The New Jersey Film Festival returns to Rutgers University in New Brunswick on Friday, January 24, with a series that ranges from the exotic mountains to familiar New Jersey streets.
Since part of the goal of the festival is to put a spotlight on state filmmakers, let’s start with a focus on the films from the Garden State.
Up first is Colonia-based director and writer Greg Roberts and co-director and actor Brian Rifici’s “No Locked Doors,” set for Sunday, January 26, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Voorhees Hall on the Rutgers campus. The 2013 film deals with a young man seeking a companion to escape from the pressures at home and at school. He finds more than he bargained for when he attempts to find the girl he falls in love with online. The filmmakers will introduce and answer questions about their 11-minute film.
Highland Park’s Neil Losin (working with Colorado-based Nathan Dappen) presents “Snows of the Nile” on Friday, January 31, again 5 to 7 p.m. in Voorhees Hall. Their film focuses on Uganda’s Rwenzori Mountains, which hold the Earth’s only equatorial glaciers. “But,” press materials say, “these so-termed ‘Mountains of the Moon,’ which caused a sensation when they were first scaled in 1906, are changing rapidly. ‘Snows of the Nile’ follows two climatologists on an ambitious expedition to retrace the steps of that legendary 1906 expedition, and to recapture the famous glacier photographs taken at that time, in order to create a visual document of the truly stunning impact of a century of climate change.” The biologist and filmmakers of the 20-minute film, created in 2013, were the inaugural winners of a $25,000 Dos Equis award to “make fans’ most ambitious dreams come into reality.”
Also on Friday, January 31, is “A Life Outside.” Though its director, Catherine Brabec, is based in New York City, the subject is prominently New Jersey. Produced with kickstarter funding, the film “is a story of passion and obsession. It’s the story of the relationships of six New Jersey surfers: Greg Mesanko, Chris Mesanko, Kevin Casey, Jim Purpuri, Richard Luthringer, and Bucky Walters. Each of them got on a surfboard for the first time about 50 years ago and hasn’t stopped their pursuit of surf to this day. Pioneering surf at the famed Casino Pier in Seaside Heights in the ’60s, surfing freezing waters before wetsuits existed, when boards were long and heavy, skipping school when the swell was up, enduring criticism and low opinions by those who did not surf — these guys found themselves inside the grip of a passion, an obsession so deep, that only those who ride waves would understand,” according to press materials.
Because the Pier was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, the 2013 film pays homage to an era and place now gone. The 83-minute presentation includes an introduction and discussion led by director Brabec.
“Jersey Fresh/Remembering Our Town,” part of the Our Town Project and Rutgers Day, is set for Saturday, April 26, at 7 p.m. in Voorhees Hall 105. That evening’s presentation features films shot in and around New Brunswick. The schedule includes Jessica Dotson’s five-minute film “Reverse Serendipity,” an excerpt from a man’s life and why he goes to great lengths to do a good deed for another. Director Jones will introduce the 2013 film shot in New Brunswick.
That will be followed by two shorts by New Jersey Film Festival director A.G. Nigrin: “Brainwashing,” his 1987 six-minute film shot almost exclusively inside a New Brunswick car wash and functioning “as a metaphor for the drowning of the soul,” and the 11-minute “Mental Radio” (1996) where a woman believes she has telepathic powers and sets out to test them (filmed against New Brunswick locales that have been torn down or re-developed, including Greasy Tony’s and the old Factory on Somerset Street).
In “New Brunswick, NJ — The State of Constant Flux,” Fritch Clark, creator of “The Last Bastions” documentary on rock music in New Jersey, conducts a personal 15-minute film history of New Brunswick and introduces the film.
“George Tice: Seeing Beyond The Moment,” a 75-minute documentary on the celebrated photographer, chronicling his humble beginnings to acclaim as a recorder of New Jersey and America. Filmmakers Peter Bosco, Bruce Wodder, and Douglass Underdahl introduce their 2013 film.
The full festival schedule runs as follows. Unless otherwise noted, screenings are at 7 p.m. in Voorhees Hall.
