Stars to shine in Jersey City

Golden Door International Film Festival kicks off Sept. 20
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What do the “Brady Bunch,” “The Sopranos,” and “Real Housewives of New York” have in common?
Stars from those shows as well as a host of other movie industry professionals are expected to attend the opening festivities of the Golden Door International Film Festival in Jersey City on Sept. 20.
In its eighth year, the festival will screen 204 films at various venues around Jersey City over a four-day period, starting at a red carpet reception on Sept. 20 at the Loew’s Landmark Theatre in Journal Square as well as a closing event and awards ceremony on Sept. 23.
Golden Door will kick off the opening ceremonies with two films. “Undiscovered Country” is a feature film by a Hoboken filmmaker dealing with a young woman and her mother’s secret past. In “Nightingale,” a man puts on a one-man show in the midst of a nuclear holocaust.
The opening event may feature some surprise guests: expected to attend are a who’s-who of well-known TV and movie personalities, as well as local stars, including Chuck Wepner, a fighter known as the “Bayonne Bleeder.” Wepner was recently featured in a film about how the original “Rocky” movie was based on his fight with Muhammad Ali.

Submissions came from near and far

Every year the Golden Door International Film draws talented people. The festival’s founders, actor Bill Sorvino and wife Michele Sorvino, said submissions this year came from seasoned as well as emerging filmmakers from Hudson County venues such as Hoboken, Jersey City and Bayonne, and from more remote places, like Australia and Bangladesh, Japan, Netherlands, and the Russian Federation. Many of the judges are seasoned professionals.
Earlier this year, Golden Door was recently named as one of the 50 best film festivals in the country by Movie Maker Magazine.

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“This is part of the charm of the festival. It allows people involved in the industry to meet.” – Michele Sorvino

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A showcase of talent

Screenings over the four-day festival will be held at the Landmark Loews Jersey Theater, the Pope Lecture Hall and the Roy Irving Theater at St. Peter’s University, the historic Central Train Terminal in Liberty State Park, the Beacon Paramount Theater, Jersey City Theater Center’s Merseles Studio, and a new addition, White Eagle Hall.
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 a major movie theater chain. But many of these films seek to explore themes and techniques that go beyond the formulas of Hollywood blockbusters.
Michele Sorvino said the festival also allows filmmakers to network. Famous and emerging movie professionals get to talk with each other about issues such production, funding and such, perhaps even coming together on future projects.
“This is part of the charm of the festival, it allows people involved in the industry to meet,” she said.
Many people involved in one film may also appear in others, part of a sense of film community Golden Door has created, she said.

Some changes this year

Don’t think Hollywood hasn’t noticed. While Golden Door is a relatively small festival when compared to some of the bigger fests, the ears of the entertainment industry have perked up, Michele said.
One aspect of the Golden Door festival is that it’s gotten more submissions from students – especially from the Hudson County Schools of Technology, but also from universities including Rutgers. Many of these will be viewed at the two venues in St. Peter’s over the weekend.
White Eagle Hall is a new venue for the event this year, using its advanced technology to provide a very pleasing viewing experience, Michele said.
The festival will premiere “Criticized” at the Loews at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 21. Earlier in the day, the Loew’s will present “The Sisters Plotz” starting at 3 p.m., followed by “Mother of All Secrets” and “Jesse’s Girl” at 5 p.m.
“The Sisters Plotz” stars Eve Plumb, the actress and painter most famous for playing the role of “Jan” on the Brady Bunch.
Another red carpet event will be held on Friday, Sept, 21 at 7 p.m. in White Eagle Hall, where “Sara Q” will be screened.
The festival has so many films being screened this year that the lecture series in past years had to be put aside this year, Michele said, but noted there are plans to add another day next year, perhaps starting the event on Wednesday instead of Thursday, to make it a five-day festival.

Helps autism research

The festival has maintained its historic commitment to autism research and will feature “Autism 1” at the Beacon at 5 p.m. on Sept. 21 and “Autism 2” at the Beacon on Sept. 22 at 1 p.m., movies about autism that help raise funds for research.
For more information about the event and its screenings, ticket packages, and locations, go to goldendoorfilmfestival.org.

A video poem in Liberty State Park

Two video poems by Hudson Reporter staff writer Al Sullivan were accepted into the Golden Door International Film Festival this year, one of which will be screened on Saturday, Sept. 22 at St. Peter’s University.
Sullivan also served as a judge in the documentary portion of the contest, evaluating nearly two dozen high-quality documentaries that included subjects from football and model trains to arts in New Jersey and the emotional issue of immigration.
Sullivan’s entries to this year’s festival were filmed at various locations in New Jersey. “Looking for a Miracle” was filmed entirely in Liberty State Park’s wetland section in Jersey City. Both are experimental films involving use of camera and how to expand the visual frame, camera movement, and the environment. The purpose of both films was to emphasize local environment and to discover the unexpected things found even in the most mundane films.
Sullivan has been making films since 2005. His most widely seen film was “The Day George Harrison Died,” which received more than 450,000 hits on YouTube since being posted in 2007.
Sullivan has won numerous journalism awards, including those for photography.
“Looking for Miracles,” a video poem will be screened at the Roy Irving Theater at St. Peter’s University on Sept. 22 at 1 p.m.
For more information about the festival or to purchase tickets go to goldendoorfilmfestival.org.

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.