REVIEW: This Time Next Year

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This Time Next Year screens today at 1:30 p.m., April 24 at 7:30 p.m. and April 25 at 4:30 p.m. as part of RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem. Directors Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman will be in attendance for all screenings, which take place at A/perture 2.

by Jordan Green

This Time Next Year
This Time Next Year

A documentary directed, produced and photographed by Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman, This Time Next Year eschews the panoramic view of Hurricane Sandy, choosing instead a tight shot on one particular community that was profoundly affected by the storm: Long Beach Island, NJ.

There is no television news footage of gale winds lashing trees, massive flooding or dramatic evacuations. No scenes of Gov. Chris Christie or President Obama viewing the devastation or offering reassuring platitudes. Instead, the film provides an intimate portrait of a community rebuilding through its resilient residents, among them Joe Mangino, nicknamed “the General” for leading a corps of home rehabilitation volunteers; Joni Bakum, a parking attendant who possesses an abiding religious faith; Leslie Houston, a retired deputy police chief; the Bowkers, a couple wondering if their deli will survive the decimation to tourism incurred through the storm damage; and Dawn Annarumma-Marona, a widow who cares for her disabled adult son.

Affectingly interspersed with footage of water from a perspective of submersion to emphasize how closely the barrier-island community is tied to the ocean, the film moves gently towards the question at its heart: whether human habitation on the coastline is really sustainable.

Like their Southern counterparts on the Gulf Coast, the residents of Long Beach Island possess a joie de vivre, hardiness and solidarity with one another that eludes the practical folk who choose to live in more stable environments. Whether they’re clammers, surfers, teachers, civil servants or service workers who cater to the tourist trade, they can’t imagine living anywhere else.

As one resident, who is not identified in the film and appears as a voiceover, says, “There are those of us who feel compelled to live by the sea. One big storm could wipe us out. We accept that as the price you pay for living in paradise.”

The film gets off to a slow start; perhaps the chaos, uncertainty and tedium of rebuilding is a truer reflection of the experience than a cataclysmic depiction of a raging storm and endless disaster-porn footage. Once the film gets going, it fits itself into a lovely depiction of the seasonal rhythm that characterizes a community dependent on the ebb and flow of tourism. Such is the filmmakers’ ability to create empathy with their subjects that Memorial Day elicits not giddy anticipation about a carefree summer but a sense that everything is on the line. A beach montage accompanied by whimsical music precedes dazzling footage of Fourth of July fireworks paired with a somber soundtrack. Eventually, the film circles back to its starting point: the year-round residents commemorating Sandy’s one-year anniversary in October 2013, after the tourists have gone home.

No one captures the paradox of sticking it out on the coast quite as well as resident Ken Burkhardt.

“We took a chance when we built the house here,” he says. “There’s no guarantee when you build the house on a moving piece of sand that it’s gonna be there forever. And if we lose it I’m gonna really, really be sad, but I’m gonna be happy that I took that chance to build the house.”

This Time Next Year, dir. Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman, 89 min., 2014

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