Creating something Awesome

A North­ern Liber­ties man with a soft spot for all things 80s presents Awe­some Fest, for your en­joy­ment throughout the sum­mer.

Josh Gold­bloom, who lives in North­ern Liber­ties, is a film dir­ect­or and founder of Awe­some Fest, a two-month-long film fest­iv­al with a 1980s theme. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / STAR PHOTO

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 North­ern Liber­ties res­id­ent 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 for Star. “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. Through mid-Au­gust, 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 kicked off on June 14 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 hos­ted an out­door screen­ing of the film. Parx also put on an ’80s Prom Night dance in­side its 360 Lounge that night.

This past week­end, guests at Liberty Lands in North­ern Liber­ties en­joyed The Prin­cess Bride, and this Fri­day at the park, Awe­some Fest will screen Rob­ocop.

Of the fest­iv­al’s 50 screen­ings, 30 are out­doors, and the fest­iv­al will run through Au­gust 17.

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, which will be shown on the last night of the fest­iv­al at Parx as a spe­cial screen­ing in hon­or of the film’s 25th an­niversary.

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.theawe­some­ Fol­low the fest­iv­al on Face­book and Twit­ter.  

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