STARRY, STARRY NIGHT-Filmmakers to Shine at the Golden Door Int’l Film Festival in Jersey City

By Sally Deering                                                             GDIF Award photo by

October brings chills and thrills and skies so bright you can see the stars and the nights will be especially starry when the Golden Door International Film Festival rolls out the red carpet at the Loew’s Jersey City movie palace for four fabulous days of films.

 The film festival kicks off Thurs, Oct. 11th where stars, writers, directors and cinephiles will gather in the Loew’s art deco lobby for drinks and schmoozing and then take their seats in the beautifully restored theater to watch two new films, Pollination* starring Federico Castelluccio (The Sopranos); and Just Crazy Enough featuring Saturday Night Live alum Chris Kattan.  The following three days will be jam packed with screenings of features, documentaries and shorts and a closing night awards ceremony on Sun, Oct. 14th.                


 Founder Bill Sorvino brings the film festival back to Jersey City for a second year and the response he’s received since last year’s event has been huge, he says. This time around, Sorvino has added ore films to the marquee for a four-day smorgasbord of features, documentaries and shorts from Hollywood to Bollywood.

 “Last year’s festival was very successful,” Sorvino says. “We had great feedback and I want to build on what we did last year. So this year the amount of fantastic films we have is over the top – one great film after another.” 


 Close to 50 films were chosen from hundreds of entries sent in from all over the world including Germany, Switzerland, India, South Africa and Australia. Local filmmakers also made the cut. This year’s screenings include Alfred Thinks We’re Aliens; Carbon for Water; This Space Available; Not a Feather, but a Dot; A Dance with Andrea; Red Scare; The Senator’s Daughter; and Surviving Family.

 (To view the full schedule and purchase tickets go to

“I’m trying to grow the festival to make it more prominent,” Sorvino says. “I couldn’t turn down these films, I just couldn’t.”

 Although most of the films will be screened at the beautiful Loew’s Jersey City, Sorvino expanded the screening venues to other Jersey City locales including the Brightside Tavern, Panepinto Galleries, Art House Productions and the Jersey City Free Public Library’s Five Corners Branch. Every night the screenings will be a red carpet event. At Friday night’s screenings at the Loew’s, the stars will shine like supernovas with the showing of Union Square starring Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino and Emmy award winner Tammy Blanchard. (Union Square is a special festival attraction and not part of the competition.)

 Also on Friday night’s bill is local filmmaker Mara Lesemann’s Surviving Family which features Vincent Pastore who played Sal Bonpensiero in The Sopranos. Lesemann’s film tells the story of a woman getting married in five days who returns home to her dysfunctional family in New Jersey to prepare for her nuptials. Lesemann shot many of the film’s scenes in her very own Jersey City neighborhood: the Lucky 7 tavern on Coles Street, Satis Bistro on Washington Boulevard, Pecorraro Bakery on Newark Avenue, La Belle Boutique on Danforth Avenue and City Hall on Grove Street.

 “Shooting scenes in Jersey City’s City Hall was absolutely awesome,” Lesemann says. “We made up a New Jersey town called Byzantine and Vincent Pastore plays the mayor who helps this young couple get a marriage license. Jersey City’s Mayor Healy was nice enough to let us use his office and we shot a scene there at 3 in the morning. Debbie Harris who works for the city’s cultural affairs department was our liaison and she was great.”

Lesemann has had several screenings of Surviving Family and says there’s something special about screening her film in Jersey City. A former banker, Lesemann sees her film career as a risk worth taking and bankrolled the movie with her own savings.

“I’m not going to live forever and I want to do things that are important to me,” Lesemann says. “I’m very proud of the film. I’ve written and produced several shorts before this, wrote another screenplay and this one I wrote with the intention of it being produced.”

Linden resident Sam Borowski directed and co-wrote Pollination* which will be featured at the Opening Night Gala.  This live action short co-written by Borowski and Lisa Buffington, who once worked as Borowski’s assistant, tells the story of the relationships between people and their plants and stars Federico Castelluccio who played hitman Furio on The Sopranos.  

 In August, Borowski premiered Pollination* at the Holly Shorts Festival in Hollywood where many short films go on to be nominated for Academy Awards, Borowski says.

 “Federico got nominated for best actor which was great and qualifying for an Oscar in the live action category would be amazing, but it’s more of an amazing feeling to write stories that touch people’s lives,” Borowski says.


Paul Sorvino, Bill Sorvino and Sam Borowski at the first annual GDIF

At last year’s festival Borowski’s film Nightclub earned five awards including best picture, best director, best actress for Academy-Award winner Sally Kellerman (M*A*S*H) and best actor for the late Ernest Borgnine (Marty, McHale’s Navy). Since its screening at Golden Door, Borowski says he’s now in talks with a major studio and Nightclub will be released later this year.

 As a result of Nightclub’s screening last year at the Golden Door International Film Festival, Borowski says he’s booked several jobs by networking and making new contacts.

 “The festival is out of this world,” Borowski says. “For any filmmaker or actor this is the place to be. It’s absolutely one of the best networking experiences I’ve had at a festival.”

 If you go:

Thurs, Oct. 11- Sun, Oct. 14

The Golden Door International Film Festival

Jersey City

Tickets $10 at the door (additional surcharge when purchased online)

Film screenings shown at Loew’s Jersey City; Brightside Tavern; Panepinto Galleries; Art House Productions; and Jersey City Free Public Library/Five Corners Branch

For screenings schedule and tickets: