New Indy Film, 'Ghostlight,' A Testament To Forgiveness, Acceptance

NORTH FORK, NY — In the short time since the ribbon was cut on the new North Fork Arts Center at the Sapan Greenport Theatre last month, there’s been nothing short of magic afoot — with new films and programs unveiled that forever raise the bar and forge the path for a thriving arts destination in the heart of the village.

This Friday, audiences can witness the North Fork premiere of the IFC/Sapan Studios Film “Ghostlight,” a special fundraiser presentation on June 21 that begins at 7:30 p.m.

“Ghostlight” is an official selection of the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.

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“Join us for an evening celebrating independent film with a showing of this Sundance movie, followed by an engaging Q & A session with its filmmakers Kelly O’Sullivan and Alex Thompson, who will be joined by Eugene Hernandez, director of Sundance Film Festival; Josh Sapan, head of Sapan Studios; and Tony Spiridakis, NFAC executive director,” organizers said.

Sapan will serve as moderator for the talk back.

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“The discussion will cover the importance of independent film, exploring its role in bringing unique voices and stories to the forefront of cinema,” organizers added.

The evening is presented courtesy of IFC & Sapan Studio.

Written by Kelly O’Sullivan and starring real life partners Keith Kupferer and Tara Mallen and their daughter, Katherine Mallen Kupferer — as well as Dolly De Leon — the film centers on a construction worker who unexpectedly joins a local theater’s production of “Romeo and Juliet”.

“As the drama onstage starts to mirror his own life, he and his family are forced to confront a personal loss,” a synopsis for the film reads.

The film is just the kind of intelligent work, a veritable gem, that was always at the heart of the dream to save the theater in Greenport.

When the Village Cinema in Greenport was first offered for sale or long-term lease, the owner of the theater, Josh Sapan — who recently retired after years serving as the CEO of AMC Networks — offered to gift the theater if three specific conditions were met: A new not-for-profit organization was created; a skilled board with ties to the North Fork was created; and $1 million was raised to cover operating expenses for the not-for-profit’s first three to four years.

Spiridakis said his vision for Friday’s event was born when he first spoke to Sapan about “Ghostlight”.

Sapan Studios had partnered with IFC to distribute the film and present it at the Sundance Film Festival. “He said, ‘Tony, would you look at this and let me know what you think?’ When I saw it, I wept,” Spiridakis said. “I called him, and I was still catching my breath. It’s such a powerful film.”

“‘Ghostlight’ is a rare, delicate film that explores family dynamics and the power of art to heal,” Sapan told Patch. “Kelly O’ Sullivan and Alex Thompson cast a real-life family of deft, wonderful actors and brought the audience into their fictitious story in a way that is wildly imaginative and irresistible. It’s a privilege for me to have any association with something so well done and so moving.”

The critics agree:”Ghostlight won me over,” the New York Times said. New York Magazine called “Ghostlight”, in its review, “One of the best films of the year.” Film Stage called the piece “a masterfully crafted work.”

When Spiridakis first saw the film, what was even more extraordinary was that he didn’t recognize the actors, he said. “It’s rare that you see such a fantastic film with people that you don’t know. It made the film even more powerful, in a way.”

Spiridakis, whose own film about a father’s journey of love with his autistic son, “Ezra,” also won critical acclaim and touched an emotional chord, said both “Ezra” and “Ghostlight” are a testament to how powerful small, independent films can be.

“Just because a film has a $200 million budget doesn’t mean that it will have any effect on you emotionally. You will absolutely be affected by ‘Ghostlight’. It will make your life better for having seen it — that I can tell you.”

Of “Ghostlight,” Spiridakis said: “It’s about forgiveness and acceptance and love.”

And, like “Ezra,” the film shines a light on the fierce bond between father and child.

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“‘Ghostlight’,” he said, is about “a powerful subject, a family that’s grieving — and how healing is found though Shakespeare and community theater.”

Spiridakis believes in opening young eyes to the transformative power of the arts, something he’s done for years with his Manhattan Film Institute. To that end, he has reached out to local North Fork school drama clubs and music groups, inviting the students to Friday’s performance for free.

“This is a very powerful story of loss — but it’s the salvation part, coming from the arts, that I’m really blown away by. People take for granted how important the arts are in our lives. This film puts that to rest,” he said.

Proceeds from the event will go toward NFAC’s Phase II renovation plan, which aims to add 3,500 square feet of space for future educational programming. “If we can complete Phase 2 of our plan, we’ll be creating a home where we can bring all kinds of educational programs to local students,” Spiridakis said.

Small, independent films can transcend all boundaries, Spiridakis said. “Ezra,” he said, played on 1,300 screens across the nation and across the world, from Tel Aviv to Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Greece.

“When you think about how art impacts lives, you can look at this as another example — if people all over the world see ‘Ghostlight,’ what a wonderful message of how we are all so intimately connected,” he said.

The emotions at the very heart of “Ghostlight” are universal, Spiridakis said — loss, love, and the transcendent power of healing. “This film has a beautiful message of forgiveness and acceptance, and we need that now,” he said. “We need to figure out ways to work through our anger and our grief, and this film gives you an intimate look at someone who does this. It’s just great.”

Spiridakis thanked Sapan for the immeasurable gift of the NFAC. “Now, we’re going to make sure that the legacy Josh left to us is going to be well-cared for.”

To that end, Friday night is the next in a series of events that have proven to set the stage for a new, thriving arts community at the NFAC.

The ribbon-cutting was a moment that, itself, symbolized what the heart and determination of a small village can do. Residents banded in a hometown, community-driven fundraising campaign to raise $1 million, save the theater and create a not-for-profit arts center, in an outpouring reminiscent of “It’s A Wonderful Life”.

Right from the start, there were top-of-the line experiences. A residency program of the Brooklyn Ballet unfolded at the NFAC, with presentations at local schools, sold-out matinees and evening performances on May 18. That residency will continue, Spiridakis said.

Next came the May 31 premiere of “Ezra,” with a Q & A that included director Tony Goldwyn, actors Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannale; the film played in all three of the NFAC’s theaters, all of which were full houses, with approximately 600 tickets sold, he said.

Coming up on June 26, Colin Queen is slated to perform, dedicating proceeds to the NFAC.
Spiridakis said Sapan and he are deeply aligned in their vision of preserving a vibrant arts community.
“I’ve gotten to know his heart, and it points in the same direction as mine,” he said. “We want to get as many people to keep the arts alive as we possibly can. Without the arts, we don’t do as well.”

Tickets to Friday’s night’s special performance of “Ghostlight” can be purchased here.
After Friday’s fundraiser, the film will also be shown for two weeks at the NFAC as part of the theater’s regular programming.

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