Best Bets: Curtain up for the Rehoboth Beach Film Festival

Tilda Cobham-Hervey stars as Helen Reddy in “I Am Woman.” The film will be shown at the Cinema Art Theater and online. (Submitted photos)

For the Rehoboth Beach Film Society, the show (or shows) must go on.

The 23rd annual Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival will take place as scheduled next month with a few modifications for health concerns. Only five films will be shown inside the society’s Cinema Art Theater, with 10 more available to stream at home.

“We had the opportunity to carry out this event with the safety of our viewers as a priority,” said Rehoboth Beach Film Society Executive Director Sue Early.

“They can watch films at home this year. It’s not the same experience, but there’s some great films to see. And in our theater, we could be showing at 60%, and we’re only going to use 30 out of 104 seats, which is just under 29%. They are well-spaced and cleaned after every screening. So it’s really safe.

“People plan their vacations around this event. We really felt that we had to offer some type of option in these, quite honestly, financially, very challenging times. If we could provide something that would be appealing to people, it helps us keep the screens lit.”

Tickets are on sale now for the festival, which runs Nov. 5-15.

The five films being screened in person this year are “I Am Woman,” a biographical music drama about iconic 1970s musician and activist Helen Reddy; “9 to 5: The Story of a Movement,” a documentary about what happened when one band of fed-up working women decided enough was enough and did something about it; “Farewell Amor,” a drama about a newly reunited immigrant family of three; “One Last Deal,” a feel-good drama about an elderly art dealer who investigates the history behind an unsigned painting; and “The Last Shift,” a dramedy of two men struggling in the same town, while worlds apart.

Streaming films include the documentaries “Billie,” about legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday, “Donut King,” “The Mole Agent” and “The Hidden Life of Trees.”

Dramas include “Minyan,” “The Perfect Candidate,” “Twilight’s Kiss” and “Veins of the World.”

“I Am Woman” will also be available to stream.

When selecting this year’s smaller slate of films than previous years, which usually see a list close to 40, Ms. Early gave Michael Tuckman, director of festival programming, one condition — select all positive films.

“People really need that. It’s been a tough year. They really need something that they can walk away feeling good about,” Ms. Early said.

Mr. Tuckman said that although the films are positive in tone, they all have great depth and meaning.

“(Positivity has) kind of been the take on it, and that’s not necessarily to say that everything is a Hallmark movie. But I think all the films that you’re gonna see are either extremely uplifting or show adversity being defeated and ending with a very optimistic tone,” said Mr. Tuckman, who has been the festival’s director of scheduling for the past five years.

He said not only did that make it a harder mission this year, but just generally finding films in 2020 was a bit more difficult.

“There are fewer films that are being released. The Toronto Film Festival usually shows 350 features or so, and this year, they showed 50. So there’s been fewer of the big narrative films that we usually would choose from,” he said.

The documentary “The Donut King’ will be available for streaming throughout this year’s Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival. (Submitted photo)

However, he said, it’s been a great year for documentaries.

“We’re showing this year some of the best docs that we’ve seen in a while here. And those are all a lot of fun,” he said.

Mr. Tuckman points to the film “Donut King” as an example.

“It’s not only a blast, but it’s this great story of immigration in America, as well. The doughnut shops of California became kind of a haven for Cambodian immigrants in the ‘60s and ‘70s. You see their families escaping the war in Cambodia and American servicemen helping them get reestablished,” Mr. Tuckman said.

“And a lot of it was because of the bases in San Diego and other bases in California. And then, they are immediately able to hook up with other Cambodians and are running these doughnut shops. And they ended up booting Winchell’s (Donut House) and Dunkin Donuts out of the scene. They were running such great and efficient doughnut shops that the major chains couldn’t compete.

“It’s one of the great things about programming — when you come across something that’s not only a great film and a lot of fun, but I myself had no idea.”

Despite her rough life of drug and alcohol abuse and racism, Mr. Tuckman says “Billie” strikes an optimistic tone about Billie Holiday.

