JSFF is the Deal Reel

Steve Guttenberg stars with Shannon Elizabeth and Milena Govich in A NOVEL ROMANCE — and comes to Deal to accept a Career Achievement Award — as the sixth annual edition of the Jersey Shore Film Festival gets underway this week.

“Who holds back the electric car? Who made Steve Guttenberg a star? WE DO! WE DO!” — The secret Stonecutters society, on an episode of THE SIMPSONS

Though they can’t lay claim to more than a fraction of the clout and influence of The Stonecutters, the organizers of the Jersey Shore Film Festival have managed to gain and maintain the attention of the indie film community, through a hard-working little annual slate that’s as relatively modest in scale as it is international in scope. And, when the sixth annual edition of the JSFF returns to the Upper Wet Side of NJ for a week-plus stand that begins today, July 27, they’ll be ringing up a certain familiar movie star to be their guest of honor.

While it’s been a number of years since the clunky, first-generation cellular phones of Hollywood crackled with the phrase “get me Steve Guttenberg,” the affable comic actor enjoyed a pretty good run between 1981 and 1990 — appearing in lucrative franchises (Police Academy, Cocoon, Three Men and a Baby), surprise hits (Diner, Short Circuit), high-rated TV movies (Miracle On Ice, The Day After) and even a forgotten series set in NJ (No Soap Radio, anyone?).

Still keeping busy (along with the scores of other well-known celebs whose recent career paths have led to the Redbox rather than the red carpet), Guttenberg is scheduled to visit the Axelrod Peforming Arts Center at the JCC of Monmouth in Deal Park on the evening of Thursday, August 4 to accept a Career Achievement Award from the JSFF. The festival will also be screening his most recent release — director Allie Dvorin‘s A Novel Romance, in which the actor stars as a lovelorn would-be author on a romantic rebound — as the main feature on Saturday night, July 30.

Centered in large part around the AxPAC — with side trips this year to Tim McLoone’s Supper Club in Asbury and Clearview Cinemas in Ocean — the Jersey Shore FilmFest actually gets underway TODAY, July 27, at the unmovielike hour of 10:30am, with “a full day devoted to keeping the body and mind healthy,” highlighted by a two separate screenings of the vegan-advocacy doc feature Forks Over Knives, with an ultimate fitness exercise class, keynote speaker Dr. Frank Sabatino, a gourmet vegan lunch and dinner, and a panel discussion (moderated by Sari Dana) featuring a panel of health and medical professionals. A $26 pass covers the Wellness Day activities — and there’s a lot more unspooling over the course of the next week and a half.

Danish director Susanne Bier’s IN A BETTER WORLD and Thomas Bentey’s locally shot LOVE CHAOS are among the narrative features spotlighted in this year’s Jersey Shore FilmFest.

Based as it is at the Jewish Community Center complex, the JSFF has derived much of its brand and identity from its range of films with a focus on the Jewish experience, both in America and abroad — a theme addressed this year by the Holocaust memoir Only a Number, the WWII-era activist portrait  Against the Tide, and the viewpoint doc Mifgash — as well as hyperlocal filmmaker Stevie Doueck’s Shore-centric ode to the community, Bradley Beach…Before Deal.

A closer look at the schedule of features reveals studies of South Asian arranged marriage (When Harry Tries To Marry), Cuban refugees (Voices From Mariel), Scandinavian humanitarians in sub-Saharan Africa (In a Better World), Motocross on the Isle of Man (Vundes Vun van a Man) — and actor-director Thomas Bentey‘s look at the Love Chaos of summer romance in Seaside Heights.

There are bios of Winston Churchill and bankrobber deluxe Willie Sutton; madcap comedies and dramas of family secrets; an acclaimed doc about online dating, a Buster Keaton silent classic set to music by Scott Joplin — and there are shorts. Dozens and dozens of shorts from filmmakers all over the planet; way too numerous to run down here.

The festival organizers have assembled themselves a lovely website with a complete schedule details, a full breakdown of the featured films, and pretty much everything you’d need to know about the JSFF, its mission, history and people. Individual tickets for all screenings ($10) can be purchased online or by calling the Axelrod box office at (732)531-9100. All-entry “Reel Deal Pass” tickets are $52, and Ultimate Deal Pass tickets ($101) include admission to all shows plus the Premiere Night, Opening Night and Awards presentation). Here’s a general rundown of what’s going on:

Wednesday, July 27: Wellness Day begins at 10:30am, with two screenings (10:30 and 8pm) of the documentary Forks Over Knives. Sari Dana moderates a followup panel discussion featuring a panel of health and medical professionals. Half day pass $36; Full day pass $52

Thursday, July 28: Screenings of shorts at 10am, 10:15, 11:30, 12:05 and 2:30 — plus 6pm Opening Night Gala with feature screening of In a Better World at 8pm.

Friday, July 29: Screenings of shorts at 10am, 10:15 and 11:30 (plus shorts programs at 12:05 and 2:30 at Tim McLoone’s Supper Club on the Asbury boardwalk), along with feature screenings of Buster Keaton’s silent classic The General (10:15am) and Beatboxing: The Fifth Element of Hip Hop (11:30am).

Saturday, July 30: Screenings of In a Better World (9:45pm), and A Novel Romance (10pm).

Sunday, July 31: “Meet and Greet the Filmmakers at a 10:30am breakfast with participating moviemakers, inside the Starbucks at Route 35 South and Park Avenue in Ocean Township (what, like you wrote YOUR screenplay in some Parisian artist’s garret?). Screenings of shorts at 1:30 and 3pm — plus feature screenings of Voices From Mariel (11:45am), Redneck Roots (5pm), Incendies (8:30) and When Harry Tries To Marry (8:45).

Monday, August 1. Screenings of shorts at 12:30, 4:15, 8:00 and 9:30 — plus feature screenings of Clickin’ For Love (2:30), Incendies (7pm) and Against the Tide (9:15).

Tuesday, August 2. Screenings of shorts at 4 and 6pm — plus feature screenings of In the Footsteps of Willie Sutton (12:15), Winston Churchill: Walking with Destiny (2pm), When Harry Tries To Marry (3:15), In a Better World (8pm) and Shoot George (8:15).

Wednesday, August 3. Screenings of shorts at 1:30 and 3pm — plus feature screenings of Against the Tide (2:30), Only a Number (5:30), Mifgash (7pm), 7 Years Underground: A 60’s Tale (7:30), The Mulberry Tree (7:45) and Love Chaos (9:15).

Thursday, August 4. Steve Guttenberg receives the Career Achievement Award at 8:30pm, followed by a screening of the doc feature The Syrian Jewish Community: Our Journey Through History at 8:45.

Saturday, August 6. Screenings of Incendies and The Last Marranos (both 9:30pm at the JCC), as well as a 9:30 showing of Love Chaos at Clearview Cinemas Middlebrook in Ocean Township.

Sunday, August 7. Screenings of Prison Through Tomorrow’s Eyes (12:05), Winston Churchill: Walking with Destiny (3:15), Vundes Vun van a Man (5pm) and Only a Number (7pm). Followed by the Closing Night showing of Stevie Doueck’s Bradley Beach…Before Deal at 8:45pm ($18).

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