LONG BEACH ISLAND – After four days, 85 films, 40 filmmakers, three parties, breakfasts and panels with filmmakers, five virtual reality shorts and unforgettable memories – the Lighthouse International Film Festival (LIFF) has finally closed the curtain on its 9th year in production.
“I really feel like this edition of the lineup is kind of like the peak of the ideal of what we really want. We have local films that touch on global concerns, we have fantastic documentaries, we have international films, an incredible short film lineup and we’re bringing virtual reality,” said LIFF Executive Director Eric Johnson at the festival’s kick-off screening on Thursday, June 8. “We’re incredibly, incredibly excited for you to see all these movies.”
The festival kicked off on Thursday night with a screening of a 90s throwback film King of Peking at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences. People showed up early for the premiere, as volunteers were forced to keep adding more rows of chairs in front of the projection screen. The movie, which was set in Beijing, China and had English subtitles, tells the story of a father who, desperate to both provide for and bond with his 10-year-old son, takes a job at a movie theatre and starts stealing movie reels in an effort to make money in the newly emerging DVD bootlegging business.
“This is very much about a man who makes the wrong choice but makes it for the right reason,” said the film’s director Sam Voutas.
Voutas, who is actually Australian but speaks fluent Mandarin, held a Q&A session after the screening, and said his inspiration for the movie was becoming a dad himself two and a half years ago, something that forever changed his life as he knew it. He said that often, you can tell a movie was made to look like a different time period, but that he wanted King of Peking to feel like it could have been made in the 90s.
LIFF workers and volunteers said the buzz was sizzling around a locally made film called The Oyster Farmers, directed by Corinne Gray Ruff and Angela Anderson, which is a documentary about Barnegat baymen and baywomen throughout the last four centuries. It also explores the growing sustainable seafood movement both locally and globally, at a time when 90 percent of seafood eaten in the U.S. is imported. Anderson and Ruff were also at the festival’s kick-off party back in May, when they found out only the night before that their movie had made it into the lineup. The two female filmmakers, along with filmmaker Brendan Walsh who helped edit the movie, also hosted a NJ Filmmaking Panel Friday morning to discuss why the Jersey Shore is the perfect place for moviemaking and movie inspiration. The Oyster Farmers was screened at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 10 at the LBI Foundation of the Arts & Sciences.
Another local documentary creating buzz, and also a festival audience award winner, was Swim Team, which tells the tale of the Jersey Hammerheads, a competitive swim team made up of autistic teenagers. Director Lara Stolman follows three teammates in their journey to fit in and to find their independence both in and out of the pool. The film was screened at 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 10 at the Surf City Firehouse.
The festival also featured eight blocks of shorts, where several short films were shown at once, and for the first time ever, a virtual reality experience that LIFF Managing Director Christine Rooney described as “absolutely an amazing experience.”
This year’s Audience and Jury Award Winners were announced on Sunday, June 11 during a 6 p.m. party at Joe Pop’s Shore Bar:
Audience Award Winners:
- Documentary: “Swim Team” (Lara Stolman)
- Audience Award Short Film: “Break In” (Christopher Cox)
- Spotlight: “Black Magic for White Boys” (Onur Tukel)
- Narrative: “Our Father” (Meni Yaish)
- HS Student Film Jury Award: The Getaway Drivers (Graham Burrell)
- Documentary Short Film Grand Jury Award: Refugee (Emily Moore and Joyce Chen)
- Special Jury Award Short Film: Fry Day (Laura Moss and Valerie Steinberg)
- Narrative Short Film Grand Jury Award: Do No Harm (Roseanne Liang)
- Documentary Feature Grand Jury Award: Santoalla (Andrew Becker and Daniel Mehrer)
- Narrative Feature Grand Jury Award: Our Father (Meni Yaish)
Created in 2008 by a group of filmmakers, film critics and film industry professionals, the Lighthouse International Film Festival celebrates four days of features, shorts, documentaries and family films from around the world in honor of Long Beach Island’s historic Barnegat Lighthouse.