The 16th annual Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival (RBIFF) opens on Wednesday, November 6th. RBIFF is Delaware's oldest and largest film festival. In only five days, Rehoboth Beach will host 95 films of the narrative, documentary, foreign, gay-lesbian and short film variety. It brings in crowds from not only the First State but also neighboring states like Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, having sold last year close to 19,000 tickets.
Joe Bilancio, the festival's Program Director, spends the better part of a year selecting art house cinema that most people might not have heard. Bilancio says, "The programming dart was thrown at the film map and the results are a wonderful variety of languages, countries, and cultures."
A large chunk of films at play hail from Asia. Bilancio continues, "Without specifically looking for films within one region the dart often found its way to the Middle East..."
Aside from Israel, the Middle East is the part of Asia that isn't known for its great film communities. This year might be a pivot point for changing that, as the festival will play Wadjda, the first film from Saudi Arabia to be submitted to the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.
Other likely Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Language Film playing at RBIFF are The Broken Circle Breakdown, the official submission from Belgium about a romance played out over a love of bluegrass music, Renoir, the France contender about director Jean Renoir, The Rocket, Australia's top pick about a Laos boy who takes his family on a journey to a better life, and More Than Honey, Switzerland's submission tackling the issue of colony collapse for bees.
The festival will host another non-fiction film that is the clear frontrunner for Best Documentary Feature at the Oscars, and that is The Act of Killing, which is about the Indonesian mass-murders of the 1960s.
Other documentaries at RBIFF that have been gathering buzz include Let the Fire Burn, which just won the Pinkenson Award for Best Local Feature at the 22nd Philadelphia Film Festival and was nominated for a 2013 Gotham Award. A documentary that might not make the Oscar shortlist but is still worthy of attention is I Am Divine, centering on the Baltimore native and international drag icon known as Divine.
Blue Caprice focuses on the sniper shootings near Washington, DC. That film based on the real-life, American horror plays at the festival in the wake of earning two Gotham Award nominations, including Best Actor for Isaiah Washington. Read my review for it here.
The Regional Showcase and the Shorts From Around Here: Take 3 feature a slew of filmmakers from the Baltimore / DC Area. Many of whom have lived or frequently vacationed along the Delaware coast. All will be in town for a Q & A session that will occur on Sunday, November 10th.
Most of the filmmakers in the Regional Showcase and the Shorts From Around Here are at the festival for the first time. A couple, however, are returning favorites. One of whom is Rob Waters who this year brings Recovery, a short film about alcoholism that is more gritty than his action comedy last year The Detector.
Jenny Roberts explores the environmental issues threatening an island along the Chesapeake Bay in Pieces of Tangier. Benjamin Wright Smith deals with a widower in 1930s Maryland in Flytrap. Michael Henaghan takes on an old adage in The Good Deed That Got Punished. Josh Wolff has one man meeting another in a similar situation as him in Hiccup. Mike Marino takes a comedic take on the Greek Gods with Titans of Newark, and Matthew VanDyke puts two faces to the Syrian crisis in Not Anymore: A Story of Revolution.
Every year, Bilancio and RBIFF spotlight one country. This year, the spotlight is on Germany. The festival boasts more than a dozen films from Deutschland, about that European nation and/or has serious connections to the once divided country. There are a handful of German Kurzfilme. There are two classic cinema choices: Fritz Lang's M (1930) and Berlin - Schonhauser Corner (1957).
Of the six other German films at play, one is a gay film called Free Fall, which won Best Feature at this year's Philadelphia Qfest. Out of the dozen or so films with gay or lesbian content, Free Fall might be the best. Other notable gay films include Pit Stop, Stranger By the Lake and In the Name Of.
In addition to the movies, RBIFF also has a series of events and activities to supplement or relate to the content. All films are screened at the Movies At Midway multiplex. The Big Tent is setup in the back parking lot where all tickets are sold, but there's also plenty of space for numerous things. From a seminar on German cinema, to food served that is specific to Germany, and to folk dancing by the Dover German-American Club, there is plenty to do to fill time between screenings.
The most prestigious event in the Big Tent is the Conversation with Brian Geraghty. Geraghty is a young, Hollywood actor who has been in high-profile projects like We Are Marshall (2006) with Matthew McConaughey and Flight (2012) alongside Denzel Washington. Geraghty made a name for himself with the Oscar-winning, independent film The Hurt Locker (2009). Since then, he has always gone back to doing interesting, indie movies. In fact, RBIFF is presenting one of his latest indies Kilimanjaro.
All the events in the Big Tent are free. Parking is free. General admission tickets are $10. If you're a member of the Rehoboth Beach Film Society, then tickets are $9. All screenings on Sunday after 1PM are $6. The festival runs November 6 to 10. For show times and more information, go to: