Films from New Jersey and around the world, subjects ranging from medieval quests to New Jersey artists and shore towns, state and regional premieres, sessions with filmmakers, and even free sandwiches are all part of the annual summer New Jersey International Film Festival.
The movies get moving on Saturday, June 3, and continue through Sunday, June 11, with all screenings in Voorhees Hall, adjacent to the Zimmerli Art Museum on Hamilton Avenue in New Brunswick. Each day has two separate admission showings.
Saturday, June 3, 5 p.m. The festival opens with a series of shorts, mainly by New Jersey filmmakers. They include:
Princess Bride: A Watchman’s Tale, Ramsey director Jeremiah Kaufman’s music video where a prince embarks on a quest to rescue a captive princess.
The very New Jersey Tramcar Girl is from East Hanover filmmakers Alex Tymchak, Dan Lewinstein, and Gerard Zarra and deals with a young female tramcar driver on the Wildwood boardwalk and a man buried to his neck on the beach. Franklin’s Stephen Bodossian’s dark comedy Church chronicles a Jewish germaphobe’s attempt to pass as a Catholic in order to please his girlfriend’s parents.
Helping Hands is Middletown’s Justin Guerrieri’s film about a young film production assistant’s less than magical experience with making movie magic.
New York City filmmaker Niv Klainer’s Don’t Think About It is about an expecting couple trying to protect each other from the aftermath of their inevitable break-up. And Glowworm is New Hampshire director Laina Brakat’s film of young city woman arriving in a New England town to close her late grandfather’s farm and the farmhand determined to change her mind. Guest appearances include the creators of the “Princess Bride,” “Tramcar Girl,” and “Helping Hands.”
Saturday, June 3, 7 p.m. Two films will be shown during the second session. The first is Seppuku, by California director Daryn Wakasa. It is named after a form of ritual suicide and deals with a young female Olympic runner, her career-threatening injury, and a meeting of a spiritual “sidekick.”
It’s paired with Seattle, Washington, director Michael Cross’s feature-length comedy Second Nature, about a small town, a female candidate, a womanizing politician, and a magic mirror. Director Cross will be on hand to provide comments and answer questions.
Sunday, June 4, 5 p.m. The short Karma, Los Angeles director Zhaoyu Zhou’s animated film about a boy meeting a fish in a mysterious forest is paired with Kedi, Turkish director Ceyda Tourn’s feature-length documentary about several cats who wander in and out of people’s lives in Istanbul. The film also serves as a benefit for the Scarlet Paws Animal Welfare Network (SPAWN).
Sunday, June 4, 7 p.m. The program includes two shorts and a feature film. First Bloom, from China, is the animated telling of a friendship between a servant and princess in ancient China. One Eightieth of Zhang Tianyi is Glendale, California, director Shuhan Fan’s commentary of life in today’s China and focuses on a successful law school graduate who, rather than compete with 8 million other people for a job in Beijing, opens a noodle restaurant in his hometown — and becomes a “great leader” on social media.
Saturday, June 10, 5 p.m. The schedule is decidedly international and again starts with a short, Australian director Jennifer Perrott’s The Ravens. It deals with a girl who projects her anxieties onto a pair of vigilant and nest-protecting ravens when her father unexpectedly returns from war and is unable to adjust.
The feature film is Emma, by Buenos Aires, Argentina, director, Juan Pablo Martinez. Called a “touching and meditative” film, it deals with two lonely and disconnected people in Argentina — the coal miner Juan and the young polish widow Anna — whose meeting in a car accident becomes a blessing. Director Martinez and the film’s leading female performer, Sophia Rangone, appear with the film.
Saturday, June 10, 7 p.m. The showing features two feature-length documentaries by New Jersey filmmakers. First up is Hoboken’s Gladys Bensimon’s A Way Out, following three young Newark men who “beat the odds” of succumbing to the perils of contemporary urban life and systemic racism and found a way through structured support, opportunities, and choice.
It is paired with West Orange filmmaker Shelley Titus’ “Sistas Conversation,” a “lively time capsule” capturing the thoughts of a diverse group of women who take on topics that include the Black Lives Matter movement, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and the threat posed by ISIS. Directors Titus and Bensimon will appear at the showings.
Sunday, June 11, 5 p.m. The program includes the short Hijo Por Hijo (Child for Child), Los Angeles director Juan Avella’s story of a Venezuelan kidnapper who discovers his own son has been kidnapped by the family of one of his victims.
It appears with the feature-length I Am Still Here by Mischa Marcus, also from Los Angeles. The film relays the story of 10-year-old girl’s abduction and forced entry into America’s child sex industry. Based on interviews with sex trafficking survivors, the film leads to a fictional account where the girl confronts her abusers and reclaims her future.
Sunday, June 11, 7 p.m. This show concludes the festival with the works of three New Jersey filmmakers. Passaic is Millburn filmmaker Douglas Underdahl’s examination of his investigative journalist father’s last unsolved case — a murder that “tore apart the gritty town of Passaic” — and the path to finding the truth and understanding his father and himself.
Generations of Artists: Roosevelt, NJ is West Windsor-based writer, filmmaker, and frequent U.S. 1 contributor Ilene Dube’s portrait of a New Jersey town that began as a WPA project and unexpectedly became the home for nationally known New Jersey-based visual artists, musicians, poets, photographers, and potters.
It is followed by South Orange filmmaker Beth Kruvant’s Levinsky Park, about a neighborhood in Tel Aviv where the clash between refugees, citizens, and cultures reflects “one of the defining global issues of our time: refugee migration.” Filmmakers Underdahl, Dube, and Kruvant will be on hand to answer questions.
New Jersey International Film Festival, Voorhees Hall Room 105, 71 Hamilton Street, Rutgers University. Saturdays and Sundays, 5 and 7 p.m., June 3 to 11. $9 to $12. Free sandwiches and parking. 848-932-8482 or www.njfilmfest.com.