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Area Filmmakers Awarded Top
Prize at California Film Festival

Mel Vapour (right), executive director of the East Bay Media Center and co-founder of the Berkeley Video Film Festival, presents filmmakers Joseph C. Stillman and Jeri Wachter with the 2022 BVFF “Grand Festival/State of the Nation Award” for their documentary film, “Something in the Water.” (Photo by Maria Farrington)


Gilbertsville’s own Jeri Wachter and Joseph C. Stillman were proud recipients of the Berkeley Video Film Festival’s “Grand Festival/State of the Nation Award” on October 28 in California. Their feature documentary, “Something in the Water,” was recognized at the 31st annual BVFF, an event which highlights achievement in electronic, independent filmmaking and provides a platform for media coverage.

“We’re honored to be recognized by such a prestigious organization because, like them, we believe this country has a lot of wounds that need to be healed and in a small way, our film addresses those needs through the testimonies of people across America,” stated Stillman.

The film was also featured in Morehouse College’s Human Rights Film Festival in Atlanta and will premiere in the South Texas Underground Film Festival later this year.

“Something in the Water” illustrates the filmmakers’ 16,500 mile, cross-country journey in search of common ground amongst the 200 Americans they interview along the way. Set before, during, and after the 2020 presidential election, the film’s creators set out to confront the “period of animosity near home and across the country, amid a contentious election, a lethal pandemic, the reckoning of historical truths, and a sharp economic downturn.”

Of the experience, Wachter emphasized the “lessons” it offered, saying that in the end, “most Americans seek civility, and wish to speak their truth about what America means to them.”

The pair founded a production company, Important Films Media, to offer tools and guidance in creating independent films for individuals and companies across all industries. Their mission is to use film as a medium in raising awareness of human rights, issues of social justice and stories that inspire other people’s lives.

Despite some hesitation before starting work on “Something in the Water,” Stillman found solace in what the documentary uncovered.

“Basically, we all want the same things: a good job, healthcare, food, a safe place to live, to raise our kids, and despite all our differences and problems we face as a nation, there is common ground in this country if we are willing to work at finding it,” he said. “I had my doubts it was possible when we started our documentary and by the time we finished, I came away more optimistic than ever.”


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