‘Lights, camera, classics’: New Outer Banks Film Society plans a ‘book club for film’

By on August 21, 2023

The film series kicks off with the classic courtroom drama, 12 Angry Men.

Manteo has had quite the year with the implementation of its social district, the reopening of the Pioneer Theater, and a series of sold out shows with national acts rounding out the summer at Roanoke Island Festival Park.

Now, Dare Arts, along with film enthusiasts Gaye and David Morris, are bringing yet another attraction to Manteo by introducing the first ever Outer Banks Film Society, created to foster a community that appreciates the art of film. Located in the Dare Arts downtown location inside the former courthouse, the film society will screen independent films, movie classics, documentaries, world cinema, shorts, and new releases starting in September.

“We don’t have anything like this. I mean, we have book clubs, and this is kind of like a book club for film,” said Gaye Morris, who has an extensive background in film education along with film society and festival work, including serving on film festival juries in Venice, Locarno and Cannes.

She says the goal is to show movies that wouldn’t typically make their way to our sandbar. “They’re small films, they’re independent films, foreign language, films, documentaries,” she said.  “And, you know, they do very well at film festivals all over the world, but they never get to be seen here.”

The series begins on Sept. 12, and the first film will be shown for free. It is the gritty and claustrophobic courtroom classic, 12 Angry Men, a 1957 film with Henry Fonda leading a great cast. Each showing will have a theme and special guests. For 12 Angry Men, the special guests will be two local attorneys who used to try cases against each other right upstairs from where the film will be shown.

Later showings include the Coen Brothers’ cult classic, The Big Lebowski, and everyone is invited to come in the costume of their favorite character. “Bathrobes are welcome,” quipped Gaye Morris, referring to the preferred attire of the film’s star, Jeff (“The Dude”) Bridges.

Morris, who also served on the Board of Directors for York Cinema and was a founding member and programmer of the Ripon Film Society, says she has a hunch she’s not the only film fanatic on Outer Banks who wants to do more than just watch a film.

“There are many people here who are film enthusiasts,” she said. “And they want to do more than just go into a cinema and buy popcorn and sit down and watch the film and leave. They want to talk about it afterwards. And, you know, that is exactly what we do with the Film Society.”

According to Morris, at each showing there will be an introduction to the film and a time for socializing before the film. And after the film, there will be a discussion, which could go on for 10 minutes, or half an hour, or more.

“So the wonderful thing about a film society is that you can hear lots of different perspectives. You don’t have to know anything about film. You don’t have to know about genres, or film theory, or anything. You can just talk about what you’ve seen,” she observed.

Morris moved to the Outer Banks five years ago and she told the Voice that she has had the intention of creating the society for some time. She had previously discussed the idea with former Dare Arts Executive Director Chris Sawin, but COVID got in the way. Now, with things closer to normal, and Dare Arts gearing up for more programming, she pitched the idea to new Dare Arts Executive Director Jessica Sands and got a yes.

According to Sands, Dare Arts has always supported the Surfalorus Film Festival, an annual showcase of the year’s coolest surf films and ocean documentaries, but they’ve never had their own programming.

“We’re always looking for unique experiences, and this doesn’t exist here,” she noted. “It definitely checks a new box for us. And we’re so excited. And we’ve already got like a dozen people who signed up and we’re hoping to get more subscriptions. And yeah, I’m just excited about this new thing, which I think will take off.”

The organizers also emphasize that the success of the film society lies in people from the community signing up to be members—and they encourage folks to take the leap, even if they can’t make it to every film.

“We get memberships and all kinds of things, you know, like the aquarium, but that doesn’t mean that we go every day, so membership is really more about creating community than how many films am I going to be able to see,” said Morris, noting that a membership breaks down to around $20 a month.

An annual membership is $140 and includes 12 films, plus extra events that are only open to members. Seasonal (spring or fall) memberships include six films per season. Film society memberships can be purchased online at DareArts.org/filmsociety, over the phone by calling Dare Arts, and in-person at the Dare Arts Gallery in Manteo.

The two special events offered to members will be the Manhattan Short Film Festival—where Outer Banks Film Society members will get to see the film finalists and send their votes in to the festival to help decide on the winning films—and a screening of the Academy Awards short film nominees that they will be shown ahead of the awards show.

“So I’m hoping we have lots of people who will come and explore this with us as we begin this wonderful new collaboration,” says Morris.

See what people are saying:

  • Beachykeen

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for yet another opportunity for Dare County art aficionados to view and participate in this genre. I imagined that I would need to start driving to Norfolk to the nearest art film house ( that I am aware of) to view such films. This society, along with the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts at the KDH theatre and offerings at the Pioneer, bring other than first run films to Dare County residents and visitors. Utilizing existing historic venues to show these films, highlights them as well. It is a win-win for Dare County art and history audiences, as well as local businesses. See you at the movies!!!

    Saturday, Aug 26 @ 10:16 am