“It gives you an uplifting take on the life that she actually lived. And the way that she was treated externally and how thoughtful she was with those who knew her,” he said.

The biographical drama “I Am Woman,” about Helen Reddy, takes on a bittersweet tone now with the recent death of the beloved singer.

“You can’t stop singing the songs in the film. And you really get going with it. And the film does such an incredible job of showing how later in life, she was able to really take the mantra that many people had been looking to her for, and she inspired so many, and she was able to come out and be such a forceful spokesperson for the women’s movement — that her voice literally could be that microphone for,” Mr. Tuckman said.

A related film is the documentary “9 to 5: The Story of a Movement,” which tells the story of the working women movement in the 1970s and inspired the hit comedy “9 to 5.”

“Jane Fonda is really prominent in the film, as is Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton, talking about how they met with all the women you see in the documentary to provide the research and provide the characters for the movie that they were going to make,” he said.

To pick this year’s 15 films, Mr. Tuckman estimates he probably saw 200 movies. He schedules for other festivals, as well.

He then goes back to Ms. Early with his thoughts on the films, and decisions are made on what to show at the festival.

‘My job is to go out there and watch everything, and I’ll have some questions. ‘Do you think this would work?’ And she’d say, ‘Yes, sounds great,’ or ‘Maybe a little too much death in that one. Let’s stay away from that,’” Mr. Tuckman explained.

An added feature of this year’s film festival will be Zoom discussions on five of the films, some of which will be led by Bill Newcott, creator of AARP’s Movies for Grownups franchise and a movie critic for The Saturday Evening Post.

Mr. Newcott also offers his thoughts on some of this year’s movies on the film society’s website.

“Citizens of the World” is a comedy that follows three Italian retirees as they embark on a journey to find a new country in which to live.

Ms. Early hopes that will help to bridge the gap for folks who love to get together and discuss what they just saw.

“So many people, as they’re walking out to the parking lot or waiting in line at the restroom, they talk about what they just saw and share opinions and perspectives, and sometimes, that leads to ‘Hey, let’s go out to lunch together,’ and that’s how friendships develop,” she said.

“And so that part of the festival experience, unfortunately, is going to be missed this year, and we thought Zoom discussions were the way to go this year,” she said.

For a complete list and descriptions of the films, tickets and other information, visit rehobothfilm.com. The society’s Cinema Art Theater is at 17701 Dartmouth Drive, Lewes.

New look for gift shop

New glass displays have been installed in the Mispillion Art League Gift Shop, and everything is set up.

The Exhibits Committee has been, and is, hard at work updating the look of display space and finding ways to offer a greater selection of functional and beautiful pieces. Full of lovely art with something for everyone — jewelry, woodworking, stained glass, paintings, pottery, photography, blank notecards suitable for every occasion and so much more — can be found in the shop. Artists bring in new work all the time.

Online video tours of exhibits can be found at mispillionarts.org. To purchase by phone, call 430-7646, and the item will be packaged to pick up during normal operating hours.

Mispillion Art League is located at 5 N Walnut St., Milford, and business hours are Wednesday–Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Online photo contests

While the Rehoboth Beach–Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce cannot hold the annual Sea Witch event this year, it is keeping the festival spirit alive this Halloween season.

The chamber is accepting online photo submissions for a Dog Costume Contest and an Individual/Family Costume Contest. Costumed participants can submit their photos online by accessing the Sea Witch Festival page of the chamber’s website, beach-fun.com.

The top three judges’ favorites in both the dog and individual/family categories will receive one youth- or adult-sized long-sleeved 2020-21 Sea Witch Festival shirt and a Lobster Monster festival pin.

Submitted photos will be posted to the chamber’s website and social media pages. Contest winners will be announced Nov. 9.

For more information, visit beach-fun.com or call the chamber at 227-6446.

Now showing

New this weekend in theaters is the horror-thriller “The Empty Man.”