Myrtle Beach Film Fest serves up local fare

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Broadway at the Beach is probably the least suspecting location for a festival championing the little guy—the small, independent filmmakers who are big on ideas and low on capital. Yet the Carmike 16, standing proudly between the candied squeals of children at Pavilion Nostalgia Park and the looming IMAX 3D, houses the 6th Annual Myrtle Beach International Film Festival (April 19-23, 2011). (See prior posts about the fest here)

According to festival creator Jerry Dalton, MBIFF (hashtag: #myrIFF) evaluates each submission on “its technical and artistic value, on its uniqueness, its style, and how far the project was taken with the resources which were available.” It’s an admirable principle in an age of TriBeCas and Sundances, where many fests have become cultural factory farms of fat-pocketed Hollywood execs and corporate sponsorships.

This year’s MBIFF selection showcases over 100 films ranging from 30 second shorts to feature length, and there’s certainly something to appeal to (or repulse) just about any movie-goers taste. The films are shown on two screens, and tickets are sold in roughly 2 hour blocks so viewers each see a feature and a short or two, or a series of short films.

The schedule for Wednesday, April 20th boasted a smattering of shorts, including “100 Mile Wave” and “Afloat,” both by filmmakers with ties to the Myrtle Beach area. “100 Mile Wave,” winner of Best Documentary at the 2010 Charleston International Film Festival, was an exciting short documentary about a group of S.C. kite-boarding thrill seekers attempting to kite the mostly undeveloped 100-mile coastline between Charleston and Myrtle Beach.

Minutes before “100 Mile Wave” aired, a large group of attendees descended upon the large, sparsely populated theater. For a moment, it began to feel less like a collection of fringe film fans sandwiched between commercial hits Hop and Rio 3D, and more like a thriving and supportive community-driven event.

The film itself provided a unique perspective on the sport of kite-boarding, shedding the stereotypically “extreme” qualities so commonly exploited by companies in popular media. Instead, the doc highlights both the individual and communal nature of the sport while also appreciating and respecting the uniqueness of South Carolina’s coastline.

Shots of undeveloped SC coastline, including Murphy’s Island, dotted with dunes and wild grasses, are blended with the kite-boarders aerial expressions. Despite the sheer exhaustion of the film’s subjects, watching them perform was a very enjoyable and surprisingly peaceful experience.

Dale Slear (@beatcoptermedia), one of the kite-boarders in the film and a Myrtle Beach native, attended the festival for the screening and was on hand afterward to answer questions. “The idea was really something we had been talking about as a group. The film happened when Josh Ambrite and Briteside Productions got involved and started lining up sponsors to help produce the film.”

The South Carolina Maritime Foundation sponsored the group by supplying the boat that would aid in the filming. “It’s truly amazing to see these protected lands that are just bird sanctuaries and wild preserves. We are all fortunate that the government stepped in before the developers,” Slear notes.

As for the film fest, Slear had nothing but praise for the organizers. “There’s a great selection—plenty of variety and diversity. And seeing truly independent films on the big screen [at the Carmike 16] is very cool.”

Check out Slear’s web, design and video production outfit Beat Copter for samples of his work, including some additional kiting footage.

He also recommends water enthusiasts and conservationists to support, an organization that coordinates inland waterway cleanups using paddle boards to access difficult to reach areas.

Toward the end of the block was “Afloat,” a darkly comic short about a homeless man, an emotionally unstable woman, a metal detector and some buried antiques. Written and directed by Ken Cohen, a newcomer to the Myrtle Beach area, the film is shot on our very own grand strand, and viewers will enjoy seeing some recognizable landmarks.

The off-beat film centers on Hank, a self-serving man who has lost everything with his company’s bankruptcy and his brief encounter with a woman on the beach. When the woman on the beach hands him her car keys and proceeds to “swim away” from her problems, Hank opts to keep the car (and silent) instead of reporting the case to the local authorities.

The characters in “Afloat” display a slightly off-kilter vibe, and a couple narrative hiccups were slightly jarring. However, the uniqueness of the plot signals a hotbed of potential creativity. Cohen touched base via Facebook, commenting, “I'm proud of at least telling a story that hasn't been beaten to death, and for providing the audience with more characterization and occurrences and depth than just sticking to one overdone idea with uninteresting dialogue and delivery.”

Cohen is currently raising capital on community funding platform IndieGoGo for his upcoming film project, “Doll’s for Strangers.”

Show independent creators your support; check out the other offerings at the fest and join the discussion with Open Community!