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2023 Lighthouse International Film Festival: Documentaries and Narrative Features

originally published: 05/23/2023

2023 Lighthouse International Film Festival: Documentaries and Narrative Features

(LONG BEACH ISLAND, NJ) -- The 2023 Lighthouse International Film Festival will take place on Long Beach Island from June 7-11.  The scenic East Coast beach community, which has hosted the celebrated film event for fifteen years, will feature dozens of screenings in four locations, with filmmaker Q&As, special events and much more.

Narrative features headlining this year's festival include the World Premiere of Jumpei Matsuomo's provocative new drama Wheels and Axle. Joining it will be the U.S. Premiere of Genevieve Albert's Noemie Says Yes, a powerful female-centered story from Quebec; the International Premiere of the South Korea's The First Glance by Hyun-Tak Kim; and the Greek coming-of age-drama Listen from filmmaker Maria Douza.

Feature documentaries at this year's festival include the World Premiere of Stories From The Lighthouse from three-time Oscar nominee Deborah Dickson, the U.S. Premiere of Noura Kevorkian's Batata, Slamdance favorite American Pot Story by Dan Katzir and Ravit Marcus, Nisha Pahuja's TIFF darling To Kill A Tiger, and trans filmmaker Ash Kreis' We Are Tenacious, about a Colorado alpaca farm run by trans and Queer residents who are forced to carry firearms to protect themselves from local right-wing militias.

The 2023 Lighthouse International Film Festival also offers a number of exceptional short film exhibitions, featuring an exciting and diverse lineup from twelve countries. This year's festival highlights several award-winning films and filmmakers, including When You Left Me On That Boulevard, winner of the Sundance Short Film Grand Jury Prize, and Nakam, which was short-listed for Oscar nomination.

Additionally, Christina Yoon, the award-winning writer/director/editor of Apple TV+'s Pachinko, will present her short film Motherland. Another notable is Requiem, which  features Bella Ramsey of Game of Thrones and The Last of Us, and A Lot of You Are Asking from 51 First Dates podcast host, Liza Renzulli.

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The short film Shell Shocked stars Emmy-nominated Evan Hall (Orange is the New Black) as a veteran struggling with PTSD while The Rewrite is a charming comedy starring Chris Geere (This is Us) and Chris Webster (Most Dangerous Game). The festival will also screen the acclaimed documentary short Under G_d, directed by Paula Eiselt, who IndieWire recently named one of "22 Rising Filmmakers to Watch in 2022" and Requiem For A Whale from Israeli filmmaker Ido Weisman, which won the IDFA Award for Best Student Film.

The first wave of feature films screening at LIFF 2023 are noted below. A full listing of short films can be found at


Central Valley (d. NivKlainer and Gabriel Oliva). USA, 90 minutes. When his younger brother suddenly passes away, Tim, a 35 year old drug peddler who has never been able to take care of himself properly, must decide what to do with his 10 year old nephew: let him go into foster care, or rise to the occasion and straighten his life out and take care of him himself.

The First Glance (d. Hyun-Tak Kim) South Korea, 70 minutes // International Premiere One woman wants to kill, the other woman wants to die. Hiding their inner thoughts, the two women drive perilously over the icy road. In the trunk of the car is an urn, their Pandora's Box.

Lissa’s Trip (d. Jeffery Lando) USA, 76 minutes // East Coast Premiere A struggling actress embarks on an epiphanic odyssey across Hollywood when she tries to get to her audition despite having accidentally dropped a LOT of acid.

Listen (d. Maria Douza) Greece, 108 minutes // U.S. Premiere Financial upheaval forces a teenage deaf girl to leave her progressive Athens school and return to her father's struggling island where she is confronted by the danger of prejudice and intolerance, most shockingly -- her own.  * The screening is supported by the Greek Consulate in NYC and Intervova

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Noémie Says Yes (d. Geneviève Albert) Canada, 116 minutes // U.S. Premiere Fifteen-year-old Noémie has been living in a youth home for the last three years. When her hopes of being taken back by her mother evaporate, Noémie runs away from the home in search of community and freedom. She joins her friend Léa, a former member of the center whom she knows from the home, who introduces her to a gang of petty delinquents. She soon meets Zach, who offers her a job as an escort for a weekend.

