Two years ago, when the Golden Door International Film Festival made its big debut on Jersey City’s cultural landscape, the event grabbed center stage as the city’s only offering of independent work being made by contemporary filmmakers.
Last year, however, the festival had to share top billing with the Artists’ Studio Tour when the two events coincided on the same weekend. While festival founder and Jersey City native Bill Sorvino said the double-booking didn’t hurt Golden Door ticket sales, the scheduling made it difficult for residents to check out both events.
With the 2013 Studio Tour ending days before the festival even begins, this year’s Golden Door International Film Festival is back in the spotlight with a fresh lineup of newly-released independent films from across the country and around the world.
The festival will get underway this week, on Thursday, Oct. 10, with a reception and feature presentation of Alexandra Pelosi’s “Fall to Grace” at the Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre. The HBO film, which debuted on the small screen in March, follows the post-political career of former New Jersey Governor and seminary school graduate James McGreevey and his work with current and former prison inmates.
This year, the Golden Door board received nearly 200 submissions.
A screening of “The Fix,” an 18-minute film short starring Armand Assante, Kresh Novakovic, and Luca Pierucci, will precede “Fall to Grace.” The Ante Novakovic-directed film centers on two low-level hoods who are offered a shot at redemption after botching a job for their crime boss.
This kickoff will begin a weekend of more than 60 independent movies from the U.S., Great Britain, Germany, India, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Turkey.
“People who have been with us from the start will I hope see some growth in the diversity and quality of the films we’re showing this year,” said Sorvino, who is a professional actor. “For people who are new to the festival, I think this year offers them a nice roster of films that will give a sense of what we’re trying to do as a showcase for independent work.”
Assante – an Emmy-award winning actor who has starred in such films as “The Lords of Flatbush,” “Private Benjamin,” “American Gangster,” and “The Mambo Kings,” among other films – will receive the festival’s 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award on closing night during the annual awards ceremony.
While Jersey City is accustomed to living in the shadow of its more popular and better known big sister across the river, Sorvino said Golden Door has distinguished itself partly because it’s based here and not there.
“New York has a lot of film festivals and basically what you find is there’s Tribeca, and then there’s everybody else,” Sorvino said, referring to the Tribeca Film Festival, which was cofounded in 2002 by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff. “What I’ve been really surprised by is the number of film industry people who are beginning to hear about us. And I think being a little bit off the beaten path has helped us establish a reputation that’s independent of New York and the pack of film festivals that take place there.”
For the past two years, he said, the payoff has been that festival organizers have been able to be more selective about which films get selected for the four-day event.
This year, the Golden Door board received about 500 submissions from filmmakers who wanted their movies to be screened. More than 60 films were selected.
Among the highlights on the schedule this year are Patrick Burke’s “Jersey City: 24 Hours in Public Places,” a documentary about the diverse cultural, historic, gritty, and eccentric places that comprise Jersey City.
Also of note is “Fratello.” The dramatic film by director Jason King follows brothers Todd and Jimmy, two New Jersey foster care kids who are forced to skip town and rely on each other for survival.
One festival feature that debuted last year is back this year: student films directed by co-eds who are from Jersey City. A portion of the proceeds raised from the festival will be donated to an emerging Jersey City student filmmaker. This year, the student film screening will take place on Sunday at noon.
Tickets for opening night and the closing night celebration are $52.74 each through BrownPaperTickets.com, which includes the $2.74 service fee. There is also an All-Access Pass available for $104.49, including a $4.49 service fee. Ticket prices for individual screenings are $11.34 each.
Tickets to individual screenings can also be purchased at the door. To purchase tickets or for more information about the festival, including the full schedule and synopses of each movie, visit http://goldendoorfilmfestival.org.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at email@example.com.