18th Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival

The annual event, which started in 1998, has several changes this year. Tickets will be sold online and the screenings will no longer be held at the Movies at Midway theater. Also different this year, the event runs for nine days, instead of five.

Instead of Movies at Midway, the festival has three smaller venues. They are Cape Henlopen High School in Lewes, the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) in Rehoboth Beach and the Baycenter in Dewey Beach. The Rehoboth Beach Film Society, which organizes the festival, has utilized these venues in years past.

Next year and for the next festival, an additional venue will be added. That new space will be the Cinema Art House in Lewes. The Cinema Art House is located at Dartmouth Plaza off Route 1 and Dartmouth Drive, behind the Wawa gas station. It's a 108-seat theater. This year, it will only function as a box office site, but next year it will start showing films and be more of a hub for the Film Society.

A staple of the festival over the past 17 years has been a huge, white tent that was set-up behind Movies at Midway, taking up a chunk of its rear, parking lot. That tent was the site of same-day ticket sales as well as social events, food and fun. This year, the Big Tent and Social Hub will be established at the Crooked Hammock, a new restaurant and brewery in Lewes, just a mile up the road from Movies at Midway.

The first social event is Friday, November 6. It's the Film Festival Preview Party. It starts at 7PM. For $25, there's dinner and dancing along with trailers of the upcoming films. Events will be daily and many will be free and open to everyone. Some include a Beer Tasting followed by Acoustic Vibes, Film Trivia, Movie Karaoke, a Filmmakers Mix, which is a meet-and-greet with those working behind the camera, and a Closing Night Party.

Joe Bilancio, the Program Director, selects the films and the schedule. He says there's a smaller number of films playing this year. In total, there are 31 features, 9 documentaries and 2 shorts programs. There will be 58 total screenings, down from 120 last year. Some things are lost. There aren't any animated films. There will be no 10 % Shorts, which is a short film collection that focuses on LGBT themes or characters, and there will be no Regional Showcase. Most of the films screening will be international.

Aside from having to account and plan for travel between the three venues, which aren't too far apart, Bilancio says that the Film Society has done its best to make sure the theater-going experience is the same as it's been in years previous. One thing that's the same is the Country Spotlight, which brings a significant number of films from one specific country and during the festival relates social events to that place.

This year, the Country Spotlight is Iceland. Iceland might be a small country. It's the Nordic island off the coast of Greenland. However, Bilancio has noted some unique filmmaking talent from the tiny nation. The festival will screen four films from the volcanic isle, three features and one short.

Every year, the Academy Awards invites every country in the world to submit a film to compete for the honor of Best Foreign-Language Film. Iceland has been submitting films since 1980 and has only been nominated once. Iceland submitted Children of Nature (1991) to the 64th Academy Awards and was recognized for it.

The film that Iceland submitted last year for the 87th Academy Awards was Life in a Fishbowl (Vonarstraeti), which is playing on Friday, November 13 at 2:50PM at the Baycenter in Dewey Beach. It won 12 Edda Awards, including Best Film. An Edda Award is the Icelandic equivalent to the Oscars, but, unfortunately the Oscars didn't recognize it.

The film that Iceland submitted this year for the 88th Academy Awards is Rams (Hrútar), which is playing on Thursday, November 12 at 9:15PM at the Baycenter. It won the Un Certain Regard Award at the Cannes Film Festival. It's about two brothers who are estranged but who come together to save their sheep from a deadly disease. It remains to be seen if the Oscars will recognize it or not.

The Grandad (Afinn) is the comedy adaptation of a play that garnered an Edda Award nomination for Best Actor. It's playing on Wednesday, November 11 at 5:45PM and Sunday, November 15 at 3:30PM at Cape Henlopen High School.

The final film in the Country Spotlight is Chum (Hjónabandssaela). It's a 15-minute work that won the Edda Award for Best Short Film. It's playing as part of the International Shorts on Friday, November 13 at 5:40PM at the MCC in Rehoboth Beach.

Quite a few blockbuster films have been shot in Iceland like Interstellar, Prometheus, Thor: The Dark World, Noah and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Instead of filming in Iceland and pretending it's someplace else, this festival will provide you with authentic films telling you the truth of the location.

Films from other countries are also featured. The Club (El Club) is the Chilean film that is a critique of the Catholic Church. Phoenix is the German film about a Holocaust survivor who confronts her shady husband. Sworn Virgin (Vergine Giurata) is the Albanian film about a misogynistic law in that country that pronounces women as unequal. Theeb is the Jordanian film about a Bedouin boy coming-of-age.

The theater at Cape Henlopen High School or CHHS is the biggest of the festival's venues. It has over 600 seats. The other two only hold anywhere between 100 to 200 seats. As such, CHHS is the venue for films that Bilancio thinks will attract bigger audiences. Some of these films possess big-name stars or have been by this point widely promoted.

Three of those films include The Adderall Diaries starring James Franco and Ed Harris, The Benefactor starring Richard Gere, Dakota Fanning and Theo James, and The Stanford Prison Experiment starring Billy Crudup and James Wolk. Coincidentally, Golden Globe-winner Richard Gere stars in Time Out of Mind, which is also playing at this year's festival.

The 10 % Shorts are missing this year, but in the program book, certain features are noted for being LGBT, or specifically having lesbian and gay themes or characters. A few include Fourth Man Out, a film about three macho guys helping their gay friend find a boyfriend, Liz in September, a Venezuelan lesbian romance set in the Caribbean, The New Girlfriend (Une Nouvelle Amie), a French tale of loss, identity and twisted attraction and Those People, a love triangle between young, wealthy Manhattanites.

Finally, Bilancio talked about the documentaries being screened. Because the festival will be occurring on Veterans Day, Wednesday, November 11, one doc focusing on a veteran is of considerable note. It's called No Greater Love and it's about an Army Chaplain who shares his experiences and those of his fellow soldiers. The Alex Gibney-directed Steve Jobs: Man in the Machine is better than the Michael Fassbender-starring film, according to Bilancio. Frame By Frame follows four Afghan photojournalists, and The Armor of Light follows a Reverend exploring the gun-rights issue.

Bilancio started working for this festival 14 years ago. He goes through tons of online submissions and has pursued a lot of selections. He says he's tailored the festival to appeal to an audience that is intelligent, well-read and up-to-date on news, appreciative of politics and art that is challenging and controversial. Most films will be dynamic and multi-layered, and often not for everyone, but hopefully experiencing them will spark new ideas or interesting conversations for those who attend.

Movies run from Saturday, November 7 to Sunday, November 15. It's nine days, two weekends at three locations in the Lewes, Rehoboth and Dewey Beach area. Tickets go on sale for Film Society members this week and Saturday, October 31 for the general public.

For more information and for tickets and showtimes to the features and documentaries named above, go to http://www.rehobothfilm.com/


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