Albert Nigrin doesn’t want to give away much about this year’s New Jersey International Film Festival, which will run June 4-20. But he will say this: After the opening-night premiere at Rutgers University in New Brunswick of the film Sneakers & Soul by the Toms River filmmaker Jonathan Zelenak, he’ll be surprised if it’s not the front-runner for best feature.
“A lot of the feature films we get are indies, made for less than $100,000, and they might have one or two things going for them, but the writing is poor or the acting is mediocre,” says Nigrin, a professor of cinema studies at Rutgers and executive director of the festival. But Zelenak’s entry, says Nigrin, “has everything going for it.” The 101-minute movie, about a South Jersey lawyer who inherits a Manhattan apartment but must walk there to claim it, tracks its perambulating hero from Cape May to Jersey City and points between.
Another judges’ favorite this year is Muskrat John: Urban Trapper, about Jersey City native Johnny Rohweder—now in his 80s and still trapping wild game in the Meadowlands. In all, the festival will screen 39 films, chosen from 372 entries from around the world.
“We’re kind of the trailblazers as far as international festivals in the state, so we get films from everywhere,” says Nigrin. “What’s great for people who love film in New Jersey is that, because we’ve laid the groundwork, we’re getting such quality stuff.”
For tickets, show times, and cinema locations, visit njfilmfest.com.