Middletown Hosts Hoboken International Film Festival

June 3, 2015 Updated: June 23, 2015

MIDDLETOWN—All the glitter you’d expect at the Hoboken International Film Festival was everywhere at the Paramount Theatre. Celebrities and those on the cusp of fame gathered to honor established actor Paul Sorvino and recognize filmmakers with films worth watching.

Sorvino, Sally Kirkland, Martin Kove of “Karate Kid” fame, rising star Robert Bogue, and “Guiding Light” actress Mandy Bruno mixed with fans and stood for interviews and photographs.

It takes a lot of people to be able to put an event together like this.
— Ken Del Vecchio, founder and man-in-charge, HIFF

Mayor Joseph DeStefano joined the fun by noting that the festival is happening in New York, not New Jersey. “It’s going to be an enjoyable evening and a great opening to the film festival in Middletown, New York.”

The Hoboken International Film Festival celebrates its 10th year showcasing and promoting notable non-studio films, TV pilots, and screenplays from filmmakers throughout the United States and internationally.

On opening night, celebrated actor Paul Sorvino was honored for excellence in film and the arts for his work on stage and screen.

Opening Night Premiere

The premiere of “Price for Freedom” opened the festival. The film is based on a book by Dr. Marc Benhuri about saving people in 1979 Iran from the hand of Ayatollah Khomeini.

The story was filmed in Middletown and Italy. Darius Saracino, an actor with three roles in the film, said some scenes “were actually filmed across the street from here at the bank building.”

Benhuri was an Iranian Jew who worked to counter oppression after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. His book has been described as an Iranian version of “Schindler’s List.” Benhuri said he felt compelled to tell his story because he said news media reports about the Shah’s regime were inaccurate.

“The book showed how Carter helped to overthrow the Shah of Iran and bring Khomeini to power. It started terrorism all over the world. The damage that we are paying for it is now.”

He lamented the current negotiations taking place between the United States and Iran. “Unfortunately, at this point, our president is negotiating with the same group of terrorists that took over the American Embassy and took the diplomats hostage.”

When he met Benhuri executive producer Roger Cooper found the story “exceptionally compelling.”

He especially appreciated how ordinary people were affected. “Particularly right now, with everything that’s going on in Iran, I think it’s particularly important for this sort of a movie to be told, what the life of real people is like under this sort of dictatorship.”

Veteran actress Sally Kirkland talked about her roles in three films in the festival lineup, including the opening night’s premiere.

Kirkland has not slowed a bit. She said her next project is all about her. “I’m going to do a film in August called ‘Sallywood,’ which is sort of complimentary because I play myself as seen through the eyes of a former personal assistant who worked for me 15 years ago.”

Festival founder and man-in-charge Ken Del Vecchio carries an impressive film résumé himself. He has produced, directed, and written over 20 films. His filmography includes “The Life Zone,” “The Great Fight,” and “An Affirmative Act.”

He gives credit for the festival’s success to many who joined him in the effort. “It takes a lot of people to be able to put an event together like this.”

Other Filmmakers

The event not only put the spotlight on current celebrities, but also recognized local hopefuls and filmmakers on the cusp of fame.

Director Randy Lao and assistant director Zack Chang were on hand to promote their short film, “Fated Echoes,” about a man with “a broken heart and a baffled mind,” according to HIFF’s website.

Orange County vet Raymond Collazo, who served in Afghanistan, was getting the word out about his tech startup, FilmLinkUp. He said the company “will revolutionize the way films are made and help people collaborate creatively.”

TV pilots as films made a strong showing. Director Nicole Santolo hopes her pilot, “Wheels,” will attract attention. According to the festival website, it’s a comedy based on her life growing up with a disabled sibling. A wheelchair-bound teenager living with Duchenne muscular dystrophy is introduced to his eccentric new aide, who encourages him to take two girls to the prom.

And then there were the fans. Patty Walby and Arthur Kaplan drove up from Florida. “I heard there was a festival and immediately came. I’ve been coming the last couple of years. It’s wonderful and we love it,” Walby said, adding that they’d be back with more friends.

 Jesse Ross came with his friends. “We wanted to meet all the celebrities that come here.”

Over the weeklong festivities, several feature-length films had their world premiere. Closing ceremonies were on June 4.