For Ben Samuels, making movies has always been about telling authentic stories. With his latest production, the former Doylestown man may have created his most penetrating film yet.
Described as an “ultrareal psychological thriller,” HIDE captures a disturbing journey through a marriage, as it disintegrates into one of abuse and gaslighting, explained Samuels.
“I don’t think this story, with its insight into the nuances of gaslighting and its portrayal of an abusive marriage in a very real way, has been done before,” Samuels said. “It has the pace and pathos of a psychological thriller.”
The film was primarily shot in one home in Doylestown Township during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now living in Brooklyn, Samuels wrote, directed and co-stars in the film with his partner, Nadine Malouf. The 89-minute movie also features Daniella De Jesus, Justin Cunningham and Molly Griggs. The executive producer is Mara Burros Sandler, who Samuels called “an incredible philanthropist.”
“This is such an intimate story,” said Samuels. Filming it during the pandemic lockdown, he said, “intensified the tension and the conflict” that courses through the film. “We were as trapped as the characters in their relationship.”
Samuels, 36, grew up in Doylestown and graduated from Central Bucks West High School in 2005. With a nod to Megan McPhillips, who taught a multimedia class there, Samuels said, “she was always great to the misfit film kids.” The filmmaker went on to graduate from Tufts University with a degree in psychology and drama.
He made his first movie, “Double 0 Heaven” as a fifth grader at Kutz Elementary School. “It was a parody on 007,” he said with a laugh. “I always loved running around with a camera.”
And, he always loved the County Theater. “That’s where I fell in love with cinema, said Samuels. “I’ve always believed film is our universal language.”
The Oct. 1 screening at Doylestown’s iconic nonprofit theater will launch the film’s three-week cross-country tour supporting Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Independent movie houses, nonprofits and shelter programs will be hosting the showings.
“I’ve never had a film build community like this one,” said Samuels, who expressed gratitude to all those who shared their stories and contributed in countless ways, from providing meals and costumes to financial support.
For millennials and older adults, Samuels said, he hopes HIDE “fills in some blanks” and helps viewers form a deeper understanding of abuse. “Many of us didn’t have the vocabulary; we had a simplistic view of what abuse was.”
While the film may make the audience uncomfortable, Samuels said, “I want people to lean in. It’s intended to inspire survivors to seek support services and empower their escape.”
Marianne Lynch, executive director of A Woman’s Place, said Samuels contacted her during the pandemic with his idea for the film. “He wanted to better understand domestic violence. That was so impressive to me,” said Lynch.
As Bucks County’s only domestic violence benefit organization, AWP, offered its experts to Samuels, as he researched the topic, as well as costumes from its thrift store. “He’s a very authentic creator,” noted Lynch.
“Many people say ‘why doesn’t she just leave’,” she said. HIDE, “may help people see the many barriers that prevent that.”
A portion of the film’s proceeds will benefit A Woman’s Place and a staff member will join Samuels and Maulof during a Q&A following the movie.
Samuels is no stranger to the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce’s Bucks Fever FilmFest, where he’s submitted many of his movies over the years. Now partnering with the program to present HIDE, the chamber’s director of marketing and special programs, Brad Sanders, said he’s pleased to be a part of Samuels’ growing success.
“It is wonderful seeing filmmakers that begin submitting in high school, then in college and then break into the industry by distributing a feature film,” said Sanders. Samuels, he said, “has helped other young filmmakers and writers learn how to navigate the industry. Seeing our Bucks Fever FilmFest alumni succeed helps encourage up and coming filmmakers and writers.”
Samuel’s film ATTILA, a short he co-directed with his brother Oliver Samuels, won the “Chambers Choice Award” at the Bucks FilmFest in 2018. Neil Samuels, the brothers’ father, won Best Actor, for his portrayal of Gen. William Sherman and the movie was awarded “Best Original Score.”
The Samuel brothers and Ryan Haagen were Bucksfilm Fest “College Narrative Winners” for Tail Light in 2018. Also that year, Ben Samuels was a panelist on the film festival’s collaboration with the Bucks County BookFest’s discussion titled “A Conversation in Literature and Film.”
AWP’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month/programs can be found at: https://awomansplace.org/welcome.html/calendar/36363568/2023/10.
A Woman’s Place (AWP) hotline, 1-800-220-8116, is available to anyone 24-hours a day. The hotline is free, private, and confidential.