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Garden State Film Festival Returns March 23-26

originally published: 03/14/2023

Garden State Film Festival Returns March 23-26

(ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- New Jersey's Premier Independent Film Festival®, the Garden State Film Festival (GSFF) is celebrating its 21st Anniversary of paying tribute to New Jersey’s legacy as the birthplace of the American filmmaking industry. The artistic philosophy of the Garden State Film Festival is rooted in the celebration of the independent film genre and celebrates this spirit through dramatic screenings and unparalleled film collaborations attracting a diverse audience from around the world. From Thursday, March 23 until  Sunday, March 26, 2023 in Cranford and Asbury Park, New Jersey, GSFF unveils world premieres, Hollywood stars, industry panels, and as a nonprofit enterprise, serves as an added economic engine for New Jersey’s vitality  through art, commerce, and culture. 

Make your plans to be a part of intriguing panel discussions and can’t miss parties, all held in numerous locations all over the city by the sea. This year they return to an in-person only event where you can see 235+ films from 23 countries in nine venues, plus parties, events, special honors and more.

Some of this year’s notables include Harvey Keitel (Pulp Fiction), Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy), Oscar nominee Elias Koteas (The Thin Red Line), Joel David Moore (Avatar), Liam Neeson (Michael Collins), Ashley Platz (Yellowstone), Director Damien Leone (Terrifier 2), Lauren LaVera (Marvel’s Iron Fist), Chris Jericho (Jay and Silent Bob Reboot), Jason Mewes (Clerks 3), Lou Martini (The Irishman), Allison Strong (The Week Of), Joanna Gleason (The Wedding Planner), Michael Kazee (Shameless), Susan Sullivan (The Kominsky Method), Michael Nouri (Yellowstone), Caroline Aaron (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Amy Aquino (Bosch), Kevin Chamberlin (Modern Family), Miguel Sandoval (Station 19), Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine), Ash T (Better Call Saul), Jacob A. Ware (Boardwalk Empire), Betsy Brandt (Breaking Bad), Al Sapienza (House of Cards), Jonathan Del Arco (Major Crimes), Carly Chaikin (Mr. Robot), Mary Lynn Rajskub (24), Austin Pendleton (My Cousin Vinny)  and newcomer Emma Ho (Code 8).

The Festival opens with its sold out red carpet Friday night Gala cocktail party at Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park on March 24th and its first screening: The Baker featuring Ron Perlman, Harvey Keitel, Elias Koteas, Joel David Moore, and Emma Ho in this action film.

Daniel's Gotta Die is a comedy thriller film directed by Jeremy LaLonde, from a screenplay by Matthew Dressel. The film stars Joel David Moore, Jason Jones, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Carly Chaikin, Chantel Riley, Iggy Pop, and Bob Saget.  It is Saget's final film before his death. Billionaire Edward Powell has just died, leaving his vast estate to his four children: The money, however, comes with one catch: the siblings must spend the weekend together at the family beach house. One of the kids sees this as the perfect opportunity to re-connect with his estranged family and introduce them to his fiancé. His family sees this as the perfect opportunity to bump-off Daniel and take his share of the inheritance. As the bodies stack up and plans go awry, one thing becomes painfully clear: Daniel's going to find out what family means, even if it kills him. Daniel's Gotta Die screens Saturday, March 25 8:30pm–10:45pm at the ShowRoom.

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Music lovers will also enjoy meeting rock and roll pioneer and New Jersey’s own music legend Kenny Vance when he screens his film Heart & Soul on Saturday, March 25 from 3:00pm to 5:00pm at the Asbury Lanes. Heart & Soul is a feature-length documentary hosted by Vance who opens a portal through the decades to share the harmony-to-heartbreak of the early, unsung heroes of rock & roll whose voices shaped the music that endures. Kenny will host a question and answer and autograph session following the film.

In If We Run we join four friends are on their way to their first party of the summer. Upon their arrival in the town of Jackson, NJ, a horrific series of events ensues, forcing the group to fight for their lives. Starring Michael Gandolfini from The Many Saints of Newark, Lauren Bell, Kyle O'Leary, Yosmi Trinidad, and Joe P as himself. With guest appearances by Kevin Interdonato from The Sopranos, and Josh Hamilton from The Walking DeadIf We Run screens Saturday, March 25, 6:00pm–8:00pm at the Asbury Lanes.

Classic horror fans will want to see the feature length documentary, Boris Karloff: The Man Behind The Monster, screening at the ShowRoom Cinema in Asbury Park on Saturday, March 25, from 6:00pm to 8:00pm. 

The lineup also includes many horror films, but gore fans are excited for Terrifier 2 by director Damien Leone, produced by GSFF alumni Phil Falcone, Steven Della Salla, Jason Leavy, Michael Leavy and costume designer GSFF alumni Olga Turka. After being resurrected by a sinister entity, Art the Clown returns to Miles County where he targets a teenage girl and her younger brother on Halloween night. WARNING: This film contain sex, nudity, violence, gore, profanity, alcohol, drugs, smoking, frightening and intense scenes. See this film Saturday, March 25th 8:30pm-11:15pm at the Asbury Lanes.

