ATLANTIC CITY — The slots were pinging on the ground floor Saturday at Resorts Casino Hotel, but the real action was on the next floor up, at the 12th annual Garden State Film Festival.
More than 100 short and feature-length movies were shown at Resorts, Trump Taj Mahal and Dante Hall as the festival took place in the resort for the first time after 11 years in Asbury Park. These included documentaries, student films and others. The festival continues today.
Atlantic City residents Eddie and Carolyn Morgan attended the screening of “Mom, Wake Up” at Resorts.
“It was excellent,” Eddie Morgan said.
The movie, produced by resort residents Derek Cason and Michael Bailey and directed by Bailey, deals with the problems facing a 17-year-old in a dysfunctional household. It held the lead in audience votes, according to a running tally at the festival.
“It was just a breath of fresh air to see it come to fruition,” Eddie Morgan said.
Carolyn Morgan said it was “a perfect message for what’s going on in Atlantic City and around the country.”
The film festival relocated following a dispute between Asbury Park and developer Madison Marquette that raised questions about the use of the festival’s two main venues, festival organizer Diane Raver has said. At the same time, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority asked about relocating it to Atlantic City. The CRDA eventually paid $100,000 to hold the festival in the resort for three years.
Down the hallway from the Morgans was the screening of “Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride.” The feature-length documentary details the real estate wrangling that threatened the historic rides and games in the Brooklyn, N.Y., beach.
It took Amy Nicholson about six years to direct and produce the movie. She was inspired because she was a big fan of the Zipper ride, which appears at some traveling carnivals. In the ride, participants are strapped into kidney-bean shaped metal cages, and then flung heavenward, spinning and rotating back to Earth. The ride is all but guaranteed to shake loose any keys or pocket change.
Atlantic City was "Zipper’s" last stop in several film festivals. This was different, Nicholson said, because most of the other festivals were in sedate college towns.
“It’s a little strange” being in Atlantic City, the New York City resident said. “But we’re having a blast.”
Nicholson has met other directors and had other films she wanted to see. But the city itself was an attraction for her and her friend: “You’re by the white car? You play any slot machines?” she asked when her friend called.
The movie used the story of the Zipper’s operators to tell the story of an attempted mid-2000s redevelopment of bawdy Coney Island, which threatened to replace the seaside rides with condos. The proposal ultimately failed, but many of the rides still closed.
“I didn’t plan to make a movie about the planning process,” she said.
"Zipper" was preceded by “The Most Insane Amusement Park Ever.” That 14-minute short film was about Action Park, a notorious Vernon, Sussex County park that shut down in 1996 in a cloud of personal-injury lawsuits and bankruptcy. Its reputation earned it nicknames “Class-Action Park” and “Traction Park.”
Holly Bradley and Lisa Berry, who saw “Zipper,” said they liked the movie and were having a good time visiting Atlantic City.
Bradley, of Asbury Park, said she liked Asbury Park as a venue, because it was quieter and a person could walk around without as many distractions.
But, Berry said, “It’s been nice, and the weather has been nice.”
The Garden State Film Festival continues in Atlantic City through today. For more information, including the film schedule, go to www.gsff.org.
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