By Melissa Webb

The past is something we can only view through a hazy and muddled lens: torn images from yellowed photographs, fragments of black and white films, uncertain pieces from our own dreams- these all combine to create a swirl of memories from a world we never really inhabited. This desire to exist in another time or place that is realistically impossible for us to take part in, if only for an hour or two, is one of the appeals of movies. Movies tell the stories of the past. We can only experience this unattainable past through the realm of fantasy; the cinema provides just this outlet to escape one reality and enter another.

 When one thinks of the past in regards to cinema, one might for instance picture the palm-tree lined streets of L.A. from the film-noir classic: Sunset Boulevard. A man lies face-down in a pool behind a decaying mansion and we soon enter the unstable, reverie world of a once-loved silent film star, Norma Desmond. What is particularly interesting about this film and the fading glory of Norma is that it marks a transition point in history: it tells the story of the bridge between the past and the future. Silent films are being replaced with the vocalized films of today. The silent film star is nothing more than a dream, a false memory: she exists only in the minds of viewers and in the movies she once made. Her type of films no longer bring in the audience and are, therefore, dying. But Norma clings to the idea of herself as a star, and must be told to take up, that “the audience left twenty years ago." With the tides of change in what's fashionable, some movies become time capsules, sometimes like dusty paintings in the attic, longing to be revisited, waiting in desperate silence to be watched. 

While I've painted a picture that is tragic and sad, I actually mean to express the beauty that comes with the infinite, perhaps eternal, power of cinema. One needs not venture back to 1940's Los Angeles to experience a piece of the past. Right here in South Jersey exists one of the most prominent historic theaters in the country, the Ritz Theatre in Oaklyn. In fact, The Ritz Theatre has recently become a member of the National Register of Historic Places. It opened back in 1927 providing the community with entertainment ranging from vaudeville acts to films themselves. In the 1950's and 60's, it became a place of culture, broadening the horizons of audiences with an array of art and foreign films. In the 1970's, it even took a short turn as an adult theater! Since then, it's become a popular place to see live-plays and even houses an art gallery. It has been the center of all types of entertainment, always staying in touch with the needs of its audiences, but never forgetting the past. The Ritz Theatre retains its classic atmosphere by maintaining its "original decor": "The architecture is Greek revival with the auditorium walls featuring 25 foot high neo-classical canvas murals with gilt trimmed columns and velvet draped balconies enclosed by classic carved balustrades." The glittering past of cinema is eternally preserved at the Ritz.

The Reel East Film Festival, taking place this August, seeks to provide attendees with access to quality, fascinating cinema from the past and present, and even allows for a peek at the future of film. The following is just a small sampling of the many cinematic experiences that are included in the Festival. For a bit of the past, the Fest will immerse viewers in 1940's New York City with the classic All Through the Night (1942), starring the legendary Humphrey Bogart. John Sayles' Go For Sisters, in theaters as recently as 2013, will serve as a marker of contemporary drama (not to mention, the director himself will be a featured guest). To see where the future will take us, the Fest is accepting submissions of student films and will be making its final selections shortly. 

The history of cinema is a flowing mix of tragedy, comedy and everything in between. Movies are the markers of our past but, more importantly, they are the expressions of our dreams. Attend the Reel East Film Festival and remember that despite Norma Desmond's faltering sanity, she was on to something great when she said: "The stars are ageless, aren't they?" 

 
 
By April L. Smith

At the peak of their popularity, they numbered in the thousands. Now, only 350 drive-in theatres remain in the country. In her documentary film, Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the American Drive-In, director April Wright travelled the US to find out what became of these rare venues. Featuring interviews with theatre owners and enthusiasts, sociologists, bloggers and film director, Roger Corman, the film gives a historical and cultural background that suggests the rise and fall of the drive-in has provided a narrative to the changes the country has undergone in the last fifty or so years. Going Attractions examines these historical events, exploring larger issues while evoking the feeling of each era through music. This film takes a pointed look at the ways in which the sense of community that existed in the early part of the 20th century was eroded in favor of modernity, rapidity and consumer culture.

A “fascination with unusual architecture and spectacle things” led April to explore the drive-in’s history. She acknowledges that drive-ins, these, “massive structures out in the middle of a field” are compelling and she became more curious about them as they began to crumble. Her road trip provided some answers. She travelled to all the states in the US, with the exception of Alaska (financial reasons prevented her from visiting there).Some trips she was accompanied by her teenaged niece, who acted as a production assistant. “I wasn’t seeing the country from an airport because most of the drive-ins that are left aren’t in major cities, so I really was driving across the country from little town to little town to little town and really seeing America from a different perspective. Travelling this way helped me understand the story, too, because when I was driving around I saw the commonality in the cities- how they were designed and how they grew. I saw the same kind of city planning over and over again all around the country and that helped me understand how the drive-ins fit into that development.”

