Orlando Film Festival update

The Orlando Film Festival started on Wednesday and continues today and Sunday. For general information, see Erin Sullivan’s story in the Orlando Weekly.

The festival has expanded greatly this year, taking up one entire side of the Plaza Cinema Cafe in downtown Orlando. I spent all day there yesterday (Friday), and have a few tips and suggestions for those of you heading out this weekend.

Let’s start with the bad news. Because of the greatly expanded schedule, the films are hit and miss, but that’s true of most festivals. The misses are prevalent in the Comedy Shorts program. In fact, the only two entries that are tolerable are more dramedies. Gator Farm is worthy of 2 stars while No Messages gets a 3.  The others are tedious and embarrassingly unfunny (1 and 0 stars all around).

The news does get better, in the form of 3 Short Docs. True Delta is quite good (3 stars). Rhythm Club Fire (2 stars) is fascinating and contains some great interviews, but it just falls a bit short technically. Only Eye of the Storm misses the mark, failing to provide much context or meaning to its story.

The program I enjoyed the most was Time is Relative, which is not surprising considering my love of time-travel stories and the like. The three shorts that comprise this program aren’t all straight time-travel pics exactly, but they all have something to do with our perception of time. Rose, Mary and Time (2 stars) tries desperately to be something bigger than it is, sort of a compressed feature, and it almost works. But it’s just a bit too messy, a beautiful mess, at that. At least it’s stronger than A Wheel & the Moon (1 star), which is a mess without the beauty. But the program is more than saved by its first film, Emit (time backwards), a stunning examination of our relationship to life, death and time itself. It’s to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button what The Others is to The Sixth Sense. (In other words, it takes a phenomenon that is happening to just one person – in this case essentially traveling backwards in time, or aging backwards – and applies it to everyone, just as The Others did to The Sixth Senses non-realization of death.) Despite some less-than-stellar acting, it’s a virtual masterpiece of original storytelling and perhaps the best movie I’ve ever seen at the Orlando Film Festival. A 5-star classic.

Lastly, Festival Director Dan Springen deserves a big thank-you for working his butt off. He was even pouring drinks at the spectacular Elevate party on the 16th floor of the Plaza until midnight. Great job! (The only organizational suggestions I might add are to boost the sound levels in the theaters, which was quite low for two of the programs, and to organize the Q&As a bit better. One director was left to answer questions in the dark, with the background music playing, before a coordinator finally popped his head in and realized what was happening.)


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