The first Veritas Film Festival continues through Thursday at the Rowland Theatre in Philipsburg and the Ritz Theater in Clearfield.
Hollywood filmmaker Spencer Folmar grew up in the Philipsburg area. He returned to his hometown this week to bring the Veritas Film Festival to the community. Over the course of the past week, Veritas has screened a variety of films that Folmar said all share a common thread.
“Veritas is Latin for truth,” Folmar explained. “So we want to showcase films from around the globe across seven days and seven categories that exhibit truth and beauty through cinema.”
Among the seven categories are student films, feature films, films made in Pennsylvania and documentaries, all centered on the idea of truthfulness in representation and expression.
Cinnamon Monteville, a filmmaker from Dubois, also returned to the area to attend the festival. She was accompanied by Jackie Siegel, the subject of Monteville’s first feature film as a director. The Siegels had been in the process of building America’s biggest house near Orlando, Florida, when their 18-year-old daughter Victoria died from a heroin overdose.
Jackie Siegel talks about her daughter’s death in the documentary.
“It’s so hard to describe a mother’s pain for losing a child,” Jackie says. “And I didn’t realize she had a problem. After Victoria’s death, I almost don’t care about my own life anymore, you know? It’s just like a part of me died.”
Monteville said it was an eye-opening experience to film Siegel trying to cope and move forward after her daughter’s death.
“As a filmmaker, having the camera on that, and getting to see this story and just this real, raw discovery of how to get through this grief process, it was very powerful for me to be able to see,” Monteville said. “And then to be able to put it together was just an honor.”
The documentary, titled “Princess of Versailles,” shows how the Siegels have become activists. They formed the Victoria’s Voice Foundation to raise awareness of the opioid epidemic and increase access to life-saving drugs like Naloxone. Jackie Siegel said this work is in honor of her daughter.
“Victoria’s legacy is to save lives,” Siegel said. “I know in Orlando, Florida, we already have put the Naloxone in all the police cars of the first responders and the college campuses there. And it’s been used, the sheriff’s office told us it’s been used over 100 times. So that’s 100 lives I know that Victoria is responsible for saving.”
Folmar is also working on a film about the opioid crisis. The movie, “Shooting Heroin,” was filmed in central Pennsylvania. Folmar said Jackie Siegel appears in his film.
“I connected with Jackie because of the loss of her daughter over the opioid epidemic,” Folmar shared. “And really with this film we’re connecting with anyone who is trying to do something for positive change for this epidemic.”
Folmar said both films show this type of positive change, which is at the heart of the Veritas Film Festival.
“In some small way, all of our films I feel like touch on important subject matters,” Folmar said. “With ‘Princess of Versailles,’ you know, it’s about opioid addiction and overdose and loss. And yet even in this film, the filmmakers and Jackie Siegel talk about even how something very terrible and a tragedy, something good can come from that. And that’s what I think Veritas is about.”