Swarthmore, Pa. native debuts film about Long Beach Island post-Hurricane Sandy at Philadelphia Film Festival

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The 29th Philadelphia Film Festival officially kicked off Friday, with 11 days packed full of the best flicks you can watch at home or at drive-in screenings.

Every year the festival features a host of local filmmakers. This year, a Swarthmore native is one of them.

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Derek Pastuszek is a Strath Haven High School graduate who now lives in Los Angeles chasing his dream as a filmmaker.

His latest work is called "Islander," a film that takes us to Long Beach Island during the destruction of Hurricane Sandy.

"It's a poetic fable about picking up the pieces after a tragedy, which we can all relate to," Pastuszek says.

The 30-year-old emerging filmmaker says the film's themes hauntingly mirror what so many of us are feeling right now.

"It explores loneliness and solitude and isolation, and what that feels like," Pastuszek says. "Ultimately, it really is about the human need to find meaning and connection."

Pastuszek calls Beach Haven his second home. His family had a summer house there.

"A quirky little beach house that my grandfather built in the 60s. That was kind of a family headquarters for us," Pastuszek said.

He says he's truly living his dream.

"I was the kid in the back of class sort of doodling, drawing little monsters and drawing little movie scenes," he laughs.

And while he's now in Hollywood, his heart is always home.

"I really just believe this city puts its heart into everything, that's kind of the identity of the Philadelphia area and its people," he says. "I do very much the same with my poetic little movies."

In 2016, his award winning film, "Solitary," about a prison inmate in solitary confinement, made its way to the White House.

"Getting a film shown at the White House is something that I'll be telling my grandchildren about. It's pretty magical," Pastuszek said.

And now, he has this chance to debut his latest film to the home crowd.

"I would hope that people would be walking away from the movie feeling hopeful, because we kind of need that right now," Pastuszek said.

The Philadelphia Film Festival starts Friday and runs through November 2.

"Islander" is in the Filmadelphia Shorts program.
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