Thursday, March 23, 2023

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Mar 14, 2023

The Garden State Film Festival Returns for the 21st Year

By Lori Draz

The Garden State Film Festival (GSFF), New Jersey’s premier independent film festival, celebrates 21 years this March 23 to 26. This year, it returns to an in-person-only event where you can see 235 films from 23 countries in nine venues plus parties, professional panels, events, special honors and more.  

Some of those films include a Saturday morning block of student films from the creative minds of Middletown High School South and teacher Christopher Corey screening from 9:30 to 11:45 in the Berkeley Hotel Kingsley room.

Music lovers will also enjoy meeting rock ‘n’ roll pioneer and New Jersey son Kenny Vance when he screens his film “Heart & Soul” on Saturday from 3 to 4:30 pm at the Asbury Lanes. “Heart & Soul” is a feature-length documentary hosted by music legend Vance who opens a portal through the decades to share the harmony to heartbreak of the early, unsung heroes of rock ‘n’ roll whose voices shaped the music that endures. He will host a Q&A and autograph session following the film.

Blues fans will also enjoy the feature-length documentary “Born In Chicago,” also screening on Saturday from 3 to 5 pm at the ShowRoom. Narrated by Dan Aykroyd, this soulful film chronicles first-generation blues performers who made their way to Chicago from the Mississippi Delta and their ardent and unexpected followers: middle class kids. Featuring composers Barry Goldberg, Elvin Bishop, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Paul Butterfield, Bob Dylan and Keith Richards, among many others.

Classic horror fans will want to see the feature-length documentary, “Boris Karloff: The Man Behind The Monster,” screening at the ShowRoom on Saturday from 6 to 8 pm.

Horse and nature lovers will gravitate toward the poignant and important documentary “Wild Beauty: Mustang Spirit of the West,” screening Sunday from 11:45 am to 1:45 pm at the Jersey Shore Arts Center. Working over several years, filmmaker Ashley Avis (Disney’s “Black Beauty”) shares this immersive journey into the profound beauty and desperate plight faced by wild horses in the Western United States in hopes of protecting them, before they disappear forever.

Finally, the glorious spirit of Ireland comes alive in the gorgeous travelogue “Ireland,” screening Sunday from 3 to 5 pm at Asbury Hall in the Asbury Hotel. Narrated by internationally acclaimed actor Liam Neeson, this is a journey to a magical land of stunning natural wonders, ancient clifftop marvels, and a rich, cultural heritage called Ireland. Made for Imax, this cross-country adventure explores Ireland’s fascinating history; wild, natural beauty; and Irish heritage. Experience the cultural wonders of Dublin and Belfast and spectacular natural landmarks like the giant Cliffs of Moher, the volcanic wonder of Giant’s Causeway and the rugged Skellig Islands, where scientists are studying the Atlantic puffin population. At each stop along the way, be immersed in the vibrant traditions, fascinating stories and sacred customs of this ancient land.

The GSFF provides novice and aspiring filmmakers, actors and others interested in careers in the film business the opportunity to meet and network with industry professionals. Film fans are also given the chance to see new feature- and short-length dramas, thrillers, comedies, documentaries, student films, foreign films, videos, web series, music, and the works of many area producers, writers, actors, musicians and technical crews. Lauren Concar Sheehy, executive director of the festival, said, “You will be thrilled with the total festival experience.”

The festival kicks off Thursday, March 23 at the Asbury Hotel with a not-to-be-missed “Meet the Filmmakers” cocktail party and a screening of selected trailers of the upcoming films and concludes with a Black-Tie optional Awards Dinner on Sunday night. 

The Garden State Film Festival offers a variety of ticket packages from the full festival Parkway Pass for $95 that gives you full access (Black Tie Dinner not included, separate ticket needed), day and screening and event passes. To learn about the films and for tickets, visit