This city planning led to the replacement of the drive-ins, unique structures with artwork on the back of their screens and neon lights on their marquees, with big-box stores- an architecture of sameness that has dominated the late 20th and early 21st centuries. That “drive-ins were already zoned with electricity and water, often at the intersection of two major freeways and very visible” proved too tempting for developers and corporations. Those “colorful and attractive signs, that showmanship was just a thing that people invested in that came out of the period of wealth and growth after World War II,” and when financial fortunes and public interest changed, “by the 80s there was just a cumulative effect-the invention of malls and chain retailers and suburban growth in general,” she says.

The film focuses on the battle between corporate control and the concerns of small businessmen and women. “The drive-ins only formed an association in the 90s so they never really communicated until the last ten or so years with the Internet. Most of the time they would be concerned with running their own businesses.” In some respects, they ended up defenseless against corporate onslaught. Another issue for the drive-in owner is the expense of updating their theatres, now a necessity due to theatres going digital. “They just switched in the last five, six, seven years to digital projection. That’s a major change in the industry. It’s been hard for drive-ins because each projector costs about $80,000. At a drive-in, there is an additional expense, because the projection booth is outside and susceptible to dust and dirt and the elements so they have to add the cost of building a climate-controlled, dust-free room to hold the digital projector. Most of the drive-ins are family owned and operated so they don’t have stockpiles of investment money. It is hurting the industry.”

Despite all these factors, April is hopeful for the future of the drive-in. “I think there’s this whole new interest in drive-ins and a resurgence in drive-in attendance. This year in particular, there are five or six brand new drive-ins being built from scratch or really old ones that have been closed for 30 years that are being reopened. People not only are attending drive-ins in record numbers, but are investing in new drive-ins.” Moreover, the drive-ins that have made the switch to digital now have a “picture that looks fantastic and no longer have to be concerned with residual light affecting the picture or the picture looking dark,” she says. Instead, digital projectors, “create the perfect picture like in an HDTV in your living room except you just put it on the biggest screens in the world at a drive-in. I think overall it’s going to help because it improves the quality of the picture so much.” These technological advancements are likely generating an interest in drive-ins amongst a new generation. “Most of the times when I’m screening the film, it’s younger people in their teens and twenties, rather than nostalgic baby boomers, who have more passion about it. They’ll tell me, this is the first time they’ve ever been to a drive-in, and how great it is to go to the drive-in, and they’ve got to support the drive-in and they want to own a drive-in. I get much more of an emotional response from younger people who feel upset about missing this.” 

 
 
For almost 35 years, Woody and the Cliffhangers meet every other Saturday to have breakfast, watch a double-feature, a cliffhanger serial, and have lunch.

They talk about everything under the sun: movies, families,wives, stars, surgeries, their health, their diet, their entertainment, their retirements, their kids, their pets, their lives, their loves  and although the rules state that one cannot talk religion or politics- they end up talking about that too.

This is not only a film about the love of movies but the love of life and friendship. The Reel East Film Festival is proud to be able to present this film to a local audience. We here at the Reel East share much of the same feelings about movies as the Cliffhangers so we cannot think of a better film to open our fest with than a movie about the love of movies.

Inda Reid’s Brotherhood of the Popcorn screens at 7PM on Friday August 22nd 2014 at the Ritz Theatre in Oaklyn, NJ. Tickets will be available through the theatre website.

 
 
In 1950, America was in a state of panic. Juvenile delinquency was destroying the very fabric of society. Ninety percent of all children were reading comic books. In 1954, psychiatrist Dr. Fredric Wertham wrote a scathing indictment of comics called Seduction of the Innocent. Its central premise: Comic books were the leading contributing factor to juvenile delinquency. That same year, Dr. Wertham testified at special hearings on comic books at the Senate Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency in the United States. Comics were on trial.

Diagram for Delinquents captures the zeitgeist of late 1940s and early 1950s America and investigates how the funny books found themselves on the fire. Using expert and comic book insider interviews, never seen before historical photographs and films, and animation, DIAGRAM goes further than any previous comic book documentary to explore and understand the controversial figure at the center of this American tale: Fredric Wertham.

