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L.I. Film Fest lives on, but not at Bellmore Movies

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The Long Island International Film Expo will go on this year despite the Covid-19 pandemic. It will not, however, be hosted at the Bellmore Movies, where it has lived since 2006.

Dozens of filmmakers trek to Long Island annually to participate in the expo, one of Bellmore’s largest events of the year. The independent movies are typically screened at the Bellmore Movies, a single-screen theater that allows for intimate talks with the film crew.

“You won’t hear the clapping or the cheering that you normally do,” said Anne Stampfel, co-owner of the Bellmore Movies. “Filmmakers usually make a trip of it and explore Long Island and the city — there’s economic collateral damage.”

Staples of the expo, such as the opening night and final awards ceremonies, will continue virtually through video chat. The featured films will also be available online and screened at two drive-in show dates on Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3 at the Samanea Mall in Westbury.

Stampfel, along with her husband, Henry, the president of the Long Island Film/TV Foundation, were still heavily involved in organizing the event and served as judges in a panel. In May, the festival was postponed from July to October in hopes that the theater would be open by then.

When hosted at Bellmore Movies, up to six or seven films would be screened each day, allowing filmmakers from across the globe to engage with audiences and peers. After connections were made, seeing submissions from newly formed filmmaking teams in the following years was a common sight, Henry said.

“It’s good for exposure but it’s also a labor of love,” Anne said. “We work eight days straight and watch over 100 hours of film.”

“If you want to do the festival correctly, it has to be a labor of love,” Henry added.

“We do love it there [at the Bellmore Movies] — it’s the home of the film festival,” said Debra Markowitz, director of the Nassau County Film Office. “We had no choice but to go virtual, but we’re excited that we’re still able to hold it and get the films out there.”

This will be the 23rd iteration of the Long Island International Film Expo, which was originally hosted at the Stampfel’s Malverne Cinema before moving to Bellmore.

“It’s a shame it’s not in the theater, but we’re happy that the festival is still happening — the show must go on,” Anne said.

More information on LIIFE, including ticket availability, can be found at www.LongIslandFilm.com.