"The Hungry Ghosts" — packed with the kind of gritty passions found in the hit HBO series — will premiere Sept. 15 in New York.
The evening will be something of a cast reunion for actors from "The Sopranos." Steve Schirripa and Sharon Angela star in the film, and Vince Curatola, Lorraine Bracco and Vincent Pastore are expected as guests. The TV series ended in 2007.
"Ghosts" won't have the usual red-carpet opening.
Ticket sales for what's billed as "a private screening" at the Rubin Museum in downtown Manhattan will benefit Tibetan refugees and elderly Buddhist monks led by the Dalai Lama.
"Buddhism is an antidote to the characters in the film," said the 43-year-old director, who studies Eastern philosophy and practices the tae kwon do martial art with his wife and children.
His movie's characters float like ghosts through an intense 36 hours of New York life, wrestling with drugs, alcohol and sex in what Imperioli calls "the human struggle for completion."
"They're lost and searching for something, restless and desirous of something spiritual — and physical," he said in a telephone interview Saturday, adding with a laugh, "It's a common affliction, a universal one."
In this ensemble psychodrama, a cocaine-fueled radio host drives away his teenage son, who ends up in a park at night. A couple offers him alcohol and drugs, and the woman has sex with the youth while the man watches. In another narrative, a man fresh out of detox searches for his ex-lover, a woman who once taught yoga.
The various linked lives are saved by "a sense of compassion for each other, a sense of going beyond yourself," said Imperioli, noting that the yoga instructor tells the destructive radio host, "remember all the good that you've done."
In January, "Ghosts" opened the International Film Festival Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
Eighteen cast members, including Angela and Schirripa, have worked at the 67-seat Studio Dante theater that Imperioli and his wife, Victoria, run in Manhattan's Garment District.
He wrote the screenplay for the film he calls "a family affair."
With his wife co-producing and designing the sets, plus the actors' modest fees, the 105-minute movie was shot on a mere $600,000 budget.
Imperioli is now aiming for distribution of his independent silver-screen debut.
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