The Lighthouse International Film Festival on Long Beach Island tries this weekend to live up to the billing given to it last year by MovieMaker Magazine as one of the 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World.

The festival starts Thursday and runs through Sunday. The weekend will be packed with 143 feature-length films, documentaries, shorts and episodic content accompanied by networking events, said Christine Rooney, the festival’s managing director.

“We seek out the best films for our audience,” Rooney said. “We have had Oscar-nominated films. We have had films that have gone into theaters and that are on Netflix and On Demand.”

During its 11 years, the festival has been screening more films each time, and this year is no exception, Rooney said.

Every year, the films grow in prestige, and there will be more filmmakers, cast and crew — over 100 individuals — in attendance than ever before, Rooney said.

The festival has the goal of screening independent films that are thought-provoking, unique and address the issues of today, Rooney said.

Guy Nattiv, the director who won this year’s Oscar for Best Live Action Short, will be in attendance for the 6:30 p.m. Thursday screening of the festival’s opening night film, which will be his full-length feature, titled “Skin,” starring Jamie Bell and Vera Farmiga. The movie has been shown at the Toronto, Berlin, Germany and Tribeca, New York, film festivals.

“We are very fortunate this year that Netflix provided us with the film ‘American Factory,’ which is quite a coup for a festival,” Rooney said.

“American Factory,” a documentary, will be the festival’s closing film. The movie will be screened 4 p.m. Sunday. The film is about Midwest blue-collar workers. Aunt and nephew Julia and Jeff Reichert, co-director and producer respectively, will be in attendance.

Julia Reichert, a three-time Oscar nominee in the best documentary category, spent part of her youth living on a boat in Beach Haven. Jeff Reichert is a former Northfield resident.

“We provide a four-day cinematic experience for all our attendees. We have parties, breakfast with the filmmakers, panel discussions, Q&As. We bring in films from all over the world,” Rooney said.

“The Peanut Butter Falcon,” starring Shia LaBeouf and Dakota Johnson, will be one of the festival’s centerpiece films. It will be screened at 7:30 p.m.

The Lighthouse International Film Festival is only the second festival to show the movie after its debut at South By Southwest in Austin Texas, and the co-directors are expected to be in attendance, Rooney said.

A movie that will receive its world premiere during the festival is a 29-minute documentary, titled “To Make a Long Story Short,” about the Ocean County-based party band known as Shorty Long & The Jersey Horns. It will be screened 9 p.m. Friday, followed by a concert by group at Bird and Betty’s, 529 Dock Road, Beach Haven.

It is unusual for film to be made about musicians who are known for neither their own original music nor for being a tribute act to a famous performer.

On St. Patrick’s Day last year, Sal DelGiudice, 54, of Beach Haven West in Stafford Township, saw Shorty Long & The Jersey Horns for the first time at Calloway’s Restaurant & Bar in the Staffordville section of Eagleswood Township.

Besides being a musician who still plays in a band, DelGiudice has a sister with cerebral palsy.

DelGiudice saw Rick “Shorty Long” Tisch singing and playing a keyboard even though he was born was a rare bone disease called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a group of disorders that affect bone growth and density, resulting in Tisch’s short height. Tisch stands less than 3 feet tall and uses a wheelchair, but DelGiudice saw him leading the band despite these disadvantages.

DelGiudice said he understood immediately how special what he was witnessing was. He co-wrote, directed and produced the documentary on Tisch and his band.

Shorty Long & The Jersey Horns have existed for close to 20 years.

No one approached Tisch or the group to do a film on them previously. Tisch said he was blown away that someone would be interested in making a documentary on him and his band.

“I thought it was the coolest thing ever that someone wanted to make a documentary about us. I figured, “What the hell, if nothing else, I would have something to show my daughter,” said Tisch, 42, who is the father of a 6-year-old.

Tisch learned how to play a keyboard after it was given to him by his grandmother when he was age 5. He discovered he could hear a song on the radio and learn how to play it by ear. He played for senior citizens during his high school-age years. He joined his first band at 19, which eventually included John Kern, who plays bass and sings in Shorty Long.

Even with Tisch’s physical disability, he and his band play 200 shows a year, with 100 of them being between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

“We love doing it, and it pays the rent,” Tisch said. “In the summertime, especially when you live in Jersey, you take it while you can get it and thank God that that many people want to hire us to where we have to turn down clubs and parties and stuff now. We do as much as we physically can.”

Staff Writer

Twenty years as a staff writer in the features department, specializing in entertainment and the arts at The Press of Atlantic City.

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