Film fans connect at festival

The Philadelphia Film Festival returns for its 21st year, from Oct. 18 to Oct. 28.

The Philadelphia Film Festival is presenting two weeks of films at various locations throughout the city for the festival running Oct. 18 to Oct. 28.

The festival, which is celebrating its 21st year, presents both domestic and international films. The festival includes movie screenings, industry panels, director Q&As, among many other events.

Some events included in this year’s festival are a screening of “Signs” with M. Night Shyamalan present, a Q&A with Academy Award-winning director Robert Zemeckis, as well as a screening of “Not Fade Away” with director David Chase, creator of “The Sopranos.”

The festival will also be presenting films that have connections to the Philadelphia area.

The opening night film screening will feature “Silver Linings Playbook,” which was filmed in and around Philadelphia in 2011. From director David O. Russell, also director of “The Fighter,” the film is based on local author Matthew Quick’s book and features actors including Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro, who is portrayed as a spirited Eagles fan.

Local talent will also be represented at the festival. Philadelphia films being presented include “Detonator,” “Alaskaland,” “This Time Tomorrow,” “Future Weather,” “From the Shadows,” “La Camioneta” and “The Atomic States of America.”

“La Camioneta,” a documentary film by Mark Kendall, who grew up in Ardmore, Pa., portrays the story of one school bus on its journey to becoming a camioneta, a vehicle most commonly used for transportation in Guatemala.

“The idea for the film came from the conversation I had with the driver [of a camioneta when I was visiting Guatemala] where he told me that the bus we were riding on came from a school district 20 miles away from where I was living at the time,” Kendall said.

The journey of the school bus being transformed to a camioneta begins in Pennsylvania where the film starts its documentation at an auction where a man from Guatemala buys the bus. From the point of its purchase, the bus makes its journey to Guatemala where it then undergoes a massive paint job, is given a new name and ultimately, a ceremony occurs that is associated with the final stage of the transformation from school bus to camioneta.

“The nuts and bolts of the idea are that it is self-journey and transformation of one commissioned American school bus, yellow and black, exactly what we’re used to seeing,” Kendall said. “It seems very static and fixed and almost kind of singular. It’s something that we’re so used to seeing that we often couldn’t really imagine that there’s another dimension to its voyage as it continues to serve people.”

Another Philadelphia-based film showing at the festival is “Detonator,” a film directed, written and produced by adjunct professor Keir Politz, and Damon Maulucci.

The movie, filmed in Philadelphia, follows a man who is going through a transitional phase in his life, living in the suburbs with his wife and son, when a problematic friend reappears in his life and brings forth issues from the past.

As a filmmaker, Politz expressed his connection to Philadelphia, having grown up in a working class neighborhood in the city.

“I want to tell different stories because I feel that Philadelphia can be so misrepresented in the national and international spotlight,” Politz said. “It gets this really sort of thinly superficial rendering of what this city is.”

Despite Politz’s deep connection to Philadelphia, said he had to leave the city in order to see it from a different perspective.

“I think an important aspect about telling stories about places like Philadelphia is that you have to leave here, you have to get perspective and you have to look at it through a larger lens,” Politz said. “It is so easy to be here and the danger of not [leaving], you have the danger of falling into this cycle of sentimentality and romanticization of the people here and the life here.”

Both Kendall and Politz expressed their connections to Philadelphia and the significance of screening their films at the Philadelphia Film Festival.

“[The Philadelphia Film Festival] allows us to have a great hometown screening and let people who worked on the project, people who are connected to us, to experience the film in a great theater in a great place at this wonderful film festival and it allows us to make it our own thing,” Politz said.

Taylor Farnsworth can be reached at

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