Florida Film Festival 2019

Fest to show more films than ever before

From The Orlando Weekly, March 20, 2019

The Florida Film Festival announced tonight that it will screen 184 films (54 features and 130 shorts) at its 28th annual event, more than ever before.

The festival will open on April 12 with a “first look” at director Todd Thompson’s Woman in Motion (a documentary about the contribution of women and minorities to NASA, partially shot in Florida) and will conclude on April 21 with Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Films will screen at Maitland’s Enzian Theater and Regal Cinemas Winter Park Village 20.

One of the highlights will be a 20th-anniversay celebration of The Blair Witch Project, the first Orlando-produced feature to play the Sundance Film Festival. (The film had its second U.S. showing as the opening-night film of the 1999 Florida Film Festival.) Directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick (both UCF film graduates) will be in attendance for the screening on April 14, along with other members of the cast and crew.

The guest and film for the second celebrity event have yet to be announced.

Always a popular part of the event, this year’s 12 “spotlight films” will include movies directed by Kenneth Branagh (All Is True), Alex Ross Perry (Her Smell, starring Elisabeth Moss) and Noble Jones (The Tomorrow Man, starring John Lithgow and Blythe Danner). There will even be one credited partially to the late Sydney Pollack. (His documentary concert featuring Aretha Franklin, Amazing Grace, is finally finished.)

“The Blair Witch Project” (Image copyright Haxan Films / Artisan Entertainment)

The usual genre suspects will again be present, ranging from dozens of documentaries, to four music films, to two food selections, to two family flicks. But don’t get too comfortable with traditional labels, for this year’s festival will see the return of “Sunspots: New Visions of the Avant-Garde,” which debuted to critical acclaim last year.

Rarely receiving critical acclaim – but never giving a damn about it – are the “midnight” films. From a French feature titled Knife + Heart to shorts named The Bloody Ballad of Squirt Reynolds and Gwilliam’s Tips for Turning Tricks into Treats, these odd cinematic experiments will take no prisoners.

One thing the festival does take seriously is its commitment to female artists, as almost half of this year’s filmmakers are women, according to programming director Matthew Curtis. (There will even be an international shorts block devoted entirely to female directors.) And along with gender balance comes geographic equality, thanks to the inclusion of films from 41 countries. The festival is chock-full of debuts too, with 155 having some sort of premiere status (world, United States, East Coast or Florida).

But local films haven’t been forgotten, as this year’s festival will debut “Sunshine & Swampland: New Florida Shorts,” which replaces “Best of Brouhaha.” And representing Florida features will be the world premiere of Marching Forward (directed by Lisa Mills and Robert Cassanello) and Pahokee (directed by Ivete Lucas and Patrick Bresnan).

In addition to movies, the festival will offer three filmmaker forums, a brunch buffet, cocktail tastings, numerous parties and an awards bash on April 20 at Oliver’s Classic Cars in Winter Park. For ticket information and the full schedule, visit FloridaFilmFestival.com.

© 2019 Orlando Weekly / MeierMovies, LLC