The Coney Island Film Festival’s legendary opening night is probably the best indicator of the festival’s verve, with burlesque shows and sideshow performances that tinge the event with the atmosphere of a turn-of-the-century carnival.
Simply put, the CIFF offers its moviemakers and attendees the unique character of Coney Island. “We make a very conscious effort to carry on the independent spirit of Coney Island,” says festival president Rob Leddy. “When you screen with us, you are really stepping into a totally different world among festivals.”
That world is created by Sideshows by the Seashore, the 91-year-old building that is home to the last traditional 10-in-one circus sideshow in America and also houses the CIFF. Recently, there have been rumors of a threat by developers to buy the distinctive property. But not to worry, says Leddy. The building is owned by the not-for-profit Coney Island USA and the festival itself will only continue to expand. “Our future as a festival is secure, renovations to the building have begun and that means aesthetic improvements now and in the near future.”
In addition to these improvements, the festival seeks to broaden its horizons to include other venues on Coney Island and, this year, will include a new category in the competition.
The CIFF has always featured a variety of different styles of moviemaking, including both narrative and documentary shorts and features, experimental films, animation and music videos. This year, the new silent film category will honor the history of moviemaking on Coney Island. It is an experiment to see how silent film can speak to the contemporary moviemaker, but as always, CIFF is a forum where the past can communicate with the present.
The eighth annual Coney Island Film Festival will take place from September 26 through the 28th. The (postmarked) deadlines for entry are: April 25th (regular); June 25th (late): July 3rd (extended).
For more information, visit www.coneyislandfilmfestival.com.