New Jersey's Newest Film Festival

With its first edition opening on May 21st 2021 in Union City, the New Jersey Independent Film Festival will bring a three-day showcase of global independent films to the city’s Park Performing Arts Center. Not only will the festival bring a diverse selection of cutting-edge films to Union City, but it will also honor the city’s Hispanic population by featuring a special section featuring the achievements and heritage of Latin American filmmakers. 


The New Jersey Independent Film Festival is the newest member of a family of film festivals including the Venice Film Week, the Boston Short Film Festival, the Hong Kong Arthouse Film Festival, and many more! It's fair to say the festival is in good company. For its inaugural edition, NJIFF will include a 2 hour retrospective with a selection of award winning independent cinema in association with these partners.


The Park Performing Arts Center will be the hub of the festival. Inside the Arts Center is the newly restored Park Theater, one of the major movie theaters remaining from the early heyday of the North Jersey cultural landscape. With its vaulted ceiling, curtained stage area, and seating for up to 1400 people, this 89-year-old architectural masterpiece is the perfect venue to host a modern festival as diverse as the theater’s history.


The festival will begin on Friday, May 21st with an opening screening and gala. The second day, Saturday, May 22, will include up to 30 films, both short and feature-length throughout the day. The final day will kick off at 10 AM and conclude with a final screening at 12 PM.

/previous editions

Find out more about previous editions of the New Jersey Independent Film Festival:

/proud partner of The Bigger Screen

The New Jersey Independent Film Festival is a proud partner of The Bigger Screen, an organization that aims to make film as an art form more accessible and more inclusive. We support their different programs on both sides of the screen: behind the screen, encouraging and supporting filmmakers in their quest to spread their work through grants and opportunity, as well as in front of the screen, by welcoming audiences to enjoy this art form, no matter what their social or financial status is. A short overview:


Connecting Cultures Program: Each year, The Bigger Screen selects ten countries and grants filmmakers from those areas the ability to submit their work free of charge to partner festivals all over the world. This opens the door of film exposure to those who may not otherwise be able to enter. As we support inclusivity and shareable films, this program exemplifies our mission.


Inclusive Audience Program: Our screenings are always low or even free of charge to provide opportunity for interested film goers to view up and coming, challenging, and inspiring pieces of art, encouraging students, seniors, and those in underprivileged environments to share the experience of film and cinema. We welcome film goers, regardless of income and financial status.


The Tarkovski Grant: All selected filmmakers will receive The Tarkovski Grant, a film festival submission fee waiver package with an average value of about $250. This not only saves you a lot of money, but it also recognizes your work as something to watch for during the selection procedure, making a selection with another partner film festival more likely - but of course, never guaranteed. The Tarkovski Grant supports hundreds of filmmakers each year in their challenging journeys as independent filmmakers, by promoting existing films, no matter the genre, style or length.

/who we are

The New Jersey Independent Film Festival is produced by Maarten Cornelis and Kris De Meester.


Maarten Cornelis is an entertainment veteran with experience in the industry stretching over two decades.  He is an Actor, Producer, Light Designer, and Director, and has rubbed shoulders with some of the great artists in the world.  He is a known Light Designer and Producer on Broadway, in NYC, and is a frequent guest Light Designer at the exclusive, Carnegie Hall.


Over the years, Maarten has worked as Technical Director at various venues and has had the honor of designing the lights for numerous live events, working for Francis Ford Coppola, Stephen Rivkin, Lloyd J. Schwartz, Martin Landau, Mark Rydell, Dino De Laurentiis, Ennio Morricone, John Legend, Common, Jerry Seinfeld, and many more.


In 2020, Maarten became a partner at the newly renovated “Park Theatre” in Union City, NJ, where he produces a lot of his own events and theatre productions.  He currently has running productions in New York City and Los Angeles – these productions include Frankenstein, Wicked City Blues, King of the Lighthouse, and FunikiJam.


Maarten worked as an Entertainment Specialist for Rocket Video in Los Angeles from 2002 to 2005. Although having studied film at school, it is here that he learned everything about cinema.  From the best independent cinema to the experimental, and from the blockbuster to the classic.  His job was to work with world famous directors and The Academy and help them with their research on upcoming projects.  Ultimately, introducing him to many filmmakers and masterpieces of cinema.


Maarten is a graduate of the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in Los Angeles.  He was also the leader of their in-house theatre company “The September Company” from 2002 to 2005.


Maarten was born in Belgium and grew up in Los Angeles.  As of 2018, Maarten has been living bi-coastal and divides his time between Los Angeles and New York City.

Kris De Meester is a director, producer, and entrepreneur known for his independent films. He started his career in 1990, taking on different roles with many of the film industry’s finest. Over the decades, he has teamed up with numerous award-winning directors. Such included big names like Lars von Trier, Terence Davies, Thomas Vinterberg, Timo Vuorensola, Wolfgang Becker, Philippe Grandrieux, and Koen Mortier.

With a genuine conviction that environments can affect human behavior, the cinema producer translated his theory into the writing of two feature films. His esteemed direction in both put him in the limelight and accelerated his reputation on the global film scene. The 2010 black and white film “Four Roses” is one of his most prestigious works. The movie was shot in four days with a budget of USD 10,000. The award-winning feature was hailed an engaging and poignant gem and was officially selected for international film festivals around the globe. His second feature “Johnny Walker” is inspired by Dostoevsky’s ‘Notes from the Underground’. Described by some critics as a surprising and unique experience, the 2015 film intended to ignite the audience’s intuition with the play of confusion and contradiction. The film was selected for over 30 international film festivals.

At the same time, the director also took on roles as a casting director in a number of films. His repertoire includes titles such as "A Quiet Passion", "Ex Drummer", "Ich und Kaminski" and "Un Lac". He was also the casting director for "Nymphomaniac" Volumes I & II, both of which have been featured on Netflix. Meanwhile, as a producer, Kris De Meester has worked on dozens of award-winning independent films to date. Such include "Little Wing", "Vessels", "Share with me Your Brightest Colors", "Menthol", and "All About the Feathers". In recent years, he joined Hal Hartley as an executive producer in the production of the feature film “Where to Land” that has yet to be released.

With time, the director and producer’s acclaimed reputation and deep understanding of cinema steered him to become a film curator in the vibrant film festival landscape. Since 2015, kris De Meester has taken part as a global curator in many mainstay events such as the Brussels Independent Film Festival, the Venice Film Week, the Hong Kong Arthouse Film Festival, Super Shorts London Film Festival, and the Sydney World Film Festival.