Ready to roll

Inaugural Golden Door International Film Festival debuts this week

Hudson County’s indie film cred gets a boost this week, thanks to the inaugural Golden Door International Film Festival, taking place Oct. 13 to16 in Jersey City. Forty films will be shown during the four days of the festival, giving local residents access to a level of independent cinema typically found on the other side of the Hudson River.
The festival, organized by actor Bill Sorvino, will include films from veteran and emerging filmmakers, and will showcase both feature-length movies and film shorts.
The lineup promises something for just about every taste, from the serious to the light-hearted. There are movies about climate change (“Common Ground,” “What’s Up?”), forbidden romance (“Sarina’s Song”), economic insecurity (“Foreclosed,” “Business is Dead”), second chances (“Street Justice,” “Asbury Park”), and just about everything in between.

Films will cover every taste.
The films come from across the world – India, Germany, Great Britain, Australia – and right here in our own backyard – Jersey City, Bayonne, New York.

Of life and lens

For audiences, the festival – cosponsored by the Hudson Reporter, Provident Bank, and Panepinto Properties – delivers first-rate independent cinema to our doorstep.
“In my opinion, Jersey City is an artistic hub. We have all kinds of actors, painters, poets, and musicians, in our city,” said Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy. “And a festival like this highlights what we have in Jersey City. It promotes the arts.”
For the filmmakers whose work will be showcased, the Golden Door offers opportunities to get a distribution deal, or at the very least to develop or grow their fan base.
“This kind of event and venue can be invaluable for an independent filmmaker, not only for getting their name out, getting exposure, but it can help them get [a distribution] deal,” said veteran filmmaker Sam Borowski, whose feature-length movie “Night Club” will open up the festival this Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m. at the Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre. “If you’re an independent filmmaker, you know you’re not going to get 4,000 theaters like ‘Shrek’ or ‘Shrek 5.’ But you can still show your work at a film festival like this and you may wind up [eventually] getting 100 theaters, or 25 theaters. That’s a success. You’ve made a movie – just like MGM, just like Universal Studios. And from there, you graduate to a higher level.”
First-time movie director Keith Rennar, former owner of the Bayonne-based business Rennar Designs, hopes his documentary “Of God and Gucci,” will become a platform for his fight for justice for victims of child sexual abuse. The film, shot in Jersey City, charts Rennar’s own abuse by a Catholic priest and a church music director when he was child. He is now trying to change statute of limitations laws in New Jersey that restrict the amount of time victims of childhood sexual abuse can file criminal charges.
“That’s my focus right now and I’m hoping this film raises awareness about this issue and gets more people involved in changing the law,” said Rennar. “That’s the power of a film festival like this. It gives me a voice to communicate with many people at once, many people I might not have an opportunity to meet otherwise.”
Rohit Gupta, director of the movie “Life! Camera Action,” said even though he had offers from film industry pros to release his film on the DVD market, he still hopes to get a distribution deal in theaters.
“This is why I show the film in the festival,” he said. “Well, first I show it because it was made in Jersey City. But I also want to show it because I think it will improve my chances of getting good distribution.”

Other highlights

Audiences shouldn’t let all this talk of “distribution deals” discourage them from attending. Sorvino, himself an actor and director, emphasizes the Golden Door is open to everyone.
“I wanted the festival to showcase elite films without being elitist,” he said. “I wanted this to be a filmmaker’s film festival. But I don’t want that to imply that people who aren’t in film are going to be treated like they’re second class.”
In keeping with that proletarian perspective, Sorvino said audience members will have access to the opening and closing night parties, and other star-studded social gatherings connected to the festival.
The festival will take place at several venues throughout the city, including Bar Majestic, LITM, and Art House Productions, in addition to the historic Loew’s Jersey Theatre. The festival will also include a number of filmmaking seminars, which will take place at the rotunda in City Hall.
Independent filmmaker and Jersey City resident John Trigonis (“Cerise,” “Cog”) and Slava Rubin, founder of IndieGoGo, will present the Crowdfunding seminar. Together, Trigonis and Rubin will offer useful information and advice on how independent filmmakers can raise money for their projects.
Mary Pat Kelly, author of “Martin Scorsese: The First Decade” and “Martin Scorsese: A Journey,” will give a talk on the seminal director’s life and work. Kelly, who has interviewed Scorsese and the actors and tech crewmembers who have worked with him, will recount Scorsese’s directorial style and key decisions that made such films as “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull” the classics that they are.
Renowned actor Paul Sorvino, co-star of the films “Goodfellas,” “Reds,” “Nixon,” and more than 150 other movies, will receive a lifetime achievement award at the festival. Director and Jersey City native Leon Gast, whose documentary “When We Were Kings” received the Academy Award for best feature-length documentary, will receive the keys to the city during the event.
A panel of judges will also award various honors to the festival’s top films.
Among the nominees competing for awards are the documentaries “The Secret Life of My Small Urban Backyard,” by John Dunsten; “Dams the Lethal Water Bombs,” by Sohn Roy; “In the Footsteps of Willie Sutton,” by Rich Gold; and “Street Corner Harmony,” by Abraham Santiago. The movies “Night Club,” “Victims,” “Moment of Truth: The Andy Myers Story,” “Life! Camera Action,” and “Kerberos” were nominated in the best feature film category.
The full list of nominees can be viewed at
Tickets for the festival can still be purchased through Tickets for individual programs are $11.34, which includes the fee. There’s also an all-access festival pass available for $156.24, including the service fee.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at


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