The Garden State Film Festival (GSFF) – the state’s premier independent film festival – will celebrate its 22nd anniversary in March.
With a mission to promote the art of filmmaking on all levels, the internationally recognized GSFF showcases a diverse range of films and provides educational programs in the creative arts. This year, two Berlin filmmakers, Cole Hertz and Jake Kurz, have been selected to screen their works at the event.
The GSFF prides itself on bringing a carefully curated selection of original works from both local and world filmmakers. According to festival director Lauren Concar Sheehy, the 2024 edition will feature 200 films from more than 14 countries across four days in eight venues, including parties, professional panels, events and special honors.
One of the highlighted films is Hertz’s “Hex,” which will screen on Saturday, March 23, at 9:15 am at the Berkeley Hotel’s Kingsley room in Asbury Park. “Hex” is a story about redemption that follows a man once caught in a gang who decides to become a hero and make amends for his past.
When asked about this recognition for his film “Hex,” Hertz stated: “I’m a sophomore in high school and I’ve always had my idea for the Hex since like 4th grade. Recently with the help of my amazing TV and Media teacher and great partner, we’ve been able to put all the ideas we’ve had into our projects. We plan to make this trailer into a short film in the near future.”
Hertz continued on by saying, “As for getting selected, I barely could believe it. We were proud of the trailer, but didn’t think it could contend with the genius ideas that I’ve seen others come up with in other festivals that I’ve been to. I am honored to be a part of the festival and hope to be given the chance to show my full short film of Hex when it is completed.”
Kurz’s short film, “Hot Singles,” will also screen on March 23 at Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park. It tells the tale of a man who – after accidentally clicking on a “hot singles in your area” ad on social media – finds himself stalked by a monster posing as a single woman. It will be shown at 2:30 p.m.
Kurz has been selected by the festival because of his uniquely weird and animated short films, according to the GSFF. He is a senior animation student at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
Kurz explained that “Hot Singles” combines elements of humor and horror as it delves into the unsettling world of online encounters. Kurz wanted to share his journey of unsupervised Internet access and how he revealed himself online, so the film draws from his experiences of looking for free movies or games on sketchy websites, only to be bombarded with ads of the “Linda, 42, has lost her husband and is looking for a lover!!!” variety.
Kurz finds unintentional comedy in the ads, thus the idea for a film noticed by the festival, a platform for emerging filmmakers to share their diverse and imaginative visions with a wider audience.
“We are extremely proud to present ‘Hex’ and ‘Hot Singles’ as part of our 22nd annual film festival, and to share these works with our global audience,” Concar Sheehy said.
The festival is also known for its diverse categories, including feature-length and short works, documentaries, comedies, children’s films, thrillers, student films, and “home-grown” films shot in N.J. The state has seen a recent surge in film production, according to GSFF, thanks to competitive financial incentives and a film-friendly environment with diverse backdrops.
The GSFF is also a nonprofit that not only promotes filmmaking on all levels, but also sponsors creative arts education programs. Since 2003, it has showcased thousands of films, infusing more than $10 million into local businesses.
The festival’s events will also be held at other Asbury Park venues, with special activities and screenings each night. The GSFF starts on Thursday, March 21, and ends that Sunday, when festival winners will be announced.
Various ticket packages, including the Parkway Pass for access to screenings and events, are being offered to the public. For tickets and more information, visit www.gsff.org.