Filmmakers unite at 'LIIFE,' Long Island's premier film festival


Long Island’s best known film festival, the Long Island International Film Expo, opened for its 26th year on July 19 at the historic Bellmore Movies. For over two decades, the expo — often referred to as LIIFE — has long united filmmakers, producers, actors, actresses, and moviegoers, right in the heart of Nassau County.

Debra Markowitz, president of the Long Island Film & TV Foundation, co-created LIIFE with Henry and Anne Stampfel, owners of the Bellmore Movies. The single screen cinema first opened in 1915. For the past 15 years — with the exception of 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic — Bellmore Movies has been the festival’s home.

At an opening news conference last week in the Exempt Hall of the Bellmore Fire Department, located directly next to the Bellmore Movies, Long Island Film & TV Foundation board members joined filmmakers, elected officials and dozens of other people who make LIIFE possible year after year.

“I want to thank all the filmmakers,” Markowitz said, “for making LLIFE the filmmakers’ playground that it is.”

Nassau County Comptroller Elaine Phillips attended the opening ceremony, in place of County Executive Bruce Blakeman, who was unable to attend. She said its economic generators like the film expo that make other things possible across Nassau.

“You are an economic generator,” she said. “And my job is to make sure that we generate the tax dollars that we need to run this county, that we support all aspects of this county.

“We have the best entertainment industry — and thanks to all the filmmakers here for making that true,” Phillips added. “County Executive Blakeman uses a little phrase — he says ‘Nassau is back, and Nassau is open.’ It’s events like you’re having here that really epitomize what it means that Nassau County is open.”

Sheldon Shrenkel, the CEO and Executive Director of the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency, said the IDA has been a longtime supporter of LIIFE.

“When people think of the film industry, what they think about is New York City and Hollywood,” he said. “Well, they’re wrong. Because right here in Nassau County, we have one of the best film industries and it’s here to stay.”

Shrekel said Nassau’s film industry boasts two studios, Gold Coast and Grumman, and supports more than 70,000 jobs.

“Debra, we thank you for everything you’ve done,” he said, addressing Markowitz. “We wish you continued success.”

Bill Blaney’s film “The Three Phases of Fern” premiered on July 19. What made his film unique, is that it was actually first recorded 37 years ago — and had never been screened before.

“It’s kind of a time capsule,” Blaney said. “It’s so great just to have the opportunity to show something. I’m just so happy to be here, and be able to bring this to you folks, and see what else the festival has to offer.”

Michael Ien Cohen’s film “Humanity Stoked” premiered on July 20.

“It’s a feature length documentary with a cast of 70 of the world’s most iconic professional skateboarders, scientists, musicians, activists, educators, all of whom share a love of skateboarding,” he said. “But the film is about nine or ten key issues that affect humanity’s ability to move forward together from our understanding of fear and how that affects us, to issues of inequality, injustice, depression, addiction, environmental issues and even what we’re teaching our children. It’s a very inspiring film.”

LIIFE closed on July 23, but Markowitz reminded everyone that its sister festival, “Scared for Your LIIFE,” revolving around all things horror, will return for its 7th year on October 21. For more, visit