Ed Asner, Laura Dern, Bebe Neuwirth and More Set for Garden State Film Festival, Kicking Off Today in Atlantic City
This year, the Garden State Film Festival (GSFF) celebrates its Twelfth Anniversary with a historic move to Atlantic City from Asbury Park. The festival, founded in 2003, runs now through April 6, 2014 in various locales in Atlantic City with financial, marketing and logistical support from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.
In addition to 184 film screenings from 16 countries, there will be a gala cocktail party, panel discussions, book signings, Q & A sessions, educational programs, an open casting call, and a black-tie awards ceremony. Celebrities and honorees scheduled to attend are Ed Asner, Dara Brown, Laura Dern, Lieutenant Governor Kimberly Guadagno, Diane Ladd, Scott Neustadter, Bebe Neuwirth, Paul Castro Jr., Franklin Ojeda Smith and many others, with Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian serving as Honorary Chair. Weekend passes are $60 and can be purchased at www.gsff.org.
The festival opened last night, April 3 with educational programming and screenings for public school students during the day. That evening, at 7:00 pm, the GSSF co-presents a special benefit for the Historic Organ Restoration Committee (HORC) to restore the Midmer-Losh Organ, the largest pipe organ in the world. HORC will screen the 1926 silent film, The Black Pirate, with live organ accompaniment in Boardwalk Hall. Tickets are $15 Tickets and may be purchased at the Boardwalk Hall Box Office, all Ticketmaster locations, online at www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 1-800-736-1420. All proceeds to support HORC.
Tonight, April 4th, GSFF hosts its own Opening Night Kick-Off Party at Resorts Casino Hotel Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian will serve as Honorary Chair, emcee, and cut the ribbon on the city's newest cultural event. Joining him that evening will be celebrity VIPs Ed Asner, Diane Ladd, and actor, orator and Stockton College professor, Franklin Ojeda Smith, this year's Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. Smith appears in the dramatic feature, Pacing the Cage, on Saturday, April 5 at 5:30 p.m. in Resorts and will field questions from the audience along with the film's director E.B. Hughes.
The Kick-Off Party begins at 7:00 p.m. with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres in the Resorts Ballroom. It will be followed by a premier screening in the Superstar Theatre of How to Make Movies at Home, an independent comedy set in small town Maine. When the town is selected as the location for a reality show, local filmmakers come face to face with Hollywood. The film's writer and director Morgan Nichols, producer Amy Palmo, cinematographer David Danesh, and most of the cast are attending the party and will participate in a Q&A after the screening. Mr. Nichols previous features, Jesus Freak and The Little Death received numerous awards and critical acclaim. A Weekend Pass or a $25 fee provides admission to both events, tickets to just the film are $12 and all are available at www.gsff.org.
There's a lot more to laugh about at the festival. Miguel Ali's offbeat hybrid-improv, Confessions of a Womanizer, starring Gary Busey, C. Thomas Howell and Andrew Lawrence, tells the story of a compulsive womanizer who becomes best friends with a transgendered prostitute. In the short category are a number of comic documentaries, dramas and docudramas. Mortified Nation is a cross-country documentary about a grassroots stage show where adults share their most embarrassing childhood diaries, letters, poems and art with total strangers. The short, Guest House, stars Mark Gessner and Michael Gross as combative son and father. Tempers flare when depressed and down on his luck Lance must move back home with his parents and into the family guest house.
Other weekend highlights include Jerome's Bouquet, the directorial debut of Bebe Neuwirth, the festival's 2014 Wave of Excellence Award recipient. The short film tells the story of 82 year-old Elena Klein, a retired New York florist who can't stop arranging - only it's not flowers she's arranging, but people's lives. Jerome's Bouquet appears in a block of films on Saturday, April 5 at 5:30 in Resorts Superstar Theatre. Ms. Neuwirth and her co- director and husband, Chris Calkin, will participate in an audience Q&A after the film. Irish film director, Colin Ferguson's second GSFF entry, Un Peu Plus, screens in the same block and tells the tale of Mme. Rousseau who is on a one day mission to enjoy the endless cakes of Paris with sweet liberty. Ferzan Ozpetek's Italian feature set in Rome, Magnifica Presenza, is another beautiful film from Europe which explores the desires, fears and secrets of a lonely young bakery worker and his haunted apartment.
Politics, history and culture are explored in a number of selections from around the world. A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power, and Jason Blair at the New York Times directed by Samantha Grant follows the infamous case of plagiarism post-911 at the nation's newspaper of record. Revolution is the result of Canadian filmmaker Rob Stewart's four-year odyssey to 15 countries exploring and exposing the plight of the world's oceans and what needs to be done. Spanish filmmaker Fernando Colomo delivers a little-known chapter in French history with Picasso's Gang based on the robbery of the Mona Lisa from Le Louvre in 1911. Pablo Picasso and Guillaume Apollinaire were held in custody as the suspected leaders of an international art theft ring.
Music is a perennial focus of GSFF films and 2014 is no exception. Director Lawrence Kraman's feature documentary David Amram: The First 80 Years chronicles the life and times of multi-hyphenate classical/jazz film score composer, conductor/French Hornist/world musician and Beat novelist Jack Keroauc's musical collaborator, David Amram. Mama's Got the Blues is a multimedia production by blues guitarist/ singer/songwriter Ruth Wyand and film maker Jean Antolini. While paying tribute to women who shaped America's blue history, the show features a live onstage musical score by Wyand while a film by Antolini is projected on a screen behind the musician. Exploring a more local moment in music is Pirates of the Airwaves: The WSOU Story, a documentary by Robert Longo that explores how a college station - with an emphasis on heavy metal on a Catholic campus - shaped the East Coast music industry and launched many notable bands. In the category of Homegrown Films, is Broke and Famous, New Jersey filmmaker John General's short about a disillusioned air drummer who sets to the street with a cardboard box drum set, that magically makes him a global viral hit.
"We are thrilled to showcase these remarkable films and so many others - from across the world and around the corner," notes Executive Director Diane Raver. "This year's festival, the first in Atlantic City, promises to be exciting and special with new partners and new venues." Individual screening tickets are $12 while a weekend pass to all films is $60. Admission to the Opening Night Cocktail Party and Screening is $25 and the Awards Dinner is $125 per person. To purchase tickets/passes, go to www.gsff.org/festival-info/buy-tickets.