Horse and nature lovers will want to see the poignant and important documentary Wild Beauty: Mustang Spirit of the West, screening on Sunday, March 26 from 11:45am to 1:45pm at the Jersey Shore Arts Center. Shot over several years, filmmaker Ashley Avis (Disney’s Black Beauty) shares this immersive journey into the profound beauty and desperate plight faced by the wild horses in the western United States in hopes of protecting them, before wild horses disappear forever.

The glorious spirit of Ireland comes alive in the gorgeous travelogue Ireland, screening on Sunday, March 26 from 3:00pm to 5:00pm at the 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.

For Richard Wagner there only seems to be either lovers or haters! No other composer is - rightly - as highly controversial as Wagner. With more than 125 Wagner Societies all around the globe, How, to until this day, did such massive hype and such an almost religious like, cult following develop all over the world, GLOBAL WAGNER visits Capitalists and Communists, Jews and Muslims, some of the biggest names in classical music, to the butchers in Bayreuth - from Los Angeles to New York, from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv, from Tokyo to Riga, from Venice to Bayreuth we'll meet Wagnerians and learn about their passion and admiration of Richard Wagner and why people in Newark are performing a RING with only "people of color" and why even in Israel, people are saying that you have to differentiate between the horrible person and the beautiful music… With: Katharina Wagner, Christian Thielemann, Alex Ross, Barrie Kosky, Yuval Sharon, Valery Gergiev, Placido Domingo, Piotr Beczala, Anja Harteros, Catherine Foster, Kevin Maynor, Jonathan Livny, Koichi Suzuki, Sheikh Minister Zaki Nusseibeh, Maris Gailis and many others.  Global Wagner screens Saturday, March 25, 1:15pm–3:30pm at the Cranford Theater.

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Finally, one of the home grown shorts, Canned hits your funny bone with Sherman Kinsley, a "Laugh Coordinator," and the conductor for the last group of canned laughter artists in show business. The band of overlooked misfits provide the laugh track for unkillable sitcom, "Love Me Please" -- At least until the show's producer decides to fire them. Sherman rallies his team to make a last-ditch effort to keep their jobs.  Directed by Steve Melone, Producer Michael DiGioia, Anthony Echo, Justin Guerrieri, Steve Melone with cast Phil Casale, Joe Harkins, Adam James Barth, Sophia Lucia Parola, Brandon Patterson, Kathleen Regan, Marcie Webber and Screenplay by Anthony Echo & Steve Melone.  Canned screens 4:00pm–6:00pm Saturday, March 25, at the Cranford Theater.

Garden State Film Festival Highlights: 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 and film fans a 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, says, “You will be thrilled with the total festival experience."

The festival kicks off on Thursday, March 23 at the Asbury Lanes 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.  Don't miss the live podcasts with AMC Comic Book Men Ming Chen with A SharedUniverse PodcaStudio!

In one weekend, you can enjoy over 230 films on all subjects, in a variety of lengths, showing in numerous locations all around Asbury Park and Cranford plus parties, celebrities, seminars, networking, and lots more. It’s a fast-paced weekend of non-stop fun for all ages. Films are shown in ~two-hour-long screening blocks that include a variety of works like shorts, feature-length, music videos, and trailers. Each screening block concludes with a question and answers session with the filmmakers and actors.

Other events held throughout the festival include a panel discussion with 2023 Lifetime Achievement for Cinematography Honoree Ron Vidor. Vidor takes you behind his award-winning lens as he shares stories from the sets of some of Hollywood’s best-known blockbusters, including hazardous, challenging, and near-death experiences, from his five-decade career. Hear what it’s like to work with directors like Spielberg, Reiner, Stallone, and others. Exotic locations, death-defying’s all in a day’s work, to get those perfect shots he is best known for.  It will be followed by a Q&A session.

Another great choice is the live reading of the winning feature screenplay, Curly’s Camp for Girls (and Boys), written by Kelly A Byrne, Sunday, March 26, 10am-11:30am in the Oval Room on the Second Floor at the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel.  Saturday, 3/25 and Sunday, 3/26 will be the High School film screenings at the Berkeley Hotel Kingsley Ballroom hosted by Dr. David Stout, President of Brookdale Community College.  

The Garden State Film Festival offers a variety of ticket packages. Don't miss the Saturday and Sunday day passes, individual screening and event passes. To learn about the films and for tickets visit

The Garden State Film Festival is a 501-c-3 non-profit organization, created to promote the art of filmmaking on all levels. This globally recognized festival also provides creative arts education programs and creates a forum where local and international independent filmmakers can exhibit their work. Their outreach programs also support the U.S. Military, seniors, children, and underserved populations.  Since 2003, thousands of films have made their public premieres, hundreds of thousands of people from around the world have attended; and the total infusion of cash to local businesses since inception exceeds $10 million. It is held in Asbury Park and surrounding area as well as Cranford, NJ.

The artistic philosophy of the Garden State Film Festival is rooted in the celebration of the independent film genre and the creation of a forum where local and other independent filmmakers can exhibit their work. It was also created to pay tribute to New Jersey’s legacy as the birthplace of the American filmmaking industry in Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park laboratories where he invented the first film cameras and projectors, to Fort Lee, where the original studios were founded. Our event provides novice and aspiring filmmakers, actors, and others interested in careers in the film business, the opportunity to meet and network with industry professionals in an atmosphere conducive to learning and mentoring. Further, we are happy to be present each spring in Asbury Park and to serve as an added engine for the city’s vitality through arts, commerce, and culture.

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