The Reel East Film Festival is proud to present the latest film by Robert A. Emmons Jr. (Enthusiast: The 9th Art, Wolf at the Door, Yardsale!, Goodwill: The Flight of Emilio Carranza, and De Luxe: The Tale of Blue Comet.)



 
 
By April L. Smith

The drive-in, like the diner, belongs to New Jersey. Invented in Camden in 1933 by Richard Hollingshead Jr., the drive-in (then known as the Park-In Theatre) quickly caught on. Its rapid growth was encouraged by the invention of the “talkie” and America’s love affair with the automobile. Moreover, the American landscape provided a natural milieu for this type of movie theatre. Much of the country during the first half of the 20th century was nothing but wide-open spaces. This left plenty of room for a huge screen and even larger parking lots. Watching a movie in this format seemingly duplicated driving, an activity for which Americans were highly enthusiastic.

Something more profound occurred at the drive in. Watching a film within the confines of the car forced the driver and the passengers to look through the window to see the screen. The sensation was that of travelling without going anywhere- an escape of the mind. Because the viewer was often literally in the driver’s seat, movie watching became a first person experience and the connection between viewer and character onscreen was instant and automatic. In this setting, the viewer, comfortable in their familiar surroundings, was, at the same time, forced out of their own world and into the experience of another. In a regular movie theatre, the experience is shared with strangers thus nullifying the sensation that one is a part of the life onscreen. This is not to suggest that going to the drive-in was an isolating experience. It was very much a social activity and movie watching outdoors harkened back to ancient social behaviors. At the drive in, humankind utilized technology and pitched an image against the darkness, the void; much like primitive man gathered around the campfire and told stories well into the night.

All that is left of many of these theatres are silent screens and parking lots covered with weedy overgrowth. Architecturally, there is something compelling about these remnants: the monolithic screen sitting defiant against the backdrop of the massive sky. These spaces appear like modern ruins and reveal a lot about our current culture and society. In her 2013 documentary film, Going Attractions , director April Wright examines some of the events that led to the rise and fall, and possible rise again of the drive-in theatre– see South Jersey’s own Delsea Drive-in . These events were largely financial and included the fuel crisis that kept people out of their cars and away from the drive-in theater. Yet the primary element that ended the drive-in was a large part of what began it – wide-open space. As cities grew and suburbs expanded, the drive-in’s size and location was a hot commodity and these theatres were largely consumed by the insidious sprawl of the late 20th century.

Going Attractions will be shown at the Reel East Film Festival on Saturday 8/23.





 
 
Oaklyn, NJ (July 16, 2014) – The Reel East Film Festival (REFF), a premiere event in South Jersey to be held on August 22-23, 2014 at the historic Ritz Theatre in Oaklyn, NJ, is proud to announce the appearance of John Sayles. Noted filmmaker (Return of the Secaucus 7, The Brother from Another Planet, Matewan, Passion Fish, and Lone Star) and novelist (Los Gusanos, A Moment in the Sun) Sayles will appear on Saturday, August 23rd at 8 pm for a screening of his new film, Go For Sisters, with a post-screening discussion. 


To read more, follow this LINK
 
 


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You know how sometimes you hear something exciting and all you want to do is tell everyone about it? Well, this is one of those times for us here at Reel East. I want to type it up here and now-but that would not be the best way to deliver this information. After all, patience is a virtue right? That said I cannot help but drop some hints here as to what this news is about.

To read more click here

 
 
It was rainy and dark for most of the day here in the REEL EAST but of course the show must go on and as I type this I can still hear the familiar snap, crackle, and pop of fireworks in the distance. The exciting thing, however, is that the first annual Reel East Film Festival is only 50 days away! Which also means that the deadline to get your short films to us is only 16 days away...so please, if you have a film you are proud of (and if you've made a film you SHOULD be proud of yourself since we all know how hard it is to make films!) by all means send it to us. We have the DVD players and laptops fired up and ready to laugh, cry, or scream at your creations. As Aristotle (or Groucho Marx) once said, "Astonish me!" So astonish US with your work and maybe your film will end up screening at our premiere festival on August 22-23rd. The link to submit is here at our FilmFreeway festival page...
 

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    The first annual Reel East Film Festival is honored to bring independent and upcoming feature films and shorts to Camden County and greater South Jersey

    Reel East Film Festival proudly accepts entries via FilmFreeway.com, the world's best online submissions platform. FilmFreeway offers free HD online screeners, Vimeo and YouTube integration, and more. Click to submit with FilmFreeway.

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