Cherry Grove Archives Collection Film Festival

On Saturday night, July 16, I had the pleasure of joining an audience of movie fans, art sponsors, actors, producers, directors, cinematographers, and just ordinary folks at the Cherry Grove Archives Collection Film Festival (CGACFF). Every movie that was shown at the festival was about the history of Cherry Grove as well as what the island means to people.

The movies previewed at the festival were very eye opening. While Cherry Grove is known by many people to be the “party capital” of Fire Island, there is a lot more history than meets the eye.

Take one of my personal favorites, “I Feel a Song Coming On,” directed by Mike Fisher. This movie about three elderly gentlemen reminiscing about their most iconic days on the island was not unlike watching an interview on “60 Minutes.” There were no flashbacks or over elaborate music, it was just a simple interview and nothing else.

Of particular interest in this documentary was the gentlemen talking about how Cherry Grove was a haven for them and many others like them when they were young adults. Fire Island’s Cherry Grove has been a LGBTQ sanctuary for many years, providing freedom of expression even at a time when many aspects of the lifestyle were considered illegal. The men in this movie were alive during a time period when being different unfortunately had dire consequences, and they offered frank accounts. Decades ago Cherry Grove created a safe space for people, and this is a story that needs to be told and retold for posterity.

I thoroughly enjoyed all of the movies that were shown at the festival because there was such variety. Some of them were very serious while others were very lighthearted and fun. There were dramatic love stories like “Haven;” beautiful poems such as “Re- lease,” by director Pierre Jean Gonzalez and Paul Anthony Notice II; unique perspectives, “Blood Sisters” by director Richard E. Haywood; as well as the entertaining and comedic like “Making Legends,” and “Ride that Ass.” There was even a cartoon short film by director Marcus Barelli called “Dans La Nature,” which was delightful – who doesn’t love cartoons?

Each film exuded the history and life of the Cherry Grove community with its own colorful panache.

The film festival celebrated art, history, drag invasion, and the Fire Island sanctuary of freedom. It was so much fun that the audience literally stood up and cheered with joy after each film (and even sometimes during the film). The experience was just a hoot.

Do yourself a favor and mark your calendars now for this important event when it comes around again in 2024. You do not want to miss this expression of Cherry Grove flavor and vibrancy.