The Garden State Film Festival (GSFF) celebrates its 11th anniversary this year.
Co-founded in 2003 by film industry veteran Diane Raver and the late actor Robert Pastorelli, the festival runs April 4-7 in the Paramount Theatre/Convention Hall complex in Asbury Park and other local venues.
In addition to 163 film screenings, there will be a free screening for kids and families, a gala cocktail party, panel discussions, book signings, question-and-answer sessions and educational programs.
An open casting call, a black-tie awards ceremony and a benefit screening for victims of superstorm Sandy are also scheduled.
The GSFF kicks off at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday with a free screening of age-appropriate films for kids and families in the Paramount Theatre.
At 7 p.m., festivities continue by honoring the heroes of superstorm Sandy and supporting the residents and businesses that were affected by the storm.
“We are trying to get the word out that the Jersey Shore is open,” Raver said.
The Thursday event called “The Shore Must Go On” will be held in honor of all the heroes who assisted others during and after the storm. The GSFF is offering the public an opportunity to purchase one ticket ($12) for the fundraiser and get one free, so they can treat their “hero” to a night out.
The evening will end with the audience singing “One Light,” written by Lori Drazenovich, which will be filmed for later use to boost tourism throughout the Shore this summer.
The festival’s official kickoff on Friday includes a gala cocktail party at 7 p.m. in the Grand Arcade, followed by a screening of “A Reckless Romeo,” starring Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle.
The screening will be followed by a short film from South Africa called “Loot” and a special screening of the feature-length documentary “Icebound.”
The festival offers a large selection of films that explore a variety of diverse subjects. Highlights include:
“Magic Camp,” the inspirational story of a group of misfit high school kids attending the real-life Hogwarts each summer in Pennsylvania; “Crackers,” the star-studded short film featuring Brenda Vaccaro, Vincent D’Onofrio and Anthony Laciura;
“Hava Nagila (The Movie),” directed by award-winning director Roberta Grossman; and
“The Perfect Wedding,” a romantic comedy featuring Hollywood veterans
James Rebhorn and Kristine
International films include:
“Il Cacciatore di Anatre”
(The Duck Hunter), filmed in Emilia, Italy; and
The Global Reach of Engineers Without Borders,” which follows three Rutgers engineering students as they travel to a province in northern Thailand to bring clean, potable water to a rural village.
Celebrity honorees include:
Diane Ladd, an actress, director and author who will host a panel discussion and a book signing of her latest work, “A Bad Afternoon for a Piece of Cake,” on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Watermark;
Kristine Sutherland, a veteran of television, film and stage; James Rebhorn, a well-established film and television actor; and
Jay Seals, an actor born and raised in Hasbrouck Heights and a graduate of Ramapo College.
A live reading will be presented on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at the Watermark.
A panel titled “New Jersey Girls Working in Film” will be held Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Stella Marina.
The 11th anniversary awards dinner will be held on Sunday at the Crystal Point Yacht Club in Point Pleasant.
“We’re thrilled everything has come together in such a perfect way,” Raver said, adding that during the festival weekend there will be 163 films — nearly 78 hours, 28 minutes and 41 seconds of films — to view.
A complete film listing can be found on the GSFF website at www.gsff.org.
To attend, individual screening tickets are $12, while a weekend pass to all films is $50.
Admission to the opening-night cocktail party and screening is $25, and the awards dinner is $125 per person.