Cowboy Studios is where it's at: http://www.amazon.com/CowboyStudio-Shoulder-Support-Camcorder-Camera/dp/...
It's a little dinky thing, but it does the job surprisingly well. I do all my travel shoots with it. e.g: https://vimeo.com/45164441
Good point - comments should include whether directors are traveling with shorts or features. It all depends on the fest -- I included the specifics on shorts vs. features above if I knew them. The list is based on a feature documentary run of The Creators (http://thecreatorsdocumentary.com/) so you can make a few calls based on that.
Absolutely, one of the telltale signs of amateur productions (when the equipment outperforms the actors/director/writer). That's why I like to keep my shoots lo-fi ;)
Either the filmmaker or the film itself should have "a great connection to the Philadelphia region." If you're not sure if your project has a strong enough connection, write them and ask at email@example.com