watch as many film blocks as you want.
An Opening Night Party gets the film festival started. This takes place Friday, April 25, 5-7 p.m. at Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant, 3 West Gay Street, West Chester. Tickets are $25 online, or at the door and this event is open to the public. Enjoy an evening of cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and camaraderie. Ticket price includes admission to one of the first Friday night film blocks. Meet filmmakers, directors, actors and sponsors. Space is limited so get your tickets early.
There will be Meet & Greet with the Filmmakers on Saturday, April 26 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at Pietro’s Prime, 125 West Market Street. This event is free.
The Closing Night Awards Party happens on Sunday, April 27, from 6-10 p.m. at The Note 142 East Market Street, West Chester. Tickets are $25 online or at the door. Open to the public, the closing night party is a fun wrap-up to the Film Festival weekend. “The Chester,” the West Chester Film Festival award, is a one-of-a-kind blown glass sculpture designed by Brett Walker and hand-crafted by Ryan Blyth. The Chester will be awarded to the Best Animation, Art/Experimental, Drama, Documentary, Comedy, Student, PA Filmmaker and to the H. Paul Fitzpatrick’s People’s Choice film. Following the Awards Presentation, you’ll get to see some of the award-winning films one last time. Tickets may be purchased online, throughout the Festival weekend at the West Chester Armory, or at the door on Sunday night.
For movie times, venues and information about the films, go to westchesterfilmfestival.com.