N.J. Film Festival returns for 35th year


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Photo by NJ Film Festival |

The 2017 festival will screen films by about 20 filmmakers, all with diverse themes and subjects. This is the 35th year the event has taken place.


The New Jersey Film Festival is returning to Rutgers for the second time in the event's 35th year, taking its place as one of the longest-running festivals in the state.

The festival was founded in 1982 by Albert Nigrin, a professor in the Department of Cinema Studies, who continues to run the festival to this day, which is presented by the Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center (NJMAC) in association with the Rutgers University program in Cinema Studies.

Starting as a revival program, the festival began premiering independent films created in New Jersey in the new millennium, Nigrin said in an email. Now young filmmakers get to interact with professionals and have gone on to work on some of the filmmakers' projects.

Submitted works are screened by a panel of judges that includes media professionals, journalists, students and academics, he said.

“We received over 280 (films) for this festival and the interns selected 50 films from these to be viewed by a final jury,” he said. “They pick the finalists, which are being screened at our festival.”

During the selection process, each piece is scored with respect to the following categories: Originality, creativity, production values and performances, he said.

About 20 filmmakers will be appearing in the New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2017 screening, he said. Most filmmakers try to participate in multiple festivals and want their film to be seen as many times as possible.

Rutgers students are involved in many aspects of the festival, from helping to run the event as interns to having their own works screened.

Daniel Natale, director of “Bad Tidings,” screening on Feb. 12 and Zuzelin Martin Lynch, director of “Craving Cuba,” screening on Feb. 3, are both Rutgers graduates. Charles de Agustin, the director of “Doggie,” is currently a first-year in Mason Gross School of the Arts, he said.

Morgan Sanguedolce, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said she is not a film student, but started working for the festival because she loves films and finds independent films to be very interesting.

"I think it's important for students to experience film festivals because it will expose them to ideas and perspectives that can't be found in movie theaters, films produced outside of Hollywood that aren't affected by mass media and big budget studios," Sanguedolce said.

She said that the New Jersey Film Festival is different from others because it is not limited to one weekend, and instead branches several weekends over the course of about two months, which allows more people and more films to be included.

Working on the festival also offers Sanguedolce the opportunity to network with people in the field, she said.

"Meeting so many other filmmakers, actors, producers, does actually give me the chances to network within my field," she said. "People are always looking to connect and seek out help on new projects."

The festival allows for her to meet filmmakers from around the country and the world, she said.

“Not only do our audiences have the opportunity to view many independently produced films, but also the added benefit of meeting with the filmmakers, themselves and with critics, scholars and media art professionals who are invited to speak at the screenings to hold workshops, seminars and lectures,” Nigrin said.

The films being screened are of a diverse variety — from Michael Hadley’s “Knights of New Jersey,” which is a behind-the-scenes look at a troupe of Renaissance Faire actors to Seymon Pinkahasov’s “With God Against Man,” a documentary about the untold heroism of Sousa Mendes, a Portuguese consul general in France between 1939 and 1940, he said.

“The theme of ‘Fake News’ — which is really big in today’s current events — is a main theme in the documentary ‘Art of the Prank,’ which is about artist and performer Joey Skaggs, who some consider the founder of fake news,” Nigrin said.

Vice’s i-D website named Benjamin Ross Hayden’s “The Northlander,” premiering Jan. 28, “one of the indigenous cinema’s most important films,” and the film has screened from Montreal to Buenos Aires, according to the Asbury Park Press.

The aim of the festival has always been to enlighten and entertain their audiences, Nigrin said. Last year, the Rutgers Film Co-op/NJMAC drew close to 5,000 viewers from throughout Middlesex County, New Jersey and North America by “offering a unique media arts culture.”

“It is obvious the Rutgers Film Co-op/NJMAC’s New Jersey Film Festivals, New Jersey International Film Festival and the New Jersey Media Arts Center’s Workshop Program are providing a community service unavailable anywhere in the state on such a consistent and large-scale basis,” Nigrin said.

Previous guests of the festival include Martin Scorsese, Thelma Schoonmaker-Powell, Paul Morrissey, D.A. Pennebaker, Todd Solondz and Jem Cohen, he said.

During the Spring 2017 season, the Rutgers Film Co-op/NJMAC will also present the 29th anniversary of the United States Super 8 Film and Digital Video Festival, “the longest running, nationally recognized, juried 8mm film/video festival in North and South America," according to New Jersey Stage.

“Our New Jersey Film Festivals continue to be ‘the cinematheque for filmgoers in our state’ and patrons are continually thankful we are here to fill the art film void in New Jersey,” Nigrin said.

Alexandra DeMatos is a School of Arts and Sciences junior double-majoring in journalism and media studies and women's and gender studies. She is the copy editor of The Daily Targum.


Alexandra DeMatos

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