Friday, January 24
AKT 2: Vermont-based Robert Fritz’s short of two people meeting by accident after years apart and revealing secrets they hid from each other. In Swedish with subtitles. 2013; 35 minutes.
The Other Side of the Mountain: by North Korean director In Hak Jang; the first co-production between the United States and North Korea, the story involves the emotional attachments between a young North Korean nurse and a South Korean soldier forced to hide his identity. In Korean with subtitles. 2012; 102 minutes.
Saturday, January 25
Voorhees Hall, 5 p.m.
Sebastian: Russian director Vlad Marsavin’s 2013 animated film that focuses on an eight-year-old boy who lives with his grandmother in a monochrome world that he ignites with his imagination; 18 minutes.
Malala: A Girl From Paradise: British Columbia-based director Mohsin Abbas’s documentary on the youngest-ever nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai, the focus of a Taliban death sentence of an individual who upon speaking out for human rights became the voice and advocate “for the millions of children in Pakistan who have little chance to receive or complete their primary education. In English and Urdu, subtitled. 2013; 60 minutes.
Sunday, January 26
Voorhees Hall, 5 p.m.
No Locked Doors: New Jersey directors Greg Roberts and Brian Rifici.
Swim Little Fish (Jour 2 Fete): French filmmakers Ruben Amar and Lola Bessis’ physical and emotional journey of a young “dark beauty” who leaves family in Paris for uncertainty in New York in pursuit of an arts career. In French and English, subtitled. 2013; 95 minutes.
Thursday, January 30
Ruth Adams Building, 6 p.m.
Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer: Thom Anderson, Fay Anderson, and Morgan Fisher’s film about the origins of cinema and its most famed forefather, Muybridge. “Drawing the contrasts between Muybridge’s reclusive lifestyle and the explosive public birth of cinema, (the film) is both a film about cinematic history and a work of art in itself.” 1975; 60 minutes, with commentary by festival director Albert G. Nigrin.
Friday, January 31
Snows of the Nile: by Highland Park’s Neil Losin
A Life Outside: by Catherine Brabeck.
Saturday, February 1
Baxter Maryland-based director Ty Coyle’s three-minute animated film in which an obsessive-compulsive raccoon breaks into a sweets shop in order to clean, color-coordinate, and reorganize all the candy.
Animation Hotline: New York City-based Dustin Grella’s seven-minute short scenes inspired by actual voicemail messages.
Virtuos Virtuell: German filmmakers Thomas Stellmach and Maja Oschmann’s seven-minute music synchronized and dramatized abstract drawings.
Mama, I’m Gonna Kill You: Russian filmmaker’s Elena Pogrebizhskaia’s 54-minute documentary on three children in an orphanage and their choices as they fight against stigma and injustice.
Friday, February 7
Exit Hoods Spooky Actions in the Distance: Minnesotan Ilya Simokov’s Philadelphia-set music video featuring musician Mitch Marzec.
HEX/HEZ:Australian filmmaker Geroge Kalpa’s experimental film.
Sugar: West Hollywood’s Jasmine Johnson’s film that follows the struggle of an orphaned girl.
Computer Potato: Calgary-based Todd Kipp’s film that deals with a young man’s overwhelming desire to touch everyone he sees.
The Train: Long Island-based Qianying Zhou’s tale of returning home, remembered love, and revealed truths.
A Week: Brooklyn’s Ken Yoshioka’s surreal film where a father tries to start a new life after losing half his family in an accident.
Swan Cake: California-based Amos Sussigan and Nikitha Mannam’s tale of a chubby Parisian bakery girl who fantasies about a life as a graceful Prima Ballerina.
Some Others: Khrystyna Iaroshenko’s Ukrainian romantic comedy of a bakery woman subjected to the whims and fancies of demanding customers and a man walks who loves more than her sweets.
Saturday, February 8
The Master Cleanse: Brooklyn’s Daniel Goldberg’s 15-minute dark comedy about love and the fanaticism of juicing.
Odessa: New York City-based Cidney Hue’s 15-minute film that follows a young woman’s “last night in New York City with a stranger before she embarks on a 135-year-long journey to the distant planet of Odessa.”
