At a gala opening Friday night, Reading FilmFest announced it had received a $25,000 endowment in honor of the late actor and Reading native Michael Constantine.
“Because of the generosity of an anonymous donor there will be a fund established in Michael’s honor — not in his memory but in his honor — to celebrate him,” said Santo Marabella, film commissioner and board member.
Tracy Schott, Reading FilmFest creative director and board president, said the donation will help build the filmmaking community in Berks County and reinvigorate the Reading Film Office. The donation was given to the Berks County Community Foundation for the purpose of education.
Marabella said the money is to be spent to educate students and emerging filmmakers on how to develop and showcase their craft.
“When the protocols are put together, it will attract A-listers — actors, filmmakers, directors — to come to Reading to talk to our filmmakers, to talk to our community because that is what Michael would have wanted,” Marabella said.
Constantine was best known for his Emmy-winning role as high school principal Seymour Kaufman in the TV series “Room 222” from 1969 to 1974 and his portrayal of Kostas “Gus” Portokalos, the Windex bottle-toting father of the bride in the 2002 film “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” He died Aug. 31 at age 94.
Constantine died peacefully of natural causes in his Reading home, surrounded by family, including his sisters, Patricia Gordon and Chris Dobbs. Constantine had been ill for several years, but the nature of his illness was not disclosed.
Constantine, whose given name was Gus Efstration, was born May 22, 1927, the son of Greek immigrants Andromache (Fotiadou) and Theoharis Ioannides Efstration. He graduated from Reading High School in 1946 and never forgot the community where he was raised.
The announcement was followed by a video celebrating Constantine’s acting career.
Marabella said Constantine played more than 180 different characters but the one for which he is most loved locally is himself, a kind and generous man who loved and supported Reading.
“Whatever his role … his greatest role was being Michael Constantine and we are so privileged and honored,” Marabella said. “He loved this community. He loved the people here and he did so much for us.”
Constantine, along with Marabella and Letty Hummel founded the Reading Film Office in 2006. The film festival is an outgrowth of the film office.
Earlier this year, the FilmFest became a nonprofit, something that Schott said will enable it and the filmmaking community in Berks to flourish.
The seventh annual ReadingFilmFEST continues Saturday and Sunday with more than 80 films, with many focusing on current, hot-topic social issues -— the most ever, said Schott.
The season is about embracing community and harnessing the power of film and other art forms to enrich lives, said Cammie Harries, ReadingFilmFEST executive director.
The festival intentionally entwined a mixture of art and culture and collaboration with community partners to present the film festival as well as year-round programming .
Special events include:
• Outdoor Art Exhibit on Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. in the parking lot of the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts in a partnership with the Reading Arts Collective featuring the area’s diverse arts culture and highlighting underrepresented artists. The free event features art pieces for sale, live demonstrations, a fashion show, music, dance and food trucks.
• Celebrating Reading’s Latin community with a closing day screening of “Soy Cubana” on Sunday at 3 p.m. at the GoggleWorks. An awards ceremony will be followed by a reception with a Latin twist featuring the Wanda Holdren Dance Academy, a salsa band, Pancho Bongo Y Su Orquesta and Latin cuisine by Mi Casa Su Casa.
See the full schedule and purchase tickets at www.readingfilmfest.com.
Source: Berkshire mont