Star-powered inaugural film festival strikes gold

Organizers say event to return to Jersey City next fall

The Golden Door International Film Festival wrapped up in Jersey City Sunday night after bringing four days celebrity-studded glamour and screenings of 40 independent movies to the city for this inaugural event. According to organizers, approximately 1,200 to 1,500 people attended the four-day festival, which ran from Oct. 13 to 16.
“We had some little glitches and problems. When your work is being displayed, you want it to be shown in the best possible light,” said festival founder and organizer Bill Sorvino. “So, those were some things that could have been better. But overall, it was a spectacular event.”
He added that the Golden Door will return to Jersey City in fall 2012. “Soon we’ll begin planning for next year,” Sorvino said.
The festival culminated in a gala held Sunday night at which the festival board presented awards in 18 categories at the Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre.
Director Sam Borowski’s “Night Club” was the big winner of the night, picking up awards for best feature, best director of a feature, best male lead in a feature (Ernest Borgnine), best female lead in a feature (Natasha Lyonne), and best acting by a supporting actor/actress (Sally Kellerman).
In an acceptance speech, Borowski remembered his mother who died earlier this year after suffering from Alzheimer’s.
“About two years ago I brought my mother here to the Loew’s to see ‘Casablanca,’ which was her favorite movie. One of the last really good days she had in her life she had in this theater. So, it’s no coincidence that we are here tonight for the Golden Door [International] Film Festival and my movie ‘Night Club’ has won these awards,” Borowski said, gazing upwards.
The movies “Another Day, Another Life” and “Lily of the Feast,” both filmed in Jersey City, also picked up awards. Director Rohit Gupta’s “Another Day, Another Life” won for best concept for a short film. Actor/director Federico Castelluccio won best director for a short film and best actor in a short film for “Lily of the Feast.”
Academy Award Winner and Jersey City native Leon Gast and veteran filmmaker Paul Sorvino each received lifetime achievement awards Sunday night for their respective bodies of work. Earlier in the evening, Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy presented Gast and Sorvino with keys to the city.
“Looking at those clips [of the nominated films], every one of them seemed to be the essence of a great film,” said Gast, whose movie “When We Were Kings” won the Academy Award for best feature length documentary in 1997. “Looking at the quality of that work, and for this to be a first year festival, it made me realize how lucky I am to be part of the filmmaking process. I’m just a guy who had a chance, and then another chance, and then another chance. I had a lot of failures. But I was lucky to have some success. And to get this award in Jersey City, where I was born, is very special.”
In an acceptance speech that was both humorous and touching, Sorvino reflected on the importance of family and how his own family has impacted his career.
“One of the things about being in a place like this is, it’s a [tribute] to talent,” Sorvino reflected. “It’s a place that was built with the hope that wonderful things will come out of us being here and on that screen, as it was for Sam Borowski’s mother when she saw ‘Casablanca.’ Lifetime Achievement is really interesting when it’s for your abilities and your labor. The most important thing is family, because without family, it’s nothing. Imagine you get up and you’re lauded by your peers, and you have no one to share it with.”
Sorvino went on to recognize several family members who were with him Sunday, including his brother William, sister-in-law Roberta, and his niece and goddaughter Rose-Michelle. He also praised his nephew and festival organizer Bill Sorvino as a “terrific actor and great businessman,” and thanked his ex-wife Lorraine, who was also on hand Sunday, for pushing him to pursue a career in acting back when he still working a desk job in advertising.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at


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