I. Love. Festivals! A bit reductive, but it’s true. I love festivals. Music festivals. Book festivals. Fringe theatre festivals. I even love those festivals dedicated to just one type of food, like strawberry festivals. The ingenuity of the participants combined with the welcoming spirit of community just makes you feel as if for a brief moment, despite the constant barrage of bad news we receive daily, we’re all in this together.
So you’ll quickly see why I’m happy to share my enthusiasm as I stand on the cusp of the very first Newark International Film Festival this upcoming weekend from September 9th to 11th. I can’t recall if I’ve attended a film festival the first year its ever been held, so beyond my curiosity as to how everything will unfold, it looks like it’s going to be quite the celebration and helping hand to filmmakers all across the globe and right here in my backyard in Newark.
Some may think it’s odd to hold a film festival so close to New York and only a month away from their movie-making fiesta, but Newark’s three-day extravaganza has a little something special that definitely makes the event worthy of a closer look.
- NewarkIFF praises the present by honoring the past. Episcopalian priest Hannibal Goodwin invented celluloid film right here in Newark in 1887. This creation would go on to receive a patent in 1898, but Goodwin would not live to see how widespread his invention would benefit the world of entertainment due to his untimely death in 1900. To honor him, the NewarkIFF will present the Hannibal Goodwin Award for Innovation in Filmmaking to a groundbreaking artist during the closing ceremony on Sunday.
- NewarkIFF embraces globally while uplifting locally. The festival selection process drew approximately 900 entries from six continents around the world and narrowed down their final showcase to 123 films. Yet, despite the NewarkIFF’s love for filmmakers of all nationalities, there is a dedicated block specifically scheduled to shine a spotlight on films created by Newark-based artists, producers and directors.
- NewarkIFF is for everyone. The NewarkIFF founder wants as many people as possible to enjoy the film screenings and support the work by dedicated artists who submitted their creations for the event. That’s why a weekend pass of $50 gains you access to every competition film screening. But the founder also wants everyone to use the three-day celebration to grow as creators themselves. That’s why the NewarkIFF is also hosting open auditions (for union and non-union actors) for two productions currently casting in Newark; free headshot sessions for actors and models with weekend passes; networking events for insiders and newcomers; workshops on stunts, screenwriting, cinematography, auditioning, and crowdfunding; as well as panel discussions with artists in the music and film industry sharing their journey. Also, moviemakers between the ages of 12-18 will enjoy their own red carpet event and have specially designed workshops that speak to their needs as young film pioneers.
See why I’m so excited for this inaugural event?! In full disclosure, I am volunteering for the festival, and as a Newark resident, I selfishly want to see this delightful affair become a much-deserved feather in Newark’s cap. I’ve called Brick City home for only one year, but during that time, I’ve learned that unlike so many other cities, it’s a community that nourishes more than it consumes. During its 350-year history — yes, I said 350 years — Newark has had more ups than downs, and that’s because its resilience is undeniable. And I can’t think of no better way to mark that resilience than with a festival celebrating the creativity, hard work and persistence of an art form that reflects the humanity in all of us.