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Kick Off for the Gold Coast International Film Festival

On a red carpet under the marquee of Manhasset’s Clearview Cinemas on May 10, Regina Gill, executive director of the Gold Coast International Film Festival, and Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman formally launched the first Gold Coast International Film Festival.

From June 1 – 5 an influx of thousands of theatergoers is expected, some will ride the rails from the city to the Clearview Cinemas in the suburbs of Port Washington, Manhasset, Great Neck, Herricks, and Roslyn. Additional screenings will take place at the Nassau County Museum of Art, Adelphi University, Hofstra University, and the Great Neck Arts Center. A total of 43 feature films and 20 shorts have been selected—and some are premieres.

The uniqueness of this film festival is its accessibility, due to the LIRR. Having arrived in most of the participating towns, it is a five-minute walk to any theater. Only a half hour by train from the city, it is less travel time than going from midtown to Brooklyn. The town is anxious to showcase local communities to people who would otherwise be unlikely to visit.

The excitement was palpable at the official launch of the festival with Kaiman at the podium, backed by the North Hempstead Town Board and other dignitaries. Local government supports the festival and expects it to boost the local economy. The town’s Business and Tourism Development Corporation has invested $250,000 in this festival and is hoping that if at least 30,000 people come and spend $10, businesses in the town could make a minimum of $300,000, explained Ian Siegel, BTDC’s executive director.

The anticipation of celebrity appearances adds to the buzz. Bruce Dern is a festival honoree and, if you recall, Dern played Tom Buchanan in the 1974 Robert Redford film, The Great Gatsby based on the book by F. Scott Fitzgerald that was set on Long Island’s Gold Coast.

At the kick-off event Kaiman said he thinks the festival will be one of the most important endeavors in North Hempstead for some time. The Town of North Hempstead is a community of 240,000 people, a community recognized as one of the top 100 best places to live in America by CNN Money Magazine. A diverse community with an extraordinary cultural history that includes directors, actors, producers and those who appreciate, participate and support the arts. In this instance the town is effectively using culture and art for economic development.

Supervisor Kaiman believes the dollars invested will come back in so many different ways and asked Regina Gill to partner with Ian Siegal, executive director, Town of North Hempstead Business and Tourism Development Corporation.

Kaiman announced that Regina Gill had an idea for a film festival but needed support. It wasn’t something government can do or should do, he said, rather it should come from the people who have the talent and the vision to bring people together; Regina Gill, he said, is just that person. Kaiman said he understands they represent certain regions and communities but art and culture know no boundaries— going beyond Port Washington, beyond Manhasset, beyond Roslyn, so they are inviting all the folks in the area to come.

Regina Gill is the founder and executive director of the Great Neck Arts Center, a not for profit multi arts center and school that has been the centerpiece of art, music, dance and theater, and film for 17 years—no small accomplishment. Few communities can boast of having a multi arts center in their midst, she said. She has been running a film series, the Furman Film Series for the past 17 years, and noticed the film series in the Clearview Cinemas was able to fill houses on a Thursday night where other auditoriums in the same multiplex were empty. It occurred to her that film is the most accessible art form. Through film you can learn about everything, it is an extremely powerful medium. Gill met originally with Legislator Judi Bosworth and together they made the proposal to Jon Kaiman who stepped up and the Town of North Hempstead supports the festival.

Gill stressed “international”—adding, “of course we are going to support our local filmmakers, honor our home grown talent, but also bringing the whole world to our town, the region, the Gold Coast. Jon Kaiman helped turn the dream into reality. It takes real leadership, vision and courage to be investing in this festival at this time.”

It will take place where F. Scott Fitzgerald was moved to write The Great Gatsby, she said, “a place that was Hollywood before Hollywood.”

In addition to thanking the town she thanked: Gold Coast Studios, Glen Lostritto, a major sponsor; Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate represented by Carrie Newhouse; Clearview Cinemas; the NY Post; Nassau County Museum of Art; The LIRR; Delux Films; Panavision; Anton Community Newspapers; and the NY Institute of Technology (NYIT), which sponsored the Isabella Rosselini event where Rosselini showed films she created and directed with a discussion following. She was to be part of the festival but will now be out of town so was included in the NYIT event.

Regina Gill gave Sean McPhillips, senior programmer and festival director, credit for assembling a roster of films that would be impressive in a long-standing film festival. “The film festival films will be successful,” Ms. Gill said, “as much for the kinds of films he has brought in as for anything that I have done.” McPhillips’ credentials include former vice president of Acquisitions at Miramax Films, co-founder of Secret Hideout Films and working with the great Harvey Weinstein. “From an industry perspective,” McPhillips said, “my friends in the industry say that it is really a good idea to have something out here; nothing exists like it. Clearview is a fantastic partner. The line up is quality. We have New York, Long Island and East Coast premieres which makes it really special.”

McPhillips said the centerpiece film is My Afternoons of Marguerite, a NY premiere, starring Gerard Depardieu, a crowd pleaser in Paris. He also mentioned The Best and the Brightest, set in the world of New York City’s elite private kindergartens; Lucky, a New York premiere about what happens in a small town when a serial killer wins the lottery. And the East Coast premier of Chasing Madoff—“what better place to have that premiere,” McPhillips said, “than here.”

Anton Community Newspapers is publishing the official program for the Film Festival, including features and a listing all the films. It will be a supplement to the May 26 issue of this newspaper as well as being available at a number of locations.

Also on hand for the official launch of the GCIFF was R. Moke McGowan, president, Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, responsible for generating tourism to the Island as a whole. “Our responsibility is to drive overnight visitation and tourists to Long Island to create interest and awareness of everything there is to do. The film festival is a major event that we can utilize and leverage to create that awareness.” Visit their website LI.com.

For more information about the festival and information about volunteering for the festival, call the town at 311.

Additionally, call 516 444-film or visit gold coast film festival.org.