The Gold Coast International Film Festival kicks off a little early this year with two pre-festival screenings Sunday.
One is “Underfire: The Untold Story of Pfc. Tony Vaccaro,” a documentary about the World War II soldier who, against orders, smuggled a camera into battle at Normandy and wound up taking thousands of historic photographs, sometimes developing them at night in foxholes using a helmet full of chemicals. He eventually began taking portraits of his commanders and then, in peacetime, became a well-known magazine photographer who shot Sophia Loren, Jimmy Stewart, Pablo Picasso and other celebrities. Vaccaro, 94, a Long Island City resident, will speak at the screening with the film’s director, Max Lewkowicz. (Squire Cinemas, Great Neck, at 3:30 p.m.)
Another pre-festival documentary is “Supergirl,” which tells the story of Naomi Kutin, a New Jersey Orthodox Jewish girl who at the age of 9 broke a powerlifting record that turned her into a sports celebrity. Kutin and her parents, along with filmmaker Jessie Auritt, will hold a Q&A session after the screening. (Squire Cinemas at 3 p.m.)
The seventh annual edition of the festival, which runs Tuesday through Nov. 14 at venues around the North Shore, features a mix of foreign films, independent features and Hollywood fare. Among the highlights are “1945,” about two Jews whose arrival in a small Hungarian village leads locals to worry that they have come to reclaim the property stolen from their heirs; “Bill Nye: Science Guy,” a documentary about the children’s show host who seems like a combination of Carl Sagan and Mr. Rogers; and “Permanent,” a comedy about a preteen girl who in 1982 decides to get a perm (the cast includes Patricia Arquette and Rainn Wilson).
The hottest ticket at the festival, however, is “Dare to be Different,” Ellen Goldfarb’s documentary about Long Island’s beloved FM radio station WLIR, which during the 1980s helped introduce a generation to British new wave and American alt-rock. The film, featuring interviews with Joan Jett, Debbie Harry, Billy Idol, Sire Records founder Seymour Stein and others, quickly sold out two screenings and is now booked for a third.
For more information on the festival, call 516-829-2570 or go to goldcoastfilmfestival.org.
See Tuesday’s ExploreLI for a full roundup of the festival.