Passes are now on sale for the 10th annual Lighthouse International Film Festival, which takes place on an idyllic barrier island in the Atlantic Ocean: Long Beach Island, aka LBI. – Some film buff trivia: it’s where one of the infamous Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916 happened, which inspired the infamous “Jaws.”
We recently spoke with Christine Rooney, managing director of the festival, about bringing films from around the world to a small island off the Jersey Shore, virtual reality and teaching filmmakers to surf. The festival runs from June 7 to June 10, 2018.
Culture Vultures: So, what films are you really excited about this year?
Christine Rooney: Well, we’ve got ‘The King,’ which is one of Vogue Magazine’s Top 13 documentaries to see in Summer 2018. Directed by Eugene Jarecki, who also directed the HBO documentary series ‘The Jinx,’ ‘The King’ is about Elvis Presley, but not in a way you would expect. It’s also a road trip around, and a deeply felt portrait of, America.
CV: You’re also showing the “seriously independent” film “Wild Nights with Emily.”
CR: Yes! It’s our opening night film. It’s amazing. It’s just everything. It’s funny, it’s irreverent, it’s touching, and it stars Molly Shannon as the great American poet Emily Dickenson. It won the US-In-Progress award in Paris, and was a big hit at this year’s SXSW Film Festival.
CV: I’ve heard that a lot of festival-goers and filmmakers go surfing during the long festival weekend.
CR: Long Beach Island is a big East Coast surfing destination. As we say: “Come for the films, stay for the fun in the sun.” We actually have a lot of surf instructors here who give our filmmakers surfing lessons. Just one of the cool perks of having a film festival on an island.
CV: In addition to the films, the festival also has a pretty rigorous party schedule.
CR: Oh, absolutely. We have great parties. We have parties at the Ship Bottom Brewery & Bistro, Daddy-O’s, Joe Pop’s Shore Bar – the whole LBI and Manahawkin restaurant community contributes to our festival. So, not only do you get to go to some great parties – you also get to eat the best food on LBI.
CV: So, what’s the virtual reality thing all about?
CR: We have a Virtual Reality Experience center – this is so fun. There are two types of experiences. In one, you put the headgear on, sit in a special chair, and get immersed in a movie. And then there’s another station where they give you the headgear, but you’re standing up, and you actually interact with the film. It’s really cutting-edge stuff. That’s what we’re about.
CV: Whoa – that alone sounds like it might be worth the price of admission.
CR: Exactly. It’s a really unique opportunity. Most film festivals don’t have it.
CV: Let’s talk about the short films.
CR: We’re big believers in shorts because. For many filmmakers, they are the jumping-off point. It’s their training ground. We’re showing some great shorts. “The Velvet Underground Played at My High School,” which was a Tribeca favorite. We’re also showing the film “The Driver is Red,” which is a Sundance winner. These are all films that you would typically have to travel to cities like New York or Los Angeles to see.
CV: So, why is it called the Lighthouse International Film Festival?
CR: Well, for one thing, it’s our goal to shine a light on the arts of Long Beach Island. Also, lighthouses help people to find their way – to tell them where they are and where they’re going – and that’s what independent film does, too. And, of course, our lighthouse – Barnegat Lighthouse – is an iconic, historic landmark.
We want people to understand that LBI is more than the beach. We have a rich history and an amazing arts community. We have all kinds of artists – including filmmakers. And during the festival, our arts community will be very engaged – lots of events, lots of activity. And, of course, the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences is the main venue of the festival where we show most of our films. It’s really the anchor for the arts on LBI. And they are a great partner of the festival.
CV: And you are presenting some films made on location in LBI, right?
CR: We are presenting several films that were made right on LBI by LBI filmmakers. One of the films is called “Loser Leaves Town” – shot in LBI and Manahawkin. It’s been accepted into the Aspen Film Festival, which is an Oscar-qualifying festival. It’s an off-beat, coming-of-age story about a young boy.
CV: This year’s festival has 47 films directed by women. That’s about half of the films.
CR: Yes! We’re very proud of that. Another thing we do here is the “Write by the Beach” writers’ retreat program for female filmmakers and screenwriters. You can find peace here. You can be inspired to create here – which is why we do this program here. They come to LBI to connect with each other, to create and to have that time to really think and reflect.
CV: What else do we need to know about the Lighthouse International Film Festival?
CR: Going to a film festival like this one is not the same as just going to the movies. In addition to seeing films from around the world in one place, you have the opportunity to talk to filmmakers, network or just have great conversations with other film-lovers. Our hope is that people come away with food for thought – something to think about – an experience that they would not have had anywhere else. We just hope to make you think, make you laugh and inspire you.
The 10th annual Lighthouse International Film Festival runs from Thursday, June 7 through Sunday, June 10, 2018. For a full schedule of events, accommodations and ticket information, visit www.lighthousefilmfestival.org.