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First-Ever Inwood Film Festival to Screen 'Love Letters' to Neighborhood

By Carolina Pichardo | February 23, 2016 2:37pm
 Actor Vincent D'Onofrio stars in the short film
Actor Vincent D'Onofrio stars in the short film "America Falls," directed by Be' Garrett.
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Be' Garrett

INWOOD — Locals better get ready for their close-up.

The first-ever Inwood Film Festival is ready to put the spotlight on Northern Manhattan, and its co-founders believe it’s everything the community wanted it to be.

“These are essentially love letters to Inwood,” said Aaron Simms, who founded the festival along with fellow Inwood residents Todd Cerveris and Jason Minter, of the films set to debut.

“People love this neighborhood.”

Since launching the project last year, the organizers received more than 50 film submissions, and the event is nearly sold out with a little more than a week left before it kicks off on March 2, Simms said.

 From left to right: Inwood Film Festival organizers Jason Minter, Todd Cerveris and Aaron Simms.
From left to right: Inwood Film Festival organizers Jason Minter, Todd Cerveris and Aaron Simms.
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Aaron Simms

"This is a true neighborhood event," he added.

The organizers said over 25 films will be shown at the festival from three categories: short-shorts, or films under 5 minutes about Inwood; short-shorts that are made by Inwood filmmakers; and shorts, or films under 25 minutes that are both about Inwood and by Inwood filmmakers.

The first two short-short categories will be the only ones judged during the competition. The expert panel selecting these include screenwriter and playwright Karl Gajdusek, director Jackson Gay, playwright Samuel D. Hunter, actress Anika Noni Rose, actor and director Eric Schaeffer, and writer Darren Lemke

Local businesses including Indian Road Café, Dichter Pharmacy, Seaman Cars and realtor RoseAnn Hermann have signed on as sponsors or donated their services for the festival. Hermann, who hosted a personal kick-off event last week, said the festival "highlights what's unique about our community."

"We love the community and live here," she said, "and this is to celebrate and get everyone excited about it."

The themes for many of the films include ghost stories, the subway, popular thoroughfares like 181st and Dyckman streets, and local parks.

"The urban landscape itself is a character in the films," Simms said. "Dyckman, Inwood HIll Park and the big 'C' on the wall [in Inwood Hill Park]." 

The films feature other themes that shed light on local concerns, Minter noted, with some leaving nothing to the imagination.

"There's one with a historical aspect, called 'S--tline' that talks about a line on the edges of the Hudson River," he said. 

Among the most popular themes is Inwood as a community.  

"We don’t want to be Tribeca [Film Festival], we don’t want to be Sundance," Simms said. "Our thing is celebrating our community culture."

The Inwood Film Festival is taking place from Wednesday, March 2, through Thursday, March 3, at Cassandra Hall, 4020 10th Ave., between 214th and 215th streets. Tickets are $15 for an individual program or $30 for unlimited admission.