Film Inspired by Priest Beating Man in JC Heights Screening in Berlin

A still shot from Paradise East

Tonight, a local filmmaker’s feature film inspired by a strange sight in the Jersey City Heights will be screened at the Berlin Film Festival’s International Director’s Lounge.

Paradise East, a two-hour dark comedy by JC native and current Bayonne resident Nick Taylor, tells the tale of a vigilante killer priest who deals with pedophiles and others who sin against children in the most brutal way possible.

The flick was inspired by an incident — no, not a murder — that Taylor witnessed as a 10-year-old boy. One night, he saw a local Catholic priest with a reputation for occasionally getting drunk and very angry viciously beat someone in the neighborhood who was supposedly mugging senior citizens.

“It was just very surreal and I never forgot about it,” he says. “I still think about it all the time.”

While the movie has Hudson County roots (it was even partially shot in JC and Bayonne), it’s found fans all over the world at multiple film festivals and has been screening for the past two years, what Taylor called a rarity in the festival circuit.

“It amazes me that it’s still being seen,” said the 54-year-old. “It’s satisfying because so much work goes into these things and they usually disappear within a month.”

The film has won awards at several of the festivals where it has appeared including Best Director at the ITN New Media Film Festival; Best American Feature at the International Film Festival in Ireland; and Best Dark Comedy and Best Directorial Debut at the New York International Film Festival; all in 2011.

Now, Taylor is moving on to other things. Unfortunately, one of his actors from Paradise East, Seth Abrams, who was meant to take the lead in another project, suffered an aneurysm and stroke last year and is still recovering. “He’s wasn’t dead, but he’s incapacitated. It’s very heartbreaking, but he’s come a long way,” says Taylor, adding that he doesn’t want to recast the role, but wants to wait for Abrams to get better.

Instead, Taylor is now pursuing Where the Rubber Meets the Road, the story of a mentally disabled man, Walter, who loses his innocence and learns about love and loss, and Joe, a cab driver who wants to take care of his friend when Walter’s sister is unable to, but is torn because of his own issues and dark past.

“It’s kind of a sad story with a sad ending, but it’s intersting at the same time and Walter is quite a characer,” says Taylor. “I’m very excited and looking forward to it.”

In a strange coincidence, an actor with a supporting role in Where the Rubber Meets the Road also suffered a stroke and is now rehabilitating in the same place as Abrams. “It’s a very bizarre chain of events,” said Taylor. “That’s what’s funny about the movie game…one sick actor or sick director could literally stop a project. But, that’s the movie business. You have to be in it for the long haul and you have to learn to love the journey.”

To learn more about Taylor and Paradise East, visit his website.

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East Street Films photo

Summer Dawn Hortillosa

is a freelance arts and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in the Jersey City Independent, The Jersey Journal, the International and other publications. She is also a creative writer and theatrical director.