By Karen Bloom
Bellmore rolls out the red carpet next week when the latest installment of the Long Island International Film Expo arrives at the Bellmore Movies. The festival, now in its 14th year, continues to be a vital eight-day showcase of the creativity of independent filmmakers, representing all genres of movie making from around the world, beginning July 7.
The focus of this year’s group of 115 films is the documentary. In fact, 2011 seems to the year of the documentary, according to Debra Markowitz, Director of Nassau County’s Film Office, who is also executive director of the Long Island Film/TV Foundation, which presents the Long Island International Film Expo.
“Eleven documentaries were released theatrically last year, more than any other year to date, and even our programming lends to the fact that this is the year of the documentary,” Markowitz said. “The audiences seem to have really taken to documentary filmmaking well. Today’s moviegoers are a sophisticated group and there is definitely a market for films on all sorts of topics.”
While critically-acclaimed short and feature-length films will be shown, the abundance of documentaries and foreign films take the lead this year. “We took in 28 documentaries, on every topic you can imagine,” Markowitz said, “ranging from 10 minutes long to feature length. That’s a large number of documentaries.”
Documentaries to be screened cover a wide range of subjects: including how a community comes together to honor their wounded warriors; how Burmese citizens suffer adverse conditions in their native home; how a family has to collect cans to survive after the father becomes unemployed; and how a high school football team from Dearborn, Michigan prepares for its big cross-town rivalry game during the last ten days of Ramadan. Another documentary follows two MMA fighters in their training and daily lives, while another documents the commemorating of mass graves in Poland many years after the Holocaust. “Long Island Uncovered” is a documentary film that takes an in-depth and behind-the-scenes look at the private lives of Long Island’s top tribute/cover band musicians. From the mid-life crisis-based “King of the Hamptons” with cameos by Alec Baldwin, Billy Joel and others, to the history of John Muir, the founder of the New York parks system, there is something for everyone.
Of special note, the Irish/Bosnian film, “As If I Am Not There,” will be the official opening night feature on Friday, July 8, at 7 p.m. Although a feature film and not a documentary, this film realistically portrays the atrocities that occurred during the Bosnian/Serbian war. “As If I Am Not There” opened at the Toronto Film Festival and has won many awards at major film festivals worldwide.
As always, the Film Expo remains an audience-friendly event: viewers can help choose festival winners, and converse with the filmmakers during the popular Q & A sessions between screenings.
The festival continues to expand and evolve with panels, social gatherings and networking opportunities for those interested in getting into the film business. All panels are free except for the filmmakers’ breakfast, which has a nominal $5 charge.
“Local moviemakers continue to shine. “Filmmaking on Long Island is thriving,” Markowitz said. “It’s great to see how local people have evolved as filmmakers.”
Among them is documentary filmmaker Leslye Abbey, a Bellmore resident. The clinical social worker has embarked on her second career as a documentary filmmaker and maintains a strong presence at the Film Expo. While Abbey travels the world creating films that reflect the human spirit, her film selected for this year’s festival, “Experiencing Aging,” is about a subject closer to home, the work and life of renowned social worker and educator Catherine Papell. Based on her thought-provoking paper of the same title, the film reflects on the process of aging through Dr. Papell, who taught at Adelphi University’s School of Social Work. “This film completes my trilogy on aging,” said Abbey, “which began with “Little Shop of Wonders,” seen at the festival two years ago and last year’s selection, “Rosey At One Hundred.”
This was the most challenging film of the three, Abbey noted, since it was based on an academic paper. “I had to make it informative, yet entertaining,” Abbey said. “Katy (Dr. Papell) is a remarkable and brilliant woman who has been honored and taught here and in various countries. My association with her goes back to 1993. She opens up a different perspective for people on growing old and looking past the stigma of aging. I believe it is a film that all ages can relate to.” The film will be shown, on Tuesday, July 12, in the 2:30 p.m. block.
Another local contribution is “Jesse,” from director Fred Carpenter, who co-wrote and produced the film with Joanne Tamburro, MaryAnne Giannino and David M. Lipsky. The film, which is included in Friday night’s opening film block, is about a Nassau County police detective (Jesse) who turns vigilante as she investigates her brother’s murder and enters into a world of crime, corruption and shocking deception. The prestigious cast includes William Forsythe, Armand Assante and Eric Roberts.
“On the surface it’s a vigilante film,” said Carpenter, a graduate of SUNY Stony Brook, who grew up in Atlantic Beach and Baldwin, but it’s so much more than that. There are a lot of layers, twists and turns.” Scenes from the film may look familiar to viewers; much of the film was shot around Bellmore, including the alleyway near the Bellmore Movie Theater and Bedford Avenue. Carpenter is already thinking about the film’s sequel: next summer he plans to start filming Jesse 2.
Also getting considerable buzz is “Lily of the Feast,” which has its world premiere at the festival. It tells the story of an unusual turn of events occurring in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 1973. Santo Bastucci, a former bookie turned banker with a rare gift for memorizing numbers, is unwittingly cast into the forefront of an aging wise guy’s bid for power. Caught between the loyalty he has for his cagey father-in-law, his childhood friend and his streetwise uncle, Santo is confronted with a path rarely taken in their Williamsburg world. The cast includes Federico Castelluccio ( from The Sopranos), Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas), Tony LoBianco (The French Connection), and Arthur J. Nascarella (The Cooler). Michael Ricigliano is the writer/executive producer, with director/co-producer Federico Castelluccio, and co-producers TJ Sansone and Tyagi Schwartz.
Winners of the Long Island International Film Expo are chosen by a combination of audience ballot and judging committee. They are to be honored at the Closing Night Party and Awards Ceremony, on Thursday, July 14 where they receive their trophies and winners’ prizes.
This year, actor Ed Burns, Valley Stream’s own star, will be honored with a Creative Achievement Award at the closing ceremony. The gala evening includes a buffet, entertainment, and an awards ceremony where the winners receive their trophies and clips of the winning films will be shown. Presenters scheduled to appear include Federico Castelluccio, Brian O’Halloran, Brandon Hannan (The Sopranos) Anthony Mangano (NYPD Blue, Rescue Me), Len Venito (Knights of Prosperity, The Sopranos), Kevin Brown (The Office) Cady Huffman (The Good Wife, Curb Your Enthusiasm), Tom Pelphrey (Guiding Light), and Dash Mihok (Felicity, The Day After Tomorrow, I Am Legend), among others. The gala is open to the public.
L.I. International Film Expo
July 7 through July 14 at Bellmore Movies, 222 Pettit Ave., Bellmore. For information on the Long Island International Film Expo and related events, visit www.LongIslandFilm.com or call (516) 783-3199.