A group of Methuen-raised filmmakers just won Best New England Film at the Boston Underground Film Festival (BUFF). Jon Caron, Phil Healy and JB Sapienza (respectively: producer, screenwriter and director of marketing; screenwriter and director; director and producer) have known each other since they were kids, and spent the last five years working together on the now-award-winning documentary.
“My Name Is Jonah” premiered at BUFF on Thursday, March 27. It’s “an action-adventure documentary,” according to the creators, about and starring Jonah Washnis, who describes himself as a “real-life warrior, adventurer and musician.”
“It went really well,” Sapienza said about the premier. “It was nice to get the emotional responses that I was hoping for — that I experienced when I first saw the footage.” He said that he sat at the very back of the theater, so he could see the audience react. The film received a standing ovation.
The Best New England Film award is one of BUFF’s three Director’s Choice awards — selected by the directors who were accepted into the festival. It is given to the best film made by New Englanders.
Sapienza said that BUFF receives applications from around the country and the world. “My guess is half the projects in the festival are made by New England people.”
Jon Caron said, “It’s not a standard documentary by any stretch of the imagination. In another world, [Jonah] would have his own Saturday morning cartoon, his own breakfast cereal.”
Caron has been a fan of Jonah for a long time. Almost 10 years ago, he, Sapienza and Healy were first exposed to Jonah’s MySpace page. “A buddy of mine sent it to me,” said Caron. “I couldn’t stop looking at it — it went down as far as it went across, there was no easy way to navigate it.”