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What to Watch at the 2nd annual Ocean City Film Festival

It’s all happening again: the second annual Ocean City Film Festival will be taking place this March (the 9th – 11th, to be exact) at venues in North Ocean City including the Ocean City Center for the Arts, the Fox Gold Coast Theatre, the Clarion Resort and the Princess Royale.

While the festival features films from all over the world, its emphasis is on local filmmakers and providing a venue for filmmakers from the mid-Atlantic region, especially the Eastern Shore, to showcase their work. A total of 100 films will be screened during the festival weekend, and whether you’re into horror, documentary, animation or drama, the wide variety of featured genres provide a little bit of something for everyone.

If you want to check out the festival but have no idea which screenings you should attend, though, a three-day program of 100 films can be a little intimidating. That’s why we’ve compiled a totally subjective list of what we (“we” being the film festival judges) think you should see over the course of the weekend.

This is just a short list of our favorites. You can see the full program and read descriptions of all the films on the Ocean City Film Festival website. All the films are worth a watch, and it was nearly impossible to keep this list succinct and only pick a few favorites! And while these are some of our top picks of the moment, the festival’s award winners won’t necessarily come from this list; the Damn Fine Film Award, or judge’s choice, is still up for grabs (and not all of us have seen every film yet!). The Pink Flamingo is awarded to the film that most uniquely represents Maryland life, and the People’s Film Award is chosen by the audience. So, if you attend the festival and find that one film particularly stands out to you, you’ll get to vote for it at the end of the weekend.

What to Watch

Recommendations from the festival directors and judges.

American Vienna
Still from “American Vienna.”

American Vienna

By Jasmin Al-Kattib & Richard Kromp, 2017. Being screened Saturday March 10, 4 p.m., Princess Royale

Synopsis: “AMERICAN VIENNA is the story of a trip to different places with the same name. A journey to the Viennas of the USA that offers snapshots of a region and its people. Snippets from a trip full of stories of the past and anecdotes about the sameness of places and names with the backdrop of small towns and their architecture throughout remote areas of the East Coast and Midwest. Far from politics and crisis, the charm of the simple and unexceptional is a constant travel companion on this road trip.”

Two filmmakers from Vienna, Austria take a road trip to towns throughout the American East Coast and Midwest also named “Vienna.” Vienna, Maryland, just 50 miles from Ocean City, is one of those towns. This might just be one of the most beautifully shot films I’ve ever seen. Turns out, every town in the U.S. called Vienna, from Maine to Maryland to Missouri, is a very small town. The two-filmmaker team, Jasmin Al-Kattib and Richard Kromp, turn landscapes that might initially appear unspectacular into breathtakingly beautiful portraits of rural American life. “An unpolitical movie about the USA? Almost,” the filmmakers say in their Director’s Statement. “Identifying similarities [in people] – even tiny details like the name of the hometown – creates confidence and has a much stronger effect than differences. Therein lies a sincere beauty. ”

–Kristin (that’s me),  Festival Co-Director

Falling South

By Lorraine Portman, 2017. Being screened Friday March 10, 10 a.m., Clarion Resort

Synopsis: “Charlotte puts Rochester in the rear view as she runs away from the life she has known. She has never been on her own and doesn’t know if she’ll make it as her resources are stripped away. She meets diverse women who offer connection, insight, and laughter on the road to Florida and a possible new life.” 

Ocean City FIlm Festival still
Still from “Falling South.”

“No hesitancy here. Well laid our story line. Perfect accompanying music that doesn’t “drown out”. Creative shots and side-stories. Wonderful opening visuals! Slight misstep w/  forced dialogue during “cutter wanted scene.” Entertaining- way beyond the message! A story of quiet dignity, understated strength, and steely perseverance. An indie oasis in a land of over-hyped bigger than life main stream characters. Life doesn’t need to be still anotherbigger – just better.”

Down and Yonder

By Christopher Flippo, 2017. Being screened Friday March 9, 4 p.m., Princess Royale

Ocean CIty Film Festival still
Still from “Down and Yonder.”

Synopsis: “”Down and Yonder” is a story about two friends having a belated coming-of-age in their mid-twenties. When one of them becomes convinced to move away, they both begin to examine their futures. The film is about a friendship that becomes tested by time and distance, and it is ultimately a love letter to growing up in a small, Southern town.”

“This was a wonderful old fashioned plot/dialogue driven movie that used yet humanized/expanded on many a stereotype…through a new/younger generation. Wonderful dialogue (and shots during dialogue). Lots of simpler wisdom like:

“Sometimes I think home is as much a time as a place.”
“The only thing you change is the upper layer. So you can change and still be you. “
“Sometimes it feels like we’re just stealing happiness back and forth (sum-zero).” 
“You can have more than one home.”

–John Berninger, festival judge


By Romy Engel, 2017. Being screened Saturday, March 10, 6 p.m. experimental film block, Fox Gold Coast Theater.

Synopsis: “Three minute video installation, 2 screens. Two dancers making their way in an apartment that they don’t know, dancing through the place in search of free space. Alienation meets familiarity in an urban context.”

“One of my favorites is an experimental short film called “Omess” that features a male and a female dancer, sometimes on split screen and sometimes sharing the screen. The dancing is in what appears to be an apartment suggesting the dancers may be interpreting their relationship. Lots of expressive movement, good music and interesting camera angles.”

–Don Lehman, festival judge

Guardians poster
Promotional poster for “Guardians.”


By Mark Brown, 2017. Being screened Friday March 9, 2 p.m., Princess Royale

Synopsis: “Two ill matched men are thrown together when they become Live-In Guardians of a 200 year old townhouse in the East End of London. But living with each other is the least of their problems as there is more to the house than meets the eye. Amoral estate agents, irate labourers, pervert politicians, fox loving chuggers only add to the fact that a 200 year old curse may consume them both.”

“Guardians is the type of film you only get to see at a film festival because there aren’t any big names in it. But the writing and acting are as good if not better than most stuff that makes it to a cineplex. The pacing is perfect, the characters are well developed for a comedy, and this type of film really shows what collaborators can do with very little money but lots of talent.”

–Dan O’Hare, festival judge

Kristin is a writer and photographer in Ocean City, Maryland, and is the content manager for OceanCity.com and other State Ventures, LLC sites. She loves getting reader-submitted stories and photos, so send her an email anytime. She also works part-time at the Art League of Ocean City and the Ocean City Film Festival and lives just off the peninsula with her dog and fiancé. Her photos can be found on Instagram @oc_kristin.

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