By Bill Peglowski

The village of Gowanda held its first Gowanda Film Festival at the village’s historic Hollywood Theater last weekend.
As the long process of theater renovation nears completion, the film festival came as a glimpse at the new future of the theater. Prior to its closing and rehab activities, the theater had been reduced to being just a movie house.
The vision for the future is to become a full ranging regional center for the creative arts. This will include everything from theater to concerts and on to movies, both mainstream and independent.
The film festival, a Gowanda first ever of its kind, was a major step towards the future goal.
With the labor-intensive and financially draining work on abundant infrastructure issues completed, work on the final stages of rehab to the main “house” area of the theater is currently moving forward with rapid progress being made.
The expectation is that theater rehab will be mostly completed by the end of this summer. While there may be a few features that will still need to be added, it is believed that the Hollywood will, at that time, be able to make the first steps towards its new future.
Despite an initial announcement of the film festival that came just three months ago in March, six films were entered and presented at the festival.
The first film was “It Came From the Woods” by Tennyson Hendershott, from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Set at a state park, the film revolved around a group of new park ranger recruits. In the course of the film, a creature that originates in the woods, at first, appears to be threatening and dangerous. Upon further examination of the situation, the creature seems to be less of an intrusion than some of the unruly human visitors to the park.
“Highway Semiotics” by Stephen Crompton was the next presentation. This short film was an examination of the use of billboards as a medium to express a given narrative. This includes a brief overview of the strategy behind how the elements of the billboard were put together in certain ways to produce an effect.
The third presentation was the Anderson Phillips documentary, “The Chilling History of Ski Wing Resort.” Initially, there is a brief mention of an incident caused by a chairlift malfunction that had resulted in skiers being thrown off as the lift moved in reverse. After that, the main focus of the film turned to the murder of an employee of the ski resort. This particular entry in the film festival can also be currently found on YouTube by searching for the title.
The fourth film was “The Waves: Bait for Some Blondes” from Lyman Films. This follows the journey of a group of friends who form the band The Waves. It discusses how the group began just playing music without a direction and how, through the energy exchange back and forth with their audience, they found the motivation that pushed them forward and focused their vision. While not put forward in the film, the title refers to a song by The Waves, which can also be found on YouTube.
Following the break, another Stephen Crompton film, “Sweet Love,” was screened. This was a biographical documentary about a year in the life of Alvin Bojar. Specifically, in 1972, Bojar had been the writer and producer for the making of the soft-core porn spoof movie, “Fongaluli”. He also acted in the production. “Fongaluli” involved a scientist who finds a strange plant that turns a lobster into a woman, an effect that wears off in time. Primarily “Sweet Love” takes the form of a narrative by Bojar, now retired and living in Palm Beach, but there are a few brief clips from the referenced movie. While those glimpses did contain some non-sexual nudity, it was similar to what can be seen in National Geographic or most art museums.
The final film of the day was “The First Date,” a horror-comedy from September Brothers Productions. The film’s official synopsis on IMDB reads, “Tired of the online dating world, a hopeful woman decides to give it one last try with a mysterious stranger who shares her love for scary films.” During the date, the woman meets a man who has his own home movie theater where no less than eight short films are shown, some dealing in negative date topics including obsession and stalking. This film is available on stream from both Amazon and Vimeo as a 99-cent rental.
The winners from the 2019 film festival are as follows:
Best Picture and Best Cinematography went to “It Came From The Woods.” The film was also voted the Audience Choice.
Anna Dominguiez was selected as Best Actress, also from “It Came From The Woods.”
Best Actor went to Paul McGinnis for “The First Date.” That film also took Best Editing.
Best Director was Stephen Crompton for “Sweet Love.” Best Original Soundtrack went to “The Chilling History of Ski Wing Resort.”
In all, it was a collection of very diverse films. Looking forward, with a full year before the next Gowanda Film Festival, it is hoped that more individuals in Western New York will put together a film of their own.
For more information, visit, or search “Gowanda Film Fest” on Facebook.