Philly Film Fest is a Feast

Why travel to film festivals far and wide? Let the film programmers in Philadelphia gather the best of the crop for you!

Fall film festivals like Telluride, Toronto and London Film Festivals, build Oscar buzz for films. Some of the buzziest have been selected to screen at the 30th Philadelphia Film Festival taking place Oct 20th through the 31st. Many films have invited guests and some are available to screen virtually (Watch.Filmadephia.Org). As you peruse this bounty of film selections, keep in mind that there are Pandemic Precautions in place. You’ll need to show your vaccination card, wear your mask and there’ll be an empty seat next to you in the theater. These crucial safety procedures will let in-person audiences feel safe. It also means that’s it’s crucial to purchase your tickets or Pass ASAP. Fifty percent capacity screening rooms at the PFS Bourse Theater and Philadelphia Film Center will fill up fast. You may also choose the COVID-safe and super fun Drive-In option at the Navy Yard.

For those who’ve never ventured to a film festival, what’s the big deal? What would entice someone to purchase a ticket to a film you may know nothing about, and wait in a queue outside a movie theater with a crowd to see it? It’s an experience like no other. There’s the thrill of seeing films before anyone else, the chance to hear a filmmaker tell their story and the excitement of an appreciative crowd of film lovers. Plus, parties!

The Opening Night for PFF30 is Wednesday, October 20th. There are two screenings in two theaters of Sir Kenneth Branagh‘s autobiographical film, “Belfast“. A poignant masterpiece in storytelling, this film has Oscar buzz. There’s a great pairing to be made with the romantic thriller, “Dead Again” (1991). Branagh directed and starred in the film 30 years ago with the luminous Emma Thompson (to whom he was married for a time). “Dead Again” plays Monday, Oct 25th. And what better way to end your evening then to go to the Opening Night Party at La Peg? There’ll be music, libations, appetizers and great conversations with film lovers as you admire the view of the Delaware River. Film only is still available at $20 for the 6pm screenings, both 8:30pm screenings are almost at RUSH. Film and Pary will run you $50 ($40 for Members of the Film Society) and ticket prices help support the Philly Film Society.

The Closing Night film is “The Same Storm” from writer/director Peter Hedges (“What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”, “Ben is Back”). This moving film is a series of portraits of people coping with COVID. Filmed during lockdown, it’s one of the best Zoom films with a unique filming style that allows you to be feel immersed in the drama. There’s a great performance from Philly’s own, Elaine May. She filmed her own sequence in the movie. The party following the film is a great chance to see the newly-opened Kimmel Cultural Campus.

One of the wonderful things about the Philadelphia Film Society is their commitment to building community with free screenings of socially-relevant films (PFA On Us) and education outreach partnering with schools (Festival Field Trips, grades 7-12). There’s the Sharon Pinkenson Award for Best Local Feature and Student Choice Awards as well as the more standard Narrative/Documentary/Short Film Awards. There are excellent choices for star-studded Centerpiece films: “King Richard” (Will Smith), “C’mon, C’mon” (Joaquin Phoenix), “Spencer” (Kristen Stewart) and “The Encounter” (Riz Ahmed). Check out the latest Wes Anderson movie, “French Dispatch” for multiple screenings. It’s a pastiche of creatively staged, whacky stories with typical Wes Anderson characters.

The Festival has a tribute to Independent filmmaker Kevin Smith on Oct 23rd. He’ll discuss his documentary, “Clerk“. He’ll be at each screening in an extended Q&A session and we know he loves to talk. You can’t go wrong with the Masters of Cinema section; films from award-winning, world-renowned filmmakers who’s work you may not be familiar with. Spotlights has the culinary film, “Julia” about Julia Child. A delicious and insightful tribute to her impact on American cuisine. “Mayor Pete” follows Pete Buttigieg on his presidential campaign and “Paper & Glue” follows French artist JR (so delightful in “Faces Places” w/Agnes Varda) as he creates more of his exuberant street art. This will be an amazing screening for the Drive In.

“Paper & Glue” screens Oct 23 (Philly Film Center) & Oct 26 (Drive-In)

There’s truly something for everyone in this year’s PFF30: Cinema de France, Green Screen, and World View with International features. Filmadephia features and shorts from Philadelphia filmmakers to celebrate. There’s Visions of Iran, Made In USA, scary films in the After Hours section and a great slate of documentaries. Music lovers will enjoy Sight & Soundtrack with documentaries on Kenny G (“Listening to Kenny G”), conductor Leonard Berstein (“Bernstein’s Wall”) and a fiction film that features Pavarotti (“La Traviata, My Brothers and I”). Film classics, some of them hard to find, are always a joy to witness on the big screen. PFF30’s From The Vaults features: new 4K restorations of “Assault on Precinct 13”, “Ratcatcher” and “Heat”. The aforementioned “Dead Again”, “Hester Street”, and Director Elaine May’s film “A New Leaf”. Plus a chance to see Joanna Hogg’s “The Souvenir” ahead of the sequel, “Souvenir 2” which is also screening at the festival.

New to Festivaling? The best way to see all the action is to purchase a pass and find a day or two to immerse yourself in cinema. You can’t go wrong with this program of amazing films. You’ll visit another world, learn something new and perhaps emerge changed from the experience. Make time to visit the Festival Lounge at Kick Axe (PFF30 badge & ticketholders age 21+ only) to meet other filmlovers and discuss the films. Take a chance on a film you know nothing about and you’ll be rewarded with an experience that might prove habit-forming. Check out the Philadelphia Film Festival online or pick up a festival program at these locations.

See you at the movies!

Here’s the add’l coverage from the Philadelphia Inquirer: “The Philadelphia Film Festival Turns 30”, Gary Thompson, Oct 15, 2021

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