Viewpoint: North Hempstead shines as cultural mecca with 9th Annual Gold Coast International Film Festival

Karen Rubin

For 10 days, November 4-13, the town of North Hempstead shines in the limelight and reflected glamour of the film industry, as the 9th Annual Gold Coast International Film Festival presents more than 80 feature-length and short films at venues in Great Neck; Port Washington; Manhasset; Roslyn and Huntington.

Film festivals are opportunities to see films that go on to be mega-hits, but also films that never make it to mainstream theaters.

In addition, they provide incomparable opportunities to meet and have discussions with the film’s director or writer or actor, getting insights into what went into the creative process; of sharing the experience with hundreds of other avid filmgoers on the big-screen.

“Films are a unique art form, bringing together drama, dance, music, art in 90 minutes. It’s one of the most accessible and affordable art forms. You come together with 200 others, smile, laugh, cry, think, learn, and sometimes be moved to action. How often do you get to hear from artists and creators how and why they made the film?” reflected Caroline Sorokoff, the festival director.

Among the narrative films that might get people to think and act, “Wasted! The Story of Food Waste” from executive producer Anthony Bourdain, co-sponsored by Island Harvest, the first film in a new Gold Coast series spotlighting social issues of concern to Long Island. The presentation, on Wednesday, Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m. at Sid Jacobson JCC, features a Q&A with Randi Shubin Dresner , President & CEO of Island Harvest, state Sen. Todd Kaminsky, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright.

Also, “Hot Flash Havoc,” sponsored by the Katz Institute for Women’s Health at Northwell Health, a provocative and revealing documentary, narrated by Goldie Hawn about menopause which will be accompanied by stand-up by comedy star Sherry Davey and a Q&A with a panel from Northwell Health.

Sure there is Tribeca, Sundance, Cannes and films that won awards at those festivals, but it is particularly special to see films “in this fabled region, in the place that was Hollywood before Hollywood, where the glitterati still live and work, where we will see great films for the first time and where filmmakers and artists will come together to share their experiences, ideas and anecdotes with all of us,” said Regina Keller Gil, who founded the Gold Coast Arts Center in 1993 and the film festival a decade ago.

The film festival – and the arts and cultural offerings – gives people a reason to stay, as well as to come, providing an introduction to our community, effectively putting us on the map as a destination. Last year, some 5,000 attendees to the Gold Coast International Film Festivals came from 200 zipcodes.

Film festivals don’t just bring outsiders in to our community, providing an introduction, they are a vehicle to bring us outside of our own provincial bubbles to see things from a new perspective. Many of the films that will be screened during the festival – both documentaries and narratives – bring the world to us and make us think, empathize in different ways.

This year’s line-up includes the “We Are All Together,” featuring one of the largest all-star casts in the history of Iranian cinema, a black comedy that broke all national box-office records in Iran, and “Tel Aviv on Fire,” an Israeli satire that will feature a Q&A with Ambassador Ido Aharoni of Israel.

There is considerable effort to provide a community-wide benefit. Take advantage of family events, like Family Film Day on Veterans Day, Nov. 11 (tickets, $20 per child, free for the adult, must be reserved in advance) and free events include the Young Filmmakers Program, Sunday, Nov. 10 (RSVP required) and free screenings of Family Shorts on Tuesday Nov. 5 (Election Day) and Monday, November 11 (Veterans Day at various venues (RSVP to secure a seat).

Film festivals are appreciated for the role they play in economic vitalization of communities. An average arts attendee spends $24.60 per event, not including the cost of admission, at local businesses including restaurants, stores and hotels – generating $74.1 billion, nationally. The Gold Coast Festival helps spur that economic activity by partnering with local merchants and restaurants to offer discounts.

We keep hearing about the dismal state of our downtowns, and ringing hands over how to revitalize our Main Streets. Well, communities across the country have discovered the secret sauce: arts and culture.

Those villages and communities that have been most successful – like Westbury, Freeport – have done it through the arts, turning abandoned spaces into performing arts venues that become the magnet for revitalization up and down Main Street, like Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts, The Paramount in Huntington village and The Argyle Theatre in Babylon Village.

Indeed, Long Island arts and cultural organizations — such as museums, concert halls and film festivals —spend $1.8 billion a year, much of it on employing 22,500 people – that’s more than are employed by banks, real estate agencies or federal government, Newsday reported.

“The film industry, alone, brings $200 million in economic activity to the county,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said at the press conference to open the Gold Coast International Film Festival. “It’s good for our brand – the glamour.”

The Gold Coast International Film Festival is only the tip of the iceberg of the year-round cultural offerings and economic benefit of having the Gold Coast Arts Center in our community.

In its review of Best Places to Retire, Money Magazine cited North Hempstead as “Best for cultural offerings” calling the town, “one of the cradles of American culture.” North Hempstead has also been ranked among the 100 “best places to live.”

The Gold Coast International Film Festival and the Gold Coast Arts Center may be an engine for economic development, but how our quality of life is enhanced through cultural enrichment? Priceless.

For program and ticket information, visit or call 516-829-2570.

About the author

Karen Rubin

Share this Article