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Dawn Noel returned to Philly for a screening of her award-winning film ’22 Years’

By Lindsey Nolen

Showcasing talent is not a new thing for Dawn Noel. Her award-winning talent dates back to her childhood days in the old neighborhood where she earned the titles of Little Miss Sunshine and Little Miss Philadelphia.

Those who want to learn what Noel has been up to since those days at 15th and Porter streets can simply IMDB her. The awards are a little more prestigious these days. The actress, writer and producer is making a name for herself in Hollywood, winning the Audience and Best Actress Awards for “22 Years” at the 2016 Los Angeles Movie Awards.

The award-winning short film is now in the Philly spotlight as a screening of “22 Years” will take place at the Philadelphia Independent Film Awards tomorrow night (May 5) from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the International House Philadelphia, 3701 Chestnut St. Noel is especially excited at the opportunity to come home and share her nomination for Best Short Film with family and friends in the area.

“We’re really excited because we’ve been to film festivals all over the world, but it took a second for Philly to accept our film,” Noel said. “I’m so excited for my family and friends to see where I started, where I’m going and where I will continue to go. I feel really proud of this film, and I hope Philly comes out to support us.”

The 16-minute short film, in which Noel is the producer and star, is based around the experience of a young woman named Avi who receives an unexpected call from her past. After not hearing from her estranged father for 22 years, one day she receives an email from him asking her to reconnect. Having spent more than two decades creating a life for herself without him, she questions whether to embrace the opportunity or to leave her father in the past.

“This is my story,” Noel, who worked on the film for three years, said. “The film has a little bit of truth to it, but it’s still a work of fiction. I used feelings and emotions from my own personal life in combination with a borrowed story from a family member, while embellishing it to have it make sense and to be more dramatic.”

While the plot of “22 years” may not be identical to Noel’s own experience, she believes the story line is relevant and relatable to most people because every parent and child go through their ups and downs. In her own life, this was no different. Although her father was there for her physically during her stages of growing up, she was able to channel the emotions from their differences into her role as Avi in “22 Years.”

“My family was old school to some degree, and me being an artist, I just saw things from a different perspective,” Noel said. “I was always a little ‘out there’ as an artist, and I never saw color, race or gender. Sometimes parents and children just don’t get along, and there was a point in my life where my father and I didn’t see eye-to-eye for awhile.”

The award-winning actress, dancer and producer credits this open-mindedness from which her family disconnect arose to her educational experience in the arts. Having attended the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, Noel spent her teen years mostly in Center City, where she began to see her friend groups change and amass great diversity.

“I definitely have my roots in South Philly, but I was just so adventurous and wanted to travel the world and get of that box that a lot of people live in,” Noel said. “[Center City] sparked a need for me to be around different people and cultures.”

She continued her education by achieving her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of the Arts and soon after began dancing professionally for Philadelphia’s Koresh Dance Co., Ballet Hispanico and Elisa Monte Dance companies. From there, she moved to New York City, making her mark on Broadway with the groundbreaking musical, “The Lion King.”

“I was so excited when I landed my first Broadway show,” Noel said. “To this day, ‘Lion King’ is my favorite show, and it definitely was a dream come true. Also, so many of my friends were in the show, so it was nice to work with people I knew.”

Noel has toured with Madonna and Jennifer Lopez as a featured dancer, gained television and commercial roles — including “All My Children,” “NCIS” and “Glee” — and has appeared on the big screen. Proving her success in her latest endeavor, she won Best Actress for “22 Years” at the Charlotte Black Film Festival, International NYC Film Festival, Women’s International Film Festival and Velvet Rope Film festival.

“I love what I do. There’s so much of the world to see, and some people just get stuck,” Noel said. “I always knew that as an artist I wanted to change people’s lives. I wanted to give them a different perspective on life.”

Noel added that along with her adventurous spirit, the desire to change someone’s perspective as they leave a theater has continued to be the driving factor in her work. Thus, she hopes as people watch “22 Years,” they can think back to a situation where they too can relate to the film and the emotions it evokes.

Philadelphia Independent Film Awards

Screening of “22 Years” • $7 • Friday, May 5 at 5:30 p.m.
International House, 3701 Chestnut St.

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