A Night at the Rockaway Beach Film Festival


Space at Cinema Arverne

It’s not often you walk into a movie theater and smell the cold ocean air and wiggle your toes in the sand.

Only at Rockaway.

On Wednesday, I visited the 5th Rockaway Beach Film Festival at the Arverne Cinema on Beach 72nd Street.

Upon entering I met the guy at the window and gave him the $10 for a ticket. He handed me a little red raffle ticket that let me into the theater space.

I had been in space to cover a public meeting, but have yet to see the theater in action.

There’s a cold breeze blowing water, and it’s probably the only theater in the world where the occasional line of dialogue is drowned out by the passenger planes above.

It is truly a wonderful community experience, Wednesday night there were over a hundred people on chairs out front and at picnic tables further back.

When I walked in, I encountered the voice of Faye Dunaway, who was on screen in the movie Puzzle of a fallen child. I caught the end of the 1970 drama, where Dunaway plays a model who descends into madness.

“It brought back memories,” said filmmaker Jerry Schatzberg, the 95-year-old director of that film, who did a Q&A with audience members and the film festival’s co-founder, Sam Fleischner.

As they have done since the festival began in 2018, the Brothers’ concessions at Beach 106th Street served food. I don’t know if you’ve ever had brothers, but literally everything they do is out of this world.

I had a tomato, cucumber, avocado salad which was good and an apple cider cake with jam which was even better.

Schatzberg answers questions on stage

So begins the show that I was actually planning on running for, a series of short films shot in New York by New York filmmakers.

I went to film school and made a few shorts myself, so I enjoyed the ones I had time to stick around for.

The Rockaway Film Festival started in 2018 in a small theater with a small team of volunteers running it, I was among them.

They’ve weathered Covid and come out of it with a new space that feels like the epitome of Rockaway, especially the cultural renaissance that’s been happening in Rockaway since Hurricane Sandy left its destructive footprint on our faraway peninsula.

The Rockaway Film Festival continues at the Arverne Cinema until Sunday evening, which means there are still three nights of screenings left.

I highly recommend you buy a ticket and check it out before it runs out until next year.


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