These four days will be packed with more than 100 independent films from veteran and emerging filmmakers. Like most film festivals, Golden Door will showcase feature-length movies and film shorts that lack major distribution and thus aren’t likely to be shown at the Cineplex in the local mall. But what these films lack in major distribution and exposure they typically make up for in their ability to explore themes rarely touched by Hollywood blockbusters.
The Golden Door International Film Festival (GDIFF) is known for star-studded red carpet galas and for bringing the best of independent filmmaking to audiences. This year’s festival will screen movies at venues throughout Jersey City.
The brainchild of Jersey City native Bill Sorvino, the Golden Door International Film Festival borrows its name from the poem etched into the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty and also was inspired by Sorvino’s immigrant grandfather. Sorvino said his grandfather came from Sicily, a classic hard-working immigrant seeking a better life in America. He said the poem on the Statue of Liberty -- “I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door” -- reflected how Jersey City became a gateway to the rest of the nation. When first proposing the festival, he saw film as a similar gateway, and a means of introducing people to various cultures.
“Every town needs a savior, but not every town can be saved.” – The Girl Who Invented Kissing
The opening red carpet gala will kick off at the Jersey City Landmark Loew’s Theatre on Thursday, Oct. 5 with the film, “The Girl Who Invented Kissing,” starring Dash Mihok, Vincent Piazza, Suki Waterhouse, Michael Buscemi, Luke Wilson, and Abbie Cornish. “Every town needs a savior, but not every town can be saved” is the film’s tagline.
Director Tom Serchio, a Bloomfield, N.J., native, will be in attendance along with the film’s stars Dash Mihok and Michael Buscemi.
Also slated to appear is NY Giants lineman David Diehl, who narrated a public service announcement for the film festival on Sirius XM Radio.
The Loew’s is also the venue for the Friday night red carpet event starting at 7 p.m. on Oct 6. Featured will be the documentary “Five Fingered Discount: A Crooked Family History” based on Helene Stapinski’s true-life national-bestselling memoir about growing up in a family whose four generations of murderers, swindlers, bookies, corrupt politicians, and mobster wannabes made Jersey City the poster child for 20th century urban sleaze.
Stapinski will attend and sign books. Attendees that night will also get to see “Derek’s Friends” – a narrative short written and directed in 2016 by Jersey City filmmaker Joseph G. Sexton, who was only 14 years old at the time. The Rhode Island International Film Festival jury awarded Sexton’s movie the First Prize-Kids Eye International Film Award that same year.
Friday’s evening gala will round out with documentary filmmaker Greg Schultz’s look at the complex history of the Jersey City Medical Center, now reimagined as “The Beacon in JC.”
Saturday features the movie “Almost Paris” directed by Domenica Cameron-Scorsese, who calls the film “a very complex financial story told in personal terms.”
In addition to the director, in attendance will be cast members Abigail Hawk, Adrian Martinez, Susan Varon, Adam LeFevre, Wally Marzano Lesnevich, and Michael Sorvino, along with actor Gary Pastore (currently starring in “The Deuce” on HBO), who served as a producer on this film.
At Sunday’s closing night awards gala, The Fort Lee Film Commission will present the screening of a recently discovered silent film made in New Jersey, “The Grocery Clerk’s Romance” (Keystone Studio, 1912). Also performing will be the Gotham Easy Jazz Band.
Festival judges include actors Christian Keiber (“Bluebloods”), Kerry McGann (“Blood Runners”), Gary Pastore (“The Deuce”), Yvonne Maria Schaefer (“Happy Birthday”), Maureen Van Zandt (“The Sopranos”), and legendary French film actress Monique Inzinna, along with casting director Donna McKenna and Emmy-winning producer Gary Donatelli.
All evening events are sponsored by Carepoint Health, Norman and Bettina Roberts, and Tito’s Vodka.
There will be more than just the evening events listed above, including movies that further the festival’s philanthropic mission of raising awareness about autism.
To learn more, visit goldendoorfilmfestival.org for the autism awareness film program and the many other independent films screening throughout Jersey City during the festival.
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Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.