Film Festival Today

Founded by Jeremy Taylor

A Vacation From Ordinary Film

Written by: FFT Webmaster | October 24th, 2011

The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, now in its 26th year, has got it right. It invites its audiences to take a vacation from ordinary film to dive into the many pleasures of its offerings from a cinematic survey of more than 150 films from 35 countries. With Fort Lauderdale’s reputation as one of America’s leisure playgrounds, the phrase is an invitation for immersion that has many rewards. Two things distinguish this festival… is the wide range of its venues, which utilizes a mix of theaters, some of which are not normally used for cinema showings, throughout the South Florida area (including ones in Davie, Sunrise, and its home base Cinema Paradiso in Fort Lauderdale). The second is its far reach tentacles that this year will spread out throughout the state to underserved arthouse communities in Pompano Beach (October 28-31, November 5-6), Daytona Beach (November 11-13), Fernandina Beach (November 11-20), Weston (for a monthly series of screenings from November to March) and at the newly minted St. Augustine Film Festival, set in America’s oldest city, from January 19 to 22. Not only does this spread recognition of the FLIFF brand, but it also brings artfilm-starved communities around the state a taste of the best new American indie and international films from the film festival circuit.

As part of the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival’s expansive mandate, it is inaugurating its FLIFF 2011: On Location initiative, which will bring the highlights of the Festival to Grand Bahama Island from October 27 to 30. Working with the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, the mini-festival will screen about a dozen films, host a number of gala parties and industry seminar events, present the inaugural Grand Bahama Youth Film Competition and offer up a tribute and reception for actor Dennis Haysbert. The event opens this Thursday with a free outdoor screening of BENEATH THE BLUE, which was shot on location at Smith Point on the island. FLIFF Executive Director Gregory von Hausch has a talent for marketing and a yen for inclusion that fuels the Festival’s desire to enhance its status as one of Florida’s most prized cultural resources.

The same commitment goes into the programming, which has its eclectic mix of avant-premieres, American indie gems and films from the four corners of the world. The Festival will be setting the groundwork for the eventual theatrical releases of such zeitgeist films of the moment as MY WEEK WITH MARILYN, A DANGEROUS METHOD, THE ARTIST, THE MAN ON THE TRAIN, BUTTER, THE LAST RITES OF JOE MAY, THE WOMEN ON THE SIXTH FLOOR, NEWLYWEDS (by FLIFF perennial Edward Burns) and the Festival’s closer, the Sundance Grand Prize Winner LIKE CRAZY. Using the Festival as a platform, the above films can generate a strong word of mouth that assists the films’ distributors with creating awareness of their films in a lucrative market that is key to their distribution strategies.

In the past 25 years, FLIFF has always played an important role in bringing much needed attention to American indie films that often are in distribution limbo. Strong buzz and positive audience reaction here has often led to eventual distribution deals somewhere else, such is the reputation of the Festival as a career-starter. In this year’s program, some of the standout indies include ABOUT FIFTY, a well scripted and acted dramedy about facing up to aging, directed by  Thomas Johnston, and co-written by him and his two lead actors Drew Pillsbury and Martin Grey; DEADHEADS, a campy take on nouveau horror films, written and directed by the Pierce Brothers; DON’T FADE AWAY, a morality tale about missed chances and father/son love featuring a stellar cast that includes Ryan Kwanten, Mischa Barton and FLIFF Lifetime Achievement Award honoree Beau Bridges; THE PILL, a look at modern relationships, written and directed by J.C. Khoury; and SILVER TONGUES, a thriller with significant twists and turns about a couple who travel from town to town taking on different identities in each place, which won the Audience Award at the Slamdance Film Festival for its writer/director Simon Arthur.

Challenging world cinema is also a genre that has been championed by FLIFF in the past quarter decade. This year, films in the Festival hail from Australia, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Egypt, Fiji, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Luxembourg, Mexico, Namibia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Syria, Takuu, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uruguay and Venezuela (international enough for you?). Many are US Premieres so are not yet in my radar, but among the most buzzy international titles showing here are CAIRO EXIT, a film that explores the longing of Egyptian youth following the revolution, written and directed by Hesham Issawi; DELHI IN A DAY, a sensory treat about the changing relationships between privileged Indians and their lower class servants by writer/director Prashant Nair; HOMECOMING, a morality tale about coming to terms with illness and mortality by French director Lorian James Delman; THE IMMATURI, a slice of life dramedy about the relations between a group of college friends over the years, by writer/director Paolo Genovese; LATE BLOOMERS, an intimate tale of a crumbling marriage featuring fantastic performances by screen icons William Hurt and Isabella Rossellini in an insightful script by writer/director Julie Gavras; THE MATCHMAKER, Israeli director Avi Nesher’s delicious coming of age story set in 1968 Haifa; and SAVIORS OF THE NIGHT, a worthy addition to the canon of Holocaust films by German director Ludi Boeken.

Films with a Florida subject are also a focus of the Festival. Aside from the Sunshine Celluloid section of short films by emerging Floirida filmmakers, the Festival is presenting the world premiere of THE LEGEND OF IVAN TORS, local director Scott Cardinal’s insightful look at the man who put Florida on the media map and singlehandedly established South Florida’s film industry with such acclaimed television series as FLIPPER, GENTLE GIANT, DAKTARI and a host of independently produced family feature films. Another aspect of South Florida culture is explored in SCISSORS AND GLUE, German director and art gallery impresario Helmut Schuster’s insightful documentary on the thriving art scene of Miami’s Wynwood District and the hullaballoo that descends on Florida during the yearly Art Basel Miami Beach art fair.

Add to this a host of strong documentaries, thematic shorts programs and the revival screenings of such classics as the Glen Ford-starrer 3:10 TO YUMA, an adaptation of Truman Capote’s THE GRASS HARP featuring FLIFF Lifetime Achievement Award honoree Piper Laurie, and the political thriller par excellence ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, and you have an event that is astonishing in its scope, fierce in its commitment and just plain fun to attend. A vacation from ordinary film indeed (and one with beautiful beaches, great restaurants and a dazzling nightlife). Count me in… need to, I’m already here.

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