Northeast Times

Creating something Awesome

Somer­ton res­id­ent to hon­or 80s at Awe­some Fest.

  • Josh Goldbloom, a Somerton native film director and founder of Awesome Fest, a two-month long film festival with a 1980s theme. The primary host venue is Parx, but the Trocadero Theater and others around the city are participating. Here, he talks with us at the Trocadero about what to except whe Awesome Fest begins, June 5, 2013, Philadelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouchnikova)

  • Josh Goldbloom, a Somerton native film director and founder of Awesome Fest, a two-month long film festival with a 1980s theme. The primary host venue is Parx, but the Trocadero Theater and others around the city are participating. Here, he talks with us at the Trocadero about what to except whe Awesome Fest begins, June 5, 2013, Philadelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouchnikova)

  • Josh Goldbloom, a Somerton native film director and founder of Awesome Fest, a two-month long film festival with a 1980s theme. The primary host venue is Parx, but the Trocadero Theater and others around the city are participating. Here, he talks with us at the Trocadero about what to except whe Awesome Fest begins, June 5, 2013, Philadelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouchnikova)

  • Josh Goldbloom, a Somerton native film director and founder of Awesome Fest, a two-month long film festival with a 1980s theme. The primary host venue is Parx, but the Trocadero Theater and others around the city are participating. Here, he talks with us at the Trocadero about what to except whe Awesome Fest begins, June 5, 2013, Philadelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouchnikova)

For a guy with a shaved head and a well-de­served repu­ta­tion as one of Phil­adelphia’s van­guard in­die film gurus, Josh Gold­bloom has an aw­fully strange fond­ness for big hair and Howard the Duck.

As the award-win­ning doc­u­ment­ari­an and Somer­ton nat­ive ex­plains it, those 1980s vestiges and many oth­ers re­mind him of his own form­at­ive years, when his fath­er — a pub­lic re­la­tions dir­ect­or for the now-de­funct West Coast Video chain — brought home an end­less sup­ply of new re­leases, which Gold­bloom spent count­less hours watch­ing.

“It was just like my whole child­hood was movies, movies,” said Gold­bloom, 32, dur­ing a re­cent in­ter­view with the Times. “Every single movie off the shelves, it didn’t mat­ter what it was, I was put­ting in­to our VCR.”

In short, it was awe­some be­ing Josh in those days. For the next two months, all of Phil­adelphia will fi­nally get to re­live that awe­some­ness as the an­nu­al sum­mer film fest­iv­al that Gold­bloom foun­ded a couple of years ago show­cases about 50 pop­u­lar and per­haps less­er-known titles from the 1980s at ven­ues across the city.

The Awe­some Fest kicks off this Fri­day with a con­cert by The Psy­che­del­ic Furs — a band best known for the hit song “Pretty in Pink,” which in­spired dir­ect­or John Hughes’ 1986 film of the same name — at the Tro­ca­dero Theatre. On the fol­low­ing night, present­ing spon­sor Parx Casino in Ben­s­alem will host an out­door screen­ing of the film. Af­ter­ward, Parx will put on an ’80s Prom Night dance in­side its 360 Lounge. Guests can choose to wear their peri­od at­tire and big hair — or not.

Oth­er films sched­uled for the fol­low­ing weeks in­clude box of­fice block­busters like Die Hard, Footloose, Top Gun, Ghost­busters and Raid­ers of the Lost Ark, as well as an ec­lect­ic mix of films with more cult­ish fol­low­ings like The Goon­ies, Purple Rain, Poly­es­ter and one of Gold­bloom’s per­son­al fa­vor­ites, Killer Klowns from Out­er Space.

In ad­di­tion to the Troc in Chin­atown and Parx, ven­ues will in­clude Drexel Park in Uni­versity City, Liberty Lands in North­ern Liber­ties, vari­ous Ritz theat­ers and Eakins Oval in front of the Phil­adelphia Mu­seum of Art. Most of the show­ings will be out­doors, with “95 per­cent” free of charge, Gold­bloom said. Some will be double fea­tures, while oth­ers will tie in­to live con­certs or ap­pear­ances by people in­volved in the films. 

Gold­bloom an­ti­cip­ates re­cord at­tend­ance for the fest­iv­al, which he began in 2011 as the Phil­adelphia Un­der­ground Film Fest­iv­al with a hand­ful of in­die screen­ings at the Piazza at Schmidt’s in North­ern Liber­ties.

“I think any­one can re­late to films from the 1980s,” he said. “[They] just speak to unadul­ter­ated fun from that time. … I think this is more of a nos­tal­gic thing for every­one. It’s like your com­fort food for films.”

Iron­ic­ally, Gold­bloom has made per­haps his greatest splash in the film in­dustry by re­mov­ing audi­ences from their com­fort zones. In 2005, he re­leased the self-pro­duced Heroin Town, a fea­ture-length doc­u­ment­ary chron­ic­ling his sev­en-month stay in a no­tori­ous Con­necti­c­ut room­ing house. The film won best doc­u­ment­ary hon­ors at the Los Angeles and Phil­adelphia film fest­ivals.

In the af­ter­math of that suc­cess, Gold­bloom moved to Aus­tin, Texas, to join the healthy film­mak­ing com­munity there. He then re­turned to Philly and in­volved him­self in pro­du­cing mostly in­de­pend­ent film show­ings and fest­ivals, us­ing the large out­door screen in the Piazza court­yard as his plat­form.

“I just had the concept, ‘Hey, let’s start tak­ing in­de­pend­ent films — these movies from Sund­ance and South by South­w­est — and put­ting them on this grand scale, this huge plat­form,’” Gold­bloom said. “One film turned in­to 10, [which] turned in­to a whole sum­mer worth of films.”

Last sum­mer, he de­cided to switch gears a bit and of­fer some main­stream oldies to con­trast with the many un­der­ground Phil­adelphia premi­eres. He found that those wildly pop­u­lar films of his youth were still wildly pop­u­lar, per­haps even more so out­doors on a big screen, which sure beats a vin­tage VCR and 19-inch Trinitron set-up.

“We saw some of the best crowds we’ve ever seen,” said Gold­bloom, who be­lieves the films res­on­ate well bey­ond the likable and com­pel­ling char­ac­ters de­pic­ted on screen, or their skinny ties and polka dot mini-skirts.

“I don’t think people so much re­mem­ber the film as [they re­mem­ber] a time in their life that the film re­lated to,” he said. ••

For in­form­a­tion about The Awe­some Fest, in­clud­ing a full sched­ule of events, vis­it www.theawe­some­fest.com. Fol­low the fest­iv­al on Face­book and Twit­ter. 

On the Web:

To view an in­ter­view with Josh Gold­bloom, vis­it the North­east Times chan­nel on You­Tube at www.you­tube.com/user/North­east­Times.

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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