Get ready to pass the popcorn. The Rehoboth Beach Film Society presents the 21st annual Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival, which starts Nov. 1 and runs through Nov. 11.
Films in this year’s lineup come from Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, South America and Denmark. The three screening venues include Cape Henlopen High School’s theater, the Unitarian Universalists of Southern Delaware and the society’s own Cinema Art Theater, which opened in 2016.
We talked to Sue Early, the society’s executive director, about the nonprofit organization and the film festival. (The answers below have been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.)
I owned Dream Cafe in downtown Rehoboth in 1999. Film festival reps asked me to purchase an ad, which I did. During the event, so many customers came in and were talking about the festival. Everyone was excited. The next year, I volunteered. In 2001 I started working part-time as the development director. (Before moving to Sussex County, I was an executive director of a nonprofit service organization for 14 years. Nonprofit management is my field.)
Cinematic art is an effective communication tool. It is affordable to many. It brings diverse groups of people to an event. Film exposes audiences to different cultures, traditions, religions and geographic areas. We learn about our differences but also our commonalities. Besides being entertained, cinematic art educates, inspires and makes us think. I stayed involved because I believe in the work the Rehoboth Beach Film Society does for the surrounding communities.
We have a programmer for our year-round Cinema Art Theater, who makes recommendations. I review trailers and reviews before bookings are finalized. That is done on a weekly basis. For the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival, we have a programmer who does it all. For our four mini-film festivals—the Rehoboth Beach Jewish Film Festival, the Rehoboth Beach African-American Film Festival, Delaware LGBTQ+ CINE-brations and Regional Showcase which features the works of emerging regional filmmakers—there are volunteer planning committees who work with our theater manager. They review lots of films before determining which ones will be best for the audiences of the mini-film festivals.
People still enjoy the experience of seeing films on the big screen as a group and being able to talk about what they just saw afterward. Throughout the year, we host the program “It’s a Wrap Chat” on Wednesdays. People can participate in a discussion led by a volunteer facilitator. There are many different interpretations of a film, and it is good to hear what other people are thinking about what you just watched. It can be a learning experience for all.
This year we are showing “Brewmaster,” which tells the story of craft beer. Sam Calagione, the owner of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, is in the film. He and his wife, Mariah, will be in attendance at the Nov. 10 screening to introduce the film and lead a Q&A afterward. The company and its owners are big supporters of the arts in Delaware, so it is wonderful to feature a film about their craft.
This year we have such a unique and diverse selection of documentaries. I would like to see them all, but I don’t get that opportunity. In terms of features, the selection is rich in content with some very powerful and moving films. There is definitely something for everyone. This year may be the best selection ever.
Always have a second or third choice in case your first choice is sold out. Sometimes the best festival experience is seeing a film that wasn’t an original choice. Give the shorts program a chance. It’s like having several appetizers instead of a main meal—you get to experience a variety without investing the whole experience in one film. Don’t settle on seeing one or two films. See as many as you can. This is a wonderful opportunity to see a variety of quality American and independent features, documentaries and shorts—films that you otherwise would not see.