No Way to Spin It (d. Kyle Myhre) USA, 86 minutes // World Premiere With her wedding mere months away, Claire's drug addict sister throws a wrench into her seemingly perfect life.

Shudderbugs (d. Johanna Puntam) US, 106 minutes Sam returns to her childhood home when her mother suddenly passes. In place of familiar spaces and memories, she finds only uneasiness and confusion. Things are missing, the environment seems unnatural, and the neighbor is suspiciously obtuse.Isolated with these mysteries, Sam wrestles with her instincts to untangle the truth.

Wheels and Axle (d. Jumpei Matsumoto) Japan, 121 minutes // World Premiere Inspired by Georges Bataille’s provocative novel Madame Edwarda. Manami is a female student who hates her wealthy family because they are ‘fake’. She meets Jun, a wealthy gay man, in Kabuki-cho, Shinjuku. They go to a male host club together and begin to share a host guy called Seiya. 



American Pot Story: Oaksterdam (d. Dan Katzir and Ravit Markus) USA, 97 minutes // East Coast Premiere. The unknown origin story of how a handful of underdogs risked everything to ignite the current worldwide revolution in cannabis policy. Filmed over a decade, this groundbreaking film illuminates the power of the activist, no matter the cause.

Batata (d. Noura Kevorkian) Lebanon, 120 minutes // U.S. Premiere   Shot over an unparalleled 10 years, Syrian-Lebanese director Noura Kevorkian’s intimate camera follows the plight of Maria and her family of Syrian migrant workers who find themselves unable to return back to their hometown of Raqqa Syria. The Peabody Award Nominated and Amnesty Award winning film captures an entire decade while documenting not just the age-old conflict between two nations, but the unbending spirit of a woman who puts family ahead of all else.

Healing Dakota (d. James LaMonte) USA, 82 minutes Dakota was the K9 officer that tracked down the Boston Terrorist in 2013 soon after developed PTSD and was set to be euthanized. This love-inspiring movie documents a chance meeting that changes his life.

Motel Drive (d. Brendan Geraghty) USA, 61 minutes // East Coast Premiere Within a community of motels infamous for illicit activity, the Shaw Family grapples with housing insecurity and addiction while trying to raise their young son. When California's High-Speed Rail Project displaces them, a glimpse of stability appears within reach. A vérité, street level vantage of post-industrial America, documented over eight years, on one city block.

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Out There: A National Parks Story (d. Brendan Hall) USA, 70 minutes Two childhood friends embark on a 10,000 mile road trip through the U.S. national parks, revealing a heartfelt tapestry of stories from the people  they meet along the way. Far from any clichéd narrative, they hear profound stories of people from all ages, walks of life, and cultures that come to the parks seeking tranquility, healing, motivation, and connection to the  natural world.

Stories From the Lighthouse (d. Deborah Dickson) USA, 88 minutes // World Premiere Beginning in the year preceding a global pandemic and culminating in the present day, Stories from the Lighthouse follows three young people on the verge of adulthood as they work toward fulfilling their dreams while  “adapting to a sighted world.” A film about growing up blind, about friendship, about loss, about transcendence.

To Kill a Tiger (d. Nisha Pahuja) Canada, 125 minutes // East Coast Premiere. On the night of a family wedding in a village in India, a  13-year-old girl is gang raped by three men. Her father takes on the fight of his life when he demands the accused be brought to justice. With tremendous access to all facets of the story, The film charts the emotional journey of an ordinary man thrown into extraordinary circumstances, and forces a social reckoning that will reverberate for years to come.

We Are Tenacious (d. Ash Kreis) USA, 86 minutes // East Coast Premiere. This family is made up entirely of transgender ranchers — dedicated pioneers on the Tenacious Unicorn Ranch in Colorado who have set out to make it a "Queer Utopia." But as they pursue their true liberation, they also battle fierce weather, impossible finances, far-right militia, and their own internal conflicts, leading to a discovery of what tenacity really means.



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