By River View Observer Staff Writer
The Northeast Film Festival recently held a press conference announcing its 2014 slate of films and festival nominees at their new venue, the beautifully-restored Teaneck Cinemas on Cedar Lane in Teaneck, New Jersey. This year’s inception of this rising festival (held in Maplewood, New Jersey last year), includes a slate of films featuring several Oscar-Winners and Oscar-Nominees.
Seems like Festival Director Larry Rosen is trying to bring a little Tribeca to the Garden State.
“We have a lot of dramatic films,” said Rosen. “We also try to find films that have mass appeal, and are not so obscure. We have a number of horror films this year. We also have one of the best lineups of independent films on the circuit.”
The festival, which runs from September 5th-7th, kicks off in spectacular fashion with the Opening Night film, “Before I Disappear,” screening at 8 p.m. at the cinemas. This film, the winner of the Audience Choice Award at SXSW this past year is the feature version of Shawn Christensen’s Oscar-Winning short, “Curfew.”
The film, nominated for a whopping nine awards – most in the festival – including Best Director, Best Picture and Best Actor (all for Christensen), focuses on Richie, who at the lowest point of his life, gets a call from his estranged sister, asking him to look after his eleven–year old niece, Sophia, for a few hours. It also features several other noteworthy performances from Fatima Ptacek (better known to some as the voice of “Dora the Explorer”), who is nominated for Best Actress in a Feature, Emmy Rossum (nominated for Best Supporting Actress) and Ron Perlman and Paul Wesley (of “The Vampire Diaries,” fame), who are both nominated for Best Supporting Actor.
Earlier on Opening-Day, there will be some other films of note, including “Suck it up Buttercup,” a feature about addiction and denial, debuting at 3 p.m. and starring Best Actress Nominee Lacy Marie Meyer. The film, directed by Best Director Nominee Malindi Fickle, is battling Before I Disappear for Best Picture.
At 5 p.m., immediately preceding the Opening-Night Feature, will be a special out-of-competition screening of “Bloody Slumber Party,” a fun offering from Rosen. The film stars Brian O’Halloran from Kevin Smith’s “Clerks” movies, Lloyd Kaufman, President of Troma Films (who will be receiving the Indie Spirit Award on Sunday night) and noted horror actresses, Suzi Lorraine and Melantha Blackthorne.
Speaking of the horror genre, Saturday will bring a very special screening to the Teaneck Cinemas at 2 p.m. in the form of “Creature Feature: 60 Years of the Gill-Man,” from local Award-Winning Filmmaker Sam Borowski (Clark, N.J.). Borowski wrote and produced this feature-length documentary, which celebrates the era behind the creation and distribution of the influential Universal Studios classic horror film, “Creature From the Black Lagoon.” Directed and co-produced by Matthew Crick, the film features Oscar-Winner Benicio Del Toro, a huge fan of the Creature, the late Ben Chapman (who played the original CFTBL and was the last-living original Universal Monster), Julie Adams (female lead of the original CFTBL), Hollywood makeup wizard, Tom Savini,, Oscar-Nominated screenwriter, Arthur Ross (whose son Gary Ross directed “The Hunger Games,” and “Sea Biscuit,”) and is narrated by A-lister Keith David.
“This special screening is the first time this version of the film will be publicly seen,” Borowski said. “Matt’s been working tirelessly at tweaking and perfecting this version to be out this year, the 60th anniversary of Creature From the Black Lagoon. It will also give a preview to many fans, who are eagerly awaiting the DVD, due out about a month after this.”
As are many fans eagerly awaiting the Saturday-Night screening of “Swim Little Fish, Swim,” at 8 p.m. another feature that excelled in SXSW before coming to the NEFF. Directed by Lola Bessis and Ruben Amar and featuring a performance from young N.J. local Olivia Costello, the film balances surrealism, unusual characters, art and magic tricks, in a dreamlike journey from childhood to adulthood.
The list of nominees leading up to Sunday Night’s Awards Gala is impressive and includes Oscar-Nominee Hailee Steinfeld (of “True Grit” fame) for Best Actress in a Short (“The Magic Bracelet,”) battling Hollywood starlet Summer Glau (“Inside the Box,”) and Ashlynn Yennie (nominated for “Last Night,” but perhaps best known for “The Human Centipede,”).
The Best Actor in a Feature category will see New York City native Gregg Prosser (“Behind Closed Doors,”) face some stiff competition in Rob Bogue (for Kenneth Del Vecchio’s “Rock Story,”), Christensen, Dustin Guy Defa (“Swim Little Fish, Swim,”), Ryan Metcalf (“Bridge and Tunnel,”) and Ben Youcef (“The Algerian,”).
But, perhaps the toughest showdown might be in the Best Supporting Actor in A Feature category between Perlman and Wesley (BID) and Oscar-Nominee Eric Roberts (Rock Story), Harry Lennix (The Algerian) and Gregory Konow (Suck it up Buttercup).
The Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award will go to legendary horror producer, Sam Sherman of Freehold, New Jersey and will be presented by his apprentice, Borowski during the Awards Gala on Sunday night, hosted by New York Comedian, Mary Dimino.
“That will be a very emotional moment for me,” Borowski said. “Sam S has been not only a mentor to me, but a friend. I can’t wait to present it to him.”
There will be red carpet events, film screenings and an after-party each day of the festival. Tickets for individual screenings are $12, or you can purchase an All-Access Pass (which includes access to all film screenings, events, gala awards ceremony and after-parties) for $100. These can be purchased through the web site at www.nefilmfestival.com.
With no fewer than three Oscar-Winners and six Oscar-Nominees participating in films – and a good amount of filmmakers and actors expected to attend – as well as other films featuring Regina King, Sean Astin and Oscar-Winning scribe Diablo Cody, certainly sounds a lot like Tribeca has come to the Garden State.