As a programmer (my first time!) for the 2009 Gen Art Film Festival, I can tell you that finishing this slate was not easy. It required me (and a small group of others) to watch a lot of films ... and I mean a lot of films. The awesome part of this, though, is the discovery. Sure, you'll get the occasional mess -- but then sometimes you stumble across a brilliant piece of work that hasn't been seen by anyone yet, and you just know it's destined for greatness. With that said, the programming is now complete and I'm able to share with you the names of the films playing at this year's Gen Art Film Fest in New York City from April 1 to April 7.

The Sundance and Toronto hit Lymelife (we premiered the poster here) was chosen as this year's opening night film. It's a gem of a family drama starring Alec Baldwin and Cynthia Nixon (watch the trailer on Moviefone), and you should definitely look for it in theaters on April 8. Also from this year's Sundance fest is the romantic dramedy Peter and Vandy, starring my gal Jess Weixler and Jason Ritter. One of the more experimental and cult-ish films screening is My Suicide, which I whole-heartedly recommend as a deep, dark and oddly hilarious flick about the Me Generation. Julie Davis' Finding Bliss (starring Leelee Sobrieski, Denise Richards and Jamie Kennedy) was chosen to close out the fest, while Gigantic (Paul Dano, Zooey Deschanel), Punching the Clown (Slamdance audience award winner) and Picture Me: A Model's Diary (doc about a model) round out this year's slate.

As always, I'll be on the ground at the Gen Art fest looking for whatever I can wrap my brain around -- so definitely stay tuned. But, heck, if you're in the NYC area, you may as well check this sucker out for yourself. The fest runs from April 1-7, and you can find out much more (like how to buy tix) over at the official Gen Art Film Fest website.

Full press release after the jump

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New York, NY – March 3, 2009 – The 14th Annual Gen Art Film Festival presented by Acura kicks off on April 1, 2009 in New York City. The Gen Art Film Festival presented by Acura (GAFF)'s unique format showcases one feature and one short from emerging filmmakers for seven nights, each followed by an official party at a New York nightspot. The festival provides access for film lovers to experience a movie premiere like a true insider, as all tickets provide admission to both the premiere and after-party with the cast and filmmakers. This year, the premieres will be taking place at the completely redesigned, state-of-the-art Visual Arts Theater on West 23rd Street between 8-9th Avenues.

The star-studded "LYMELIFE" is set to open the GAFF festival. Executive produced by Martin Scorsese and Leonard Loventhal and starring Alec Baldwin, Cynthia Nixon, Jill Hennessy, Emma Roberts, Kieran Culkin, Rory Culkin, and Timothy Hutton, LYMELIFE world-premiered at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival, where it received the coveted prize of International Critics Award. The GAFF opening will serve as the official New York premiere and will kick-off LYMELIFE's theatrical release which begins April 10. The film is co-written by Gen Art alumni, brothers Derick Martini (Writer/Director) and Steven Martini (Writer) and marks Derick's directorial debut. They also co-wrote "Goat on Fire and Smiling Fish" which premiered at the 2000 GAFF. LYMELIFE opens in theaters on April 8 in New York City and April 17 in Los Angeles before expanding.

Closing the festival will be GAFF alumna Julie Davis's "FINDING BLISS" starring Leelee Sobrieski, Denise Richards, Jamie Kennedy, Matthew Davis and Kristen Johnston. Julie is an alumna of the 2001 Gen Art Film Festival where she premiered "Amy's Orgasm."

Other highlights of the festival include the theatrical premiere of "GIGANTIC" directed by Matt Aselton, starring Zooey Deschanel, Paul Dano, Jane Alexander, Ed Asner and John Goodman. GIGANTIC opens in theaters the following day on April 3. The film "PETER AND VANDY" stars Jason Ritter and Jess Wexler, back to back winners of Gen Art's Fresh Faces in Film Award presented at Sundance. "MY SUICIDE" (Crystal Bear Jury Prize - Berlin FF), "PUNCHING THE CLOWN" (Slamdance Audience Award), and "PICTURE ME: A MODEL'S DIARY" (Documentary - World Premiere) round out the feature slate.

To view the complete slate, including shorts, synopses and after-party locations, please see the Festival Slate attachment.

"After 13 successful years of the Gen Art Film Festival, we have cultivated one of our most appealing festival slates yet." said Jeffrey Abramson, Vice President of the Gen Art Film Division. "People are re-evaluating what is important to them right now. In times like these audiences seek thoughtful and hopeful movies and a reason to come together. Our 2009 slate celebrates a wide range of powerful content, representing themes of growth, love, art and self-awareness Each film embodies the uncompromising art of independent filmmaking."

Entering its 14th year, GAFF introduces audiences to films by emerging North American filmmakers, awarding prestigious Acura Grand Jury Prizes for Best Feature and Best Short, as well as presenting audience awards for Best Feature, Best Short and the Stargazer Award honoring breakout talent for excellence in acting.

"We are excited to be partnering with Acura for our seventh consecutive Film Festival. In these challenging economic times, the commitment of Acura to Gen Art and independent filmmakers is truly inspirational," said Gen Art CEO / Founder Ian Gerard.

Kevin Bacon, whose film "Loverboy" opened the 2005 GAFF, recently told the media at this year's Sundance Film Festival, "Gen Art inspires me as a filmmaker. It is so exciting to share something with a really young, super hip audience." Other successful films from past festivals include: "Wristcutters: A Love Story" directed by Goran Dukic, (nominated for two 2007 Independent Spirit Awards), "Four Eyed Monsters" (nominated for two 2007 Indie Spirit Awards), Lori Silverbush & Michael Skolnik's "On the Outs" (nominated for two 2006 Indie Spirit Awards, the award winning 2007 documentary "Sharkwater", Brian Dannelly's "Saved!," the documentaries "Hands on a Hard Body" and "My Date with Drew" and early work by the likes of Azazel Jacobs, Cary Fukunaga, Gerardo Naranjo, The Duplass Brothers, Jesse Peretz, Richard Shepard, Tim Blake Nelson, and Brad Anderson, whose debut feature "The Darien Gap" opened the first Gen Art Film Festival.

Additionally, 7 of 28 shorts GAFF has shown in the past four years have been nominated for or have won a Student Academy Award.

A testing ground with real audiences, this consumer oriented festival gives the red carpet experience to all in attendance. The GAFF provides its audience with great cinema, as well as a taste of exciting NYC nightlife and access to some venues which otherwise are inaccessible by many consumers. The premiere parties will be held at exclusive NYC nightspots including Greenhouse, 1 OAK, Antik, The Park and Hudson Terrace.

The Film Festival will begin generating buzz with its Official Launch Party to take place on Wednesday, March 25 at 7 For All Mankind's new Soho store at 394 West Broadway from 7-10pm. The launch party will bring together the festival's filmmakers and cast for a pre-festival reception with members of the film industry and press.

Joining Acura are festival partners including Crunch, Kodak, Metro, New York magazine, Three Olives Vodka, and Time Warner Cable.

For more information, tickets and schedule, please call (212) 255-7300 or visit Gen Art's website at www.genart.org/filmfestival.