ATLANTIC CITY — Writers, directors and actors will flood the city to watch their films and network with other creators during the 2017 Garden State Film Festival this Thursday through Sunday.
More than 1,700 films were submitted, said Diane Raver, the festival’s founder.
Organizers chose 225 films from 24 countries to screen during the weekend. Films, workshops and seminars will take place at Resorts Casino Hotel and Dante Hall Theater.
Tickets for each event are available to the general public and start at $14 and go up to $125 with a black-tie awards dinner.
Raver said the festival brought 25,000 people into the city last year.
It’s the fourth year Atlantic City will host the festival, after a move from Asbury Park, Monmouth County, that Raver said was necessary due to the growth of the event.
“(Atlantic City) has the beautiful infrastructure that we needed. Hotel rooms, tech help, transportation and parking — everything we needed to grow into ourselves is here,” Raver said.
Actors expected this year include Ed Asner (“The Mary Tyler Moore Show”), Richard Kind (“Mad About You” and “Spin City”) and Siobahn Fallon Hogan (“Forrest Gump”). They are just a few of the celebrities who will be in town to meet and greet show runners and the general public.
“I’d say this is the most celebrities we’ve had,” Raver said.
Scott Cronick, director of entertainment publications for The Press of Atlantic City, At The Shore and Atlantic City Weekly, is honorary chairman for the event.
Workshops and seminars are scheduled during the four days. The big name is Laika Entertainment LLC, the team behind animated films “Coraline” and “The Box Trolls,” which will host an animation workshop.
Above all, Raver said, the weekend showcases true independent films.
“We are so important to the industry. Indie film festivals don’t celebrate indies: They show studio indies. We are a launching pad for indie films,” Raver said.
One of those independent filmmakers is T.C. Owens.
Owens, a Philadelphia resident, and Ellen Reynolds co-directed the new documentary “Our Side: The Other Atlantic City.”
The film focuses on the play “Growing Up in Atlantic City,” which is based on the book “Growing Up in the Other Atlantic City: Wash’s and the Northside,” by Turiya S. A. Raheem.
The film follows the actors as they prepared to debut the play at Dante Hall.
The stories of the play, which describes the black history of Atlantic City, are juxtaposed with the modern day of closed casinos, a state takeover and constant foreclosure.
Owens said the film shows the inspiration the cast members find in their families and community.
Actor Travis Love is an HIV activist and case worker, as well as a member of the South Jersey Poets Collective. Sparkle Prevard, who plays the female lead in the play, has participated in Black Lives Matter in South Jersey. Tammy Jones is a city crossing guard, and Arnelle Lyles has taught theater at the local Police Athletic League.
“We pay attention to how the community was dismantled over time,” Owens said, “but there was resilience in this community that won’t back down to this sort of stuff.”
There are scenes showing how black people were moved down to Chicken Bone Beach on Missouri Avenue to speed up development of hotels and beaches.
A section of the documentary describes President Donald Trump when he owned casinos and was accused of not paying employees.
“We need to tell our stories, and once you hear the history, you can’t not hear the story about communities being marginalized or lives being threatened by gentrification and corporate takeover. These stories are powerful,” Owens said.