LI International Film Expo goes global, stays local

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The Long Island International Film Expo kicks off tomorrow with a roster of films whose origins span the globe from Pakistan to Port Washington.

The Expo, celebrating its 12th year, runs through July 19 at the independently owned Bellmore Movies.

As always, the festival focuses on films with strong Long Island connections but makes good on the "International" part of its title. This year's lineup features 170 short and feature films from 23 countries. But Great Neck actress Nikki Blonsky will be the one to receive a Creative Achievement Award on closing night, while the North Shore Animal League will be screening short films - starring celebrities and their pets - throughout the festival. (One dollar of every ticket sold will go toward animal rescue and care efforts through the league.)

Among the local highlights: THE VIDEO GUYS (Friday, 7 p.m.) - The festival's official opening feature is by, about and stars wedding photographers. Written and directed by Port Washington's Dan Brennan and based on real-life experiences, it's a comedy about what happens when a veteran photog gets hired to shoot his ex-wife's wedding.

EVIL THINGS (Friday, 9:30 p.m.) - Shot in eight days on a shoestring budget after writer-director Dominic Perez lost his job at an investment bank, this psychological horror film stars Patchogue's Morgan Hooper as a college student who goes missing.

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HOPE DEFERRED (Sunday, 11:30 a.m.) - A documentary about stem-cell research produced by Brooke Ellison, the Stony Brook woman whose paralysis - incurred after being struck by a car at age 11 - didn't stop her from attending Harvard or running for state Senate.

NIGHT FOR DAY (Monday, 9:30 p.m.) - Writer-director-actor Russ Camarda of Lindenhurst already has received good reviews from various film blogs for his modern vampire tale about a rock musician trying to escape his dark past for a chance at love.

THE EATERS (Tuesday, 9:30 p.m.) - This zombie-comedy feature, set in Brooklyn but shot partially in Nassau County, screens with three shorts from filmmakers with Long Island ties.

MR. LAUGHS: A LOOK BEHIND THE CURTAIN (July 17, 3:30 p.m.) - A documentary about longtime comedian Sal Richards of Port Jefferson features footage of greats such as Sid Caesar, Don Rickles, Jackie Mason and Soupy Sales.

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