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The Slate

Right in Our Backyard

Right in Our Backyard

For the final stop on our film festival tour, we return to local Bethlehem, Pa. and the SouthSide Film Festival. Fest director, Glenn Koehler, sat down with Haydenfilms and filled us in on the event.  

Founded in 2004, the festival got its start, “when a group of Bethlehem business owners, Lehigh grads and community-minded people saw a lack of independent film in an otherwise robust arts community,” Koehler says. Accepting any genre of film, the prerequisite has always been that the piece must be an independent production and since starting, the fest has screened “906 films from 84 countries and 42 states,” Koehler says. Interestingly, the SouthSide Film Festival stands by the philosophy that the festival is one of exhibition, not competition as they do not offer any prizes. However, the community is a large supporter of the arts as filmmakers are more than welcome to set up shop and sell their films and merchandise at the festival to better support themselves. SouthSide takes no cut. 

SouthSide likes to open their festival with a bang, holding an Opening Night Party to kick everything off. This is followed by four full days of screenings in several venues on the “south side” of Bethlehem, including the Sinclair Auditorium, the Broughal Middle School Auditorium, and the Victory Firehouse, totaling about nine films each day. In the middle of their regularly programmed festival, SouthSide also holds a special event known as the Children’s Film Festival, a multi-day event showcasing cinematic work for ages 5 to 12. While, anyone can submit to this festival too, they would have some stiff competition. The Children’s Festival hosts films from acclaimed festivals and movie publishers like the New York International Children’s Film Festival and Scholastic’s Weston Woods Studios. Again, it’s purely an exhibition, but many great works have been shown, including the Oscar-nominated The Secret of Kells (2009).

Anyone can submit to the SouthSide Film Festival and there’s even a discount for student entries. Plus, if you get in, you will receive an Entry Fee Waiver, meaning you may never have to pay the entry fee again. The final deadline has already past for this year, but you can still get tickets by visiting their website.


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