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Smith Alum's Film to Open Northampton Film Festival

Scene from American Wake

When Maureen Foley ’76 attended Smith, she had no aspiration to one day become an independent filmmaker of thoughtful, successful feature productions. A double major in English and music, Foley never stepped foot anywhere near the theatre department, she says, preferring the library in the company of Chaucer and Shakespeare, or a practice room in Sage Hall.

Now, nearly three decades after her graduation, Foley, who lives in Boston, will return to Northampton, where she grew up, for the local premiere of her latest film American Wake, which will open the Northampton Independent Film Festival on Wednesday, October 27, at 7:30 p.m. at the Academy of Music. (Admission: $10, $7 for Smith students.)

American Wake tells the story of two people in Boston, one a fireman named Jack, the other a musician, Niall, each of who faces difficult choices in forming the life he hopes to live. “This film is about that moment in life when someone offers you a hand across the water,” explains Foley, “and it is all you need to take the first step toward creating the kind of life you think you want to live.”

American Wake, which was written, directed and co-produced by Foley, stars Billy Smith (Jack), who co-wrote the screenplay, and Sam Amidon (Niall). The film was shot in locations around Boston and received its premiere screening at the Democratic National Convention there in July.

Foley first embarked on filmmaking in the mid-1990s after writing a powerful screenplay for her debut feature Home Before Dark, which was named Best American Independent Film at the 1997 Hamptons International Film Festival. American Wake is Foley’s second feature film. Next, she is scheduled to direct a film titled Criminals, which she adapted from a novel of the same title by Margot Livesy; and she is preparing to direct The Mentor, which she adapted from the novel by Sebastian Stuart.

Having grown up in Northampton, and with many friends and relatives living in the area, Foley looks forward to her film’s local premiere. “I am thrilled to have American Wake opening the Northampton Film Festival,” she says. “I have great admiration for the wonderful festival that the Northampton Film Festival has become.”

The 10th annual Northampton Independent Film Festival runs from October 27 through Sunday, October 31, with screenings of nearly 100 films at local theaters and venues, including Stoddard, Graham and Wright halls at Smith. The festival will award more than $7,000 in prizes.

For more festival information, consult

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