Entertainment » Movies

6th Annual Golden Wagon Film Festival Rocks OB

by Timothy Bolger .
Wednesday Aug 6, 2008

In what is fast becoming one of Fire Island's newest and most anticipated traditions, thousands of locals and visitors alike turned out for the sixth annual Golden Wagon Film Festival in Ocean Beach from Friday, July 18, through Sunday, July 20.

The festival began at sundown on July 18 at the Ocean Beach ball field with the screening of "Trade," a movie about international sex trafficking victims. Festival organizers screened it on a two-story inflatable movie screen and cinemaphiles in beach chairs filled the grass. Greg Pace, one of the founding directors of the festival, and his army of volunteers saw the crowd and knew it was going to be a big weekend.

"Friday night, the directors decided to make a leap of faith by showing the movies that are very educational and hard to reach," co-director Jamie Winkler said of the screening. "I was pleasantly surprised to see that not one person left the ball field."

So the formula gelled for the festival. The first night featured edgy, thought-provoking and serious films. Saturday, July 19, started off with documentaries in the Community House and ended with a flick featuring Golden Wagon honoree Steve Guttenberg. Sunday concluded with the newly expanded, kid-friendly Red Wagon Film Festival and a short film competition that featured submissions directed by Long Island high school students. By all accounts, this recipe was a winner.

"As far as numbers go, we surpassed all projections for the weekend," Pace, a director himself who started the festival with a friend to share his love of movies with his fellow Fire Islanders, said. "Attendance and ancillary sales were both higher than expected. There was a lot of energy... in the audience and it's just growing."

A lot has changed since its inception in 2002, but no festival would be complete with a movie star on hand to receive the Tony Randall Lifetime Achievement Award. In a departure from years past when, for example, Harvey Keitel couldn't make it because of his film schedule or when David Duchovny mailed in a video greeting, Guttenberg made himself readily available to the public. He chatted up anyone who walked up to him during a Q&A at the wine tasting between movies on July 19. Guttenberg even surprised Just Davidson, Anthony Giangrasso, Tom Guarnieri, Amber Wright and Hanane Zayer by presenting them with an award for "Kids These Days," their film about a girl who gets into a freak scooter accident.

"I'm just an ordinary guy from North Massapequa who got lucky," a modest-sounding Guttenberg said as he fielded questions from fans earlier in the day.

He further credited his family for making him the ham he is today-and not to mention his good genes-as he discussed his motivation to move to Hollywood as a teenager. Guttenberg spent summers on the beach as a child, but Pace said the actor "fell in love with Fire Island" once he got another taste.

"He was such a gracious guest of the festival," Pace said. "There wasn't a kid selling seashells he didn't stop and buy a seashell from."

It seemed a long way from the days a larger-than-life Guttenberg played Officer Mahoney in the "Police Academy" movies of the 1980s as he returned to the ball field, where a red carpet and gold-painted wagons greeted moviegoers for a barbeque, the official awards ceremony and a screening of "Diner," a lesser-known Guttenberg film released in 1982.

Organizers praised the festival as a huge success. Pace added they have already begun to plan for next year's festival.

"I'm really very excited about what we've been able to do for the last six years and what we're about to do," he said.

Copyright Fire Island News. For more articles from Fire Island's paper of record, visit www.fireislandnews.info.


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