Florida Film Festival 2023

Florida Man goes to the movies

Exclusive to MeierMovies, April 1, 2023

Florida Man gets a bad rap. But, hey, at least he likes to go to the movies. That’s according to the Enzian Theater, which is featuring “Florida Man” as its theme for the 32nd annual festival. Of course, it’s all a bit tongue in cheek, so expect some playful parodies of the colorful stereotype. Also expect movies, a lot of them: 168 total. That’s 50 features and 113 shorts from 38 countries.

“This is definitely our most diverse festival yet, and we have more Florida films, music  films, animated features and LGBTQIA+ content than ever before,” says Programming Director Matthew Curtis, who adds that “143 films will have at least a Florida premiere at the festival, and 29 films will be having their world, North American, or U.S. premieres.”

The event runs April 14-23, with all screenings held at Enzian Theater or Regal Winter Park Village (with one Popcorn Flick at Winter Park’s Central Park). Regal is undergoing a major renovation that is unlikely to be completed in time for the festival. However, the lobby might be finished, and the theaters themselves are not affected. Just be prepared to walk between construction walls. Parties, music performances and panel discussions will be held at the new Winter Park Public Library and Events Center, Full Sail University, Sanford Brewing Company, the Copper Rocket, Hannibal’s On the Square and, of course, everyone’s favorite movie hangout, the Enzian’s Eden Bar.

The festival’s opening film will be the Florida-centric You Were My First Boyfriend, directed by Cecilia Aldarondo and Sarah Enid Hagey. It will be preceded by the short film The Greatest Poem, directed by Elyse Kelly.

John Cusack is this year’s celebrity guest. Though tickets are going for a hefty $150, the event on April 21 is already on standby status. It seems people will pay anything for Say Anything.

Living up to its name, the Florida Film Festival is more Floridey than ever before, with 40 movies containing direct Florida ties, according to Tim Anderson, programming coordinator. Plus, the Florida Sidebar program has expanded from one shorts program to two, and the festival has added an audience-choice award for best Florida feature and best Florida short.

The festival is also focused on LGBTQIA+ content, with 24 films containing related themes or characters.

This is the tenth anniversary of my covering the festival. Though I’ve been attending for more than two decades, I first reviewed festival films back in 2013 for The Orlando Weekly. So I’m proud to celebrate a decade of movie madness. Some recent health issues have slowed me down (nothing too serious), but I still hope to review several films and see a lot of you at the fest!

Unfortunately, I’ve been able to preview just two films. I recommend the drama Master Gardener (3 stars on my 0-5 scale). Go here for my review. But I can’t recommend the action-comedy Polite Society (1 star). Some will connect to its outrageous mix of Tarantino and Bollywood, but I found it annoying, unfunny and ridiculous.

For more information, a schedule of screenings and ticket options, visit FloridaFilmFestival.com.


Further recommendations

If you’re a fan of Ray Romano and Everybody Loves Raymond, check out Somewhere in Queens (3 ¼ stars). The dramedy, which marks Romano’s directorial debut, is several degrees removed from the famous sitcom but enjoys a similar sensibility, with Romano and Laurie Metcalf starring as parents trying to balance the needs of their family with their own personal struggles and those of their teenage son. Somewhat contrived, the film hits a few stumbles along the way, but its path is worth following both for the dramatic and comedic payoffs. (And fans of the aforementioned TV show will enjoy revisiting Romano’s chemistry with Jon Manfrellotti, who played Gianni on Raymond.)

If you see just one domestic live-action shorts program, make it shorts #1 (nicknamed “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” both for the themes the films present and as a tribute to Olivia Newton-John, who died last year). The most surprising and rewarding of the bunch are Matt Kazman’s Donkey and Austin Kolodny’s Two Chairs, Not One (both 4 stars).

Also deserving of 4 stars are Imelda Is Not Alone, directed by Paula Heredia, and Breaking Silence, directed by Amy Bench and Annie Silverstein, from the 6x Real documentary shorts program. (The former won the Matthew Curtis Audience Award for best short film.) Finally, the stunning Ecce, from the international animated shorts program, deserves recognition. Directed by Margherita Premuroso, it presents a surreal, absurdist, rotoscopy world that I would rather watch on screen than visit in person. That sentiment applies to many other films I saw this year. Therein lies the vicarious joy of a film festival.


© 2023 MeierMovies, LLC. Images are courtesy of Enzian / Florida Film Festival.