The Reverend: London’s Stuart Brennan and Neil Jones’ 98-minute comic-horror tale featuring Rutgers Hauer and involving a young girl’s visit to a reverend who decides “to cleanse the village of dark spirits.” Both Hue and Goldberg will be on hand for discussion.
Sunday, February 9
Beyond These Walls: A 35-minute documentary by Julia Cameron and Jenna Galgano (Villanova, Pennsylvania) that follows three students at the Overbrook School for the Blind brought together by their passion for music.
Ride With Larry: California-based Andrew Rubin and Ricardo Villareal’s feature-length documentary following a retired police captain, and now a beloved small-town baker as he battles Parkinson’s disease.
Saturday and Sunday, February 15 and 16
2014 United States Super 8 Film & Digital Video Festival, featuring filmmakers from around the world (schedule to be posted February 1).
Thursday, February 20
Ruth Adams Building, 6 p.m.
Films by Stan Brakhage, an important 20th-century American experimental filmmaker who used various approaches and techniques — including manipulating the surface of the film and various editing techniques. The schedule includes new prints of “Mothlight,” “Fire of Waters,” “Creation,” “Prelude: Dog Star Man,” and others. Festival director Albert G. Nigrin provides commentary.
Sunday, February 23
Independent Italian Film Series, Part 1, featuring Max Nardari’s “We and the Others” and Ghanaian-born Italian director Fred Kuwornu’s “18 IUS SOLI,”an examination of race, ethnicity, and national identity in a newly multicultural Italy in this feature documentary that premiered at BAMcinematek’s 2013 New Voices in Black Cinema. The screenings include a question and answer session with the director on racial identity, migration, and citizenship in contemporary Italy and the United States.
Thursday and Friday, February 27 and 28
Ruth Adams Building, 6 p.m.
Voorhees Hall, 7 p.m.
Portrait of Jason: independent filmmaker’s Shirley Clarke ground-breaking 105-minute 1967 documentary that recorded the 12 hour performance and reminiscing of gay hustler and cabaret performer Jason Holliday.
Saturday, March 1
In the Land of the Head Hunters: Inspired by famed photographer Edward S. Curtis 1911 trip to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, to visit the Kwakwaka’wakw people. There Curtis resolved to create a film record of the tribe’s traditions. “After three years of preparation, which included the weaving of costumes, the building of war canoes, house fronts, poles, and the carving of masks, filming began with the assistance of George Hunt, a Kwakwaka’wakw who had served as an interpreter for the famed anthropologist Franz Boas. Selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, this early Native American drama, merged with a documentary style, is a story of love and revenge within a tribe native to British Columbia.” A United States premiere, the film will include an introduction by professors Brad Evans, Rutgers University, and Aaron Glass, Bard Graduate Center.
Sunday, March 30
Independent Italian Film Series, Part 2, with screenings of short “Jennifer’s Law” by Alesandro Capitani and Francesco Falaschi’s feature film “This is Your World, “ a comedy that follows a 19-year-old who abandons his dream of becoming a writer and is then forced into an absurd search for a temporary job.
Saturday, April 26
Jersey Fresh/Remembering Our Town, part of the Our Town Project and Rutgers Day, and featured the already mentioned films shot in and around New Brunswick: Jessica Dotson’s “Reverse Serendipity,” A.G. Nigrin’s “Brainwashing” and “Mental Radio,” Fritch Clark’s “New Brunswick, NJ — The State of Constant Flux,” and “George Tice: Seeing Beyond the Moment” by Peter Bosco, Bruce Wodder, and Douglass Underdahl.
Sunday, April 27
Independent Italian Film Series, Part 3, with the eight-minute “Carmela” by Orsa Cousin and Gustav Hofer and Luca Ragazzi “Italy, Love it or Leave it,” a feature film about the filmmaker’s real life dilemma as to live or leave Italy and their plan to travel the country to try and “fall in love with the country again.
New Jersey Film Festival, Voorhees Hall #105 or Ruth Adams Building #001, Rutgers University, New Brunswick. Through Sunday, April 27. Costs for most events $8 to $10. Independent Italian Film Series free. www.njfilmfest.com or 848-932-8482.