Festival Brings Award-Winning Films To Gold Coast

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Regina Gil, Gold Coast Arts Center executive director, holds a plaque with the names of those instrumental in making the original center a reality. (Photos by Sheri ArbitalJacoby)
Regina Gil, Gold Coast Arts Center executive director, holds a plaque with the names of those instrumental in making the original center a reality. (Photos by Sheri ArbitalJacoby)

The 6th Annual Gold Coast International Film Festival will be held throughout the North Shore from Nov. 10 to 15. This year’s screenings will include award-winning feature films from the world’s most prestigious festivals as well as more than 25 short films, with Q&As from visiting filmmakers and special guests. As to not detract from the comprehensive event, this year’s elaborate gala will be held in May.

“The arts are good for business,” noted Regina Gil, Gold Coast Arts Center founder and executive director. “In New York, there’s an attraction on every block, which creates a destination.” But, this film festival offers more than just great movies. The profits from the event will be used for outreach.

“The Gold Coast Arts Center (GCAC) supports kids who aren’t exposed to the arts,” said Gil. “We send teachers into underserved neighborhoods. Art teaches discipline and self-sacrifice. And, studies have shown that brain cells are actually made when music is studied before age 11. Listening to Mozart stimulates memory and retention,” Gil continued. “At the center, we teach thinking outside the box and have never turned away a child in need.”

The center’s affiliation with the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, provides the blueprints for teachers, and the national affiliation offers access to experts from around the country. The GCAC shares this expertise with surrounding school districts, teaching them how to integrate art into the curriculum and even offers art therapy to special-needs children.

An artist by profession, Gil moved to Great Neck when her children were 3 and 4. The North Shore Community Art Center closed its doors two years later. “There wasn’t anything here,” explained Gil, who said that parents were sending their children into the city for lessons, and thought Why can’t we have an art center in Great Neck?

In 1989, she wrote a letter and Tom DiNapoli, comptroller at the time, who returned from the New York State Assembly with a $10,000 check to help her get started. Gil tapped into her friends’ expertise—her friend with an MBA wrote a business plan, her architect friend helped with the design and another friend did a marketing study to figure out whether community members would spend $100 to belong to an arts center.

Gil also spoke with every group, town, park, school and elected official. In 1991, another grant gave her enough money for a space in St. Paul’s Church, which already had a dance studio. She rented the church basement for $2,000 a month and had a friend help develop a course catalog.

Great Neck Record editor William P. Dobkin drew this cartoon, illustrating how quickly the arts center was outgrowing its original space.
Former Great Neck Record editor William P. Dobkin drew this cartoon, illustrating how quickly the arts center was outgrowing its original space.

The business plan was set for five years, but they outgrew the space in two years. “We had 450 kids in the church basement,” said Gil. She met with a real-estate developer who loved the arts and rented her a 5,000-square foot space in the current location for the same amount she was paying at the church. The center later broke down a wall to double its size.

About 20 years later, the film festival was created. This year’s festivities feature special events, parties and performances at venues throughout Great Neck, Port Washington, Manhasset, Roslyn and Brookville. A variety of comedies and dramadies; dramas and thrillers; sports films; world cinema; Jewish interest; political, historical and social documentaries; and arts and pop culture films will be screened. “Festivals have their own identities,” said Gil. “You have to know the audience,” she said of selecting the films. She and at least a dozen others have viewed more than 100 movies each to make these selections.

The Salesman, from Academy Award–winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, sold out in a day, so we put on another show,” said Gil. Burn Your Maps, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and won’t open until 2017, whose Great Neck producer will be at the screening, is another highlight. Fashion lovers will adore Harry Benson: Shoot First about the famed Scottish-American photographer who was hired by The Telegraph to capture The Beatles’ first New York appearance and has photographed everyone from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to Michael Jackson to Greta Garbo. Benson will be on hand after the film with his friend, the granddaughter of Winston Churchill. Exploring the role of humor, The Last Laugh, filled with interviews of Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and Sarah Silverman, is not to be missed.

For a complete list of films, screening times and locations, visit www.greatneckrecord.com. For more information, visit www.goldcoastfilmfestival.org or call 516-829-2570.

For a comprehensive list of this year’s events, read “Films Screenings at the 2016 Gold Coast International Film Festival.”

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In addition to being editor of the Great Neck Record, Sheri ArbitalJacoby utilizes her more than three decades of publishing experience as a managing editor at national magazines to spearhead Anton Media Group's special edition magazines. She also writes decorating, travel and green articles for Long Island Weekly and Anton's special sections.

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