The 13th Annual Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival will screen eight films on its opening day, Wednesday, Nov. 10. By its closing day, Sunday, Nov. 14, the five-day event will have screened more than 80 films. This includes a dozen documentaries, two dozen or so short films, and nearly four dozen features that contain a good majority of international films.
The festival has always weighed more toward international fare, but, it wasn't until 2007, the festival's 10th year in operation, that it started what's now known as "Country Spotlight." The Country Spotlight is a good chunk of the festival that is dedicated to showcasing films from one specific nation outside the United States. In 2007, it was Israel. In 2008, it was Latin America and last year the spotlight was on Japan. This year, the Rehoboth festival focuses on India.
In 2009, the festival pulled two Japanese films that won Academy Awards that year: Departures and La Maison en petits cubes. In order for a film from another country to win an Academy Award, that country has to submit it officially. Every year, the Academy invites every country in the world to do so. Not every country participates, but next to Japan, India has the second highest submission rate. All three of India's most recent submissions to the Academy will play at the festival this year.
Peepli Live is India's current submission and is still pending a final decision on whether or not it will get an Oscar nomination. That news won't come until Jan. 25, 2011. Being that the film is a comedy, its odds diminish of getting the Academy's nod. Yet, this social satire about a marijuana-smoking farmer who sets off a media circus when he decides to commit suicide for the insurance money it will give his family is probably the most crowd-pleasing Indian film that will play at Rehoboth. Its Bollywood music though is less bouncy than "Jai Ho" from Slumdog Millionaire.
Speaking of Slumdog Millionaire, one film that drew comparisons and criticisms to it being released around the same time was Like Stars on Earth, which was about a young boy with dyslexia. It's also playing at Rehoboth. Like Stars on Earth may not have all the danger, action or even game-show trivia as Slumdog Millionaire, but it is highly sentimental and way more enlightening. It stars Aamir Khan who is one of the most successful actors and producers in Bollywood today. I've seen the film and compare him at times to the teacher in Glee.
Harishchandra Factory is an Indian film about the origins of Bollywood movies. It's the story of the man who brought movie-making to India shortly before the first World War. Bollywood, by the way, is one of the biggest movie-making communities in the world. India's output more than doubles that of America's. Yes, the B in Bollywood stands for bigger than Hollywood.
Like last year's Country Spotlight, a free panel discussion with experts on India's films will be done for free. All movies will play at the Movies at Midway multiplex on Route One just north of Rehoboth Beach's town center, but behind the multiplex is where the discussion will happen. The Big Tent will again be set up in all of its white glory. This year's discussion will aide viewers in understanding India cinema. Dr. Cynthia A. Cooper from Towson University and Dr. Andrew Sharma from Salisbury University will be this year's experts. Sharma, in particular, was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to teach this very thing.
Yet, if intellectual discussion isn't yours, other events involving India will take place in the Big Tent. All the events occur on Saturday, Nov. 13 starting at 5 p.m. The Indo-American Association of Delaware is sponsoring the Henna Exhibit. Henna is body art or non-permanent tattoos that are traditional in Indian culture. The Association is also sponsoring Indian Tea Time. Visitors there will get a history of various beverages served in India during this meal as well as the opportunity to sample and take home recipes.
Finally, the evening will be topped off with the Jhankaar Bollywood Dance students performing an act choreographed by Nisha A. Punjabi who has 20 years of experience teaching and performing classical, contemporary and folk dances from India. A free encore performance will happen on Sunday, Nov. 14 at 6:30 p.m. during the festival's closing night celebration.
But, there is still plenty more to see and do before closing night. For more information about the festival as well as reviews of movies, interviews with filmmakers, and much more, click on the various festival links on The M Report. Also, go to the festival's official website www.rehobothfilm.com