Gearing up for the 13th annual Philadelphia Film Festival, the Philadelphia Film Society (PFS) is abuzz with excitement. Starting today and ending April 21, the festival will present a wide range of world cinema.
“We have some really great films this year,” said Thom Cardwell, managing director of the Festival.
Since 2001, PFS has produced the Festival, morphing it into one of Philadelphia’s premiere cultural events.
“After three years of experimentation, we think we finally have a model that works,” said Ray Murray, the Festival’s artistic director. With almost 300 screenings of more than 200 films from 43 countries at five venues across the city, this year’s festival will add up to a cinephile’s fantasy.
To add to the delight, the Philadelphia City Paper sponsors Festival of Independents, or FestIndies, an annual sub-festival showcasing the work of regional filmmakers. The Other America, a film in this series, stars Temple’s own Tobias Segal. Another highlight of FestIndies is the “Set in Philadelphia” screenplay competition. Sure to be a big hit, Otaku Unite! explores the lives of people obsessed with Japanese animation.
The films are broken down into 11categories such as New Korean Cinema and American Independents. According to Andrew Preis, Media Relations for PFS, “Some of the biggest films making noise this year are Cinema of the Muslim Worlds.” Of note in this series is Control Room, an in-depth documentary about the Arab news organization Al Jazeera, filmed during the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Other docs stirring up controversy this year are Orwell Roles in his Grave, a cutting commentary on the irrelevance and corruption of the news media, and the Sundance hit Super Size Me, an expose on fast-food “nutrition,” which follows the filmmaker as he only eats McDonald’s for a month.
Trying something new this year, the festival presents a host of international comedies. “They are really risky to do,” Preis said. “Some of the jokes can become lost in the language.”
Among the best is Australia’s You Can’t Stop the Murders, which is about a small town terrorized by a Village People-obsessed murderer. Paul Barnhart, a festival coordinator and graduate of Temple, recommends Cops for the college crowd. It is a Swedish feature about a small town police force with so little action they decide to create crimes.
One of the animated features this year is Hair High from world-renowned animator Bill Plympton. He will have an event to discuss his work and create animation live for audience members.
Other must-see films include No Rest for the Brave, a trippy thriller about a boy who thinks he will die if he sleeps, and Anatomy of Hell, an explicit study of the male-female sexual dynamic. The Park, a 3-D horror film, and Wooden Camera, a story of two South African boys following different paths, are also must-sees.
No festival would be complete without its share of special events. For those wanting to hone their crafts, a series of CineCafes will be held at UPenn’s bookstore, a great opportunity to mix and mingle with filmmakers. The “Set in Philadelphia” festivities also provide an avenue to discuss personal work and receive great advice on breaking into film.
The party types will enjoy the opening and closing night festivities held at Top of the Tower and Denim Lounge, respectively. Select restaurants and bars offer a festival discount to ticket holders.
Celebrities will be on-hand to premiere their movies. Laura Prepon of That ’70s Show and Queer as Folks’ Hal Sparks present their movie, Lighting Bug. Stuart Townsend (expected to be here with his girlfriend Charlize Theron) will be there on opening night for the world premiere of Shade. Groundbreaking father/son filmmakers Melvin and Mario Van Peebles are going to be on hand to discuss Mario’s film Baadasssss!, about his father’s struggle in filmmaking.
This year the films will be showing at Prince Music Theater, Ritz East, Gershman Y, International House, and Bridge: Cinema de Lux. Tickets can be purchased online, over the phone or at TLA Video stores.
For more information on showtimes, visit www.phillyfests.com.
Zakiya Petty-Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org