Lighthouse Film Festival Ends With Rave Reviews In Manahawkin

Former Long Beach Township Beach Patrol Supervisor Don Meyrs and local photographer Majorie Amon at the awards ceremony.
Former Long Beach Township Beach Patrol Supervisor Don Meyrs and local photographer Majorie Amon at the awards ceremony.

The Sixth Annual Lighthouse International Film Festival ended on Sunday evening at the Dutchman’s Brauhaus in Manahawkin with a ceremony awarding the winning films and recognizing local volunteers for their efforts.

About 100 people gathered at the Cedar Bonnet Island restaurant for appetizers and cocktails as first-year executive director Eric Johnson served as host and master of ceremonies.

Johnson declared the festival a great success. “Even the daytime movies had good sized audiences, which was tough when we were competing with such great beach days,” he said.

Johnson, who took over the director’s role this year from festival founder Charlie Prince, said it was a “bittersweet” task to pick the winners, as he and many of the staff had screened hundreds of films and met with their producers and/or directors prior to selecting the films shown this past weekend.

“To us they were all already winners,” he said.

Some locals Johnson and the his staff were quite happy to present awards to were Maggie O’Neill, of Ship Bottom, as Volunteer of the Year. She has served as the festival’s housing and hospitality coordinator for all six years, and Sondra and Steve Beninati of the Gables restaurant and B&B in Beach Haven, who have hosted the opening night parties and catered many of the festivals other parties.

O’Neill said the festival was an important new part of the Long Beach Island experience as it has introduced the audiences, both local and visitors, to topics that are contemporary and sometimes controversial. “These films have created dialogues on subjects that people otherwise might not know about,” she said.

Beninati said he felt a kinship with the filmmakers and their creative spirit, but also in a more practical way. When going to a bank for a loan, he said, they often told him they support small businesses, “unless you’re a restaurant or in the film business.”

Prior to O’Neill’s and the Beninati’s recognition, awards were given to around a dozen films in a variety of categories.

The audience choice award for short film went to “Free to Be Me” that profiled a local dance company that sponsors a special program for children with Downs Syndrome.

“Dangerous Acts: Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus” won the audience’s Spotlight Award for showing the courage of an acting troop risking persecution and imprisonment for defying the government imposed censorship of their productions.

Best Audience Documentary went to “Riot on the Dance Floor” based on the historic rock and punk music club, City Gardens in Trenton, NJ.

The narrative film winner was, “A Life Inside Out,” about a mother returning to her musical roots to reconnect with her teenaged son.

In the juried competition, the short films had two winners: “Trauma,” where a woman returns to her abandoned childhood home to escape the nightmares that now plague her: and “Down in Flames” about legendary fire-eater, Tony "Volcano" Valenci on his quest to set his first world record.

Documentary winners were: “A Life Outside” profiling long time Jersey Shore surfers and how Superstorm Sandy changed their ideas about wishing for storms to give them great waves. And, “One Child,” about a village in China where hundreds of children died in an earthquake and the country’s then policy of allowing families to only have one child.

The Narrative Film award was won by Thomar Falskur Fugl, of Iceland, for “Ferox” his story of a young man reacting violently to his suspicion that his brother’s suicide is not all it seems.

The film was Falskur Fugl’s first entry in an American festival and he said, “From now on, every day I shall now wake up with a small smile on my face.” 



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