STORY WRITTEN BY KEVIN TUSTIN
@KevinTustin on Twitter
From Oct. 22 to Nov. 1, lovers of film are expected to see something at the 24th Philadelphia Film Festival (PFF) the promotional materials says they’ll “never forget”, and with over 130 different feature and short film options to choose from, that statement couldn’t be more true.
Starting with the opening night film, Charlie Kauffman’s award-winning stop-motion feature “Anomalisa,” to Michael Moore’s latest documentary feature “Where to Invade Next” capping off the 11-day fest, the festival will include the best, and, perhaps, divisive, works of cinema from around the globe in a crowded assembly where internationally renowned directors share the spotlight with Philadelphia-based talent as they tell stories that break out beyond conventional boundaries.
“This year is probably the strongest year since I’ve been working there,” said the festival’s artistic director Michael Lerman. “It was interesting because while I was putting it together it was unclear looking at bits and pieces how it was going to turn out, and then it all seemed to come together at the last minute.”
Lerman, along with 15 programmers and screeners, picked what films would be selected in over 15 categories this year. The job of picking over 100 films to feature in this year’s festival started in January at the Sundance Film Festival, and continued on until September, “right until the program guide went to print” as Lerman puts it.
The lineup includes some of the top award-winning titles from some of this year’s biggest film festivals, including the Palme d’Or-winning “Dheepan” from Cannes and the Berlin Film Festival’s Golden Bear winner “TaxI”.
“Room”, the winner of the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival last month, is also slated to play at PFF this year.
“I feel really strongly about it, and I feel really excited about it,” said Lerman about this year’s lineup.
In addition to his work with the PFF, Lerman is also a programmer for the Toronto International Film Festival and the senior programmer for the horror-centric Stanley Film Festival in Colorado. He said in comparison to those two – the former is full of world premieres and the latter specializes in certain content – he wants Philadelphia to be like all other regional film festivals in the country by bringing high quality films to the area.
“The audience has grown significantly over the past five years, and I think a lot of that is because we’ve responded to what people want, and putting ourselves out there and being a name people can trust in terms of curation.” Lerman said.
When asked what Philadelphia audiences want to see, he said it’s “a little bit of everything”.
“It’s a well-rounded program with something for everybody with a lot of the best pieces of filmmaking (and) some really good crowd-pleasers. It’s like a rollercoaster ride,” he said.
In addition to the aforementioned award winners that will play at PFF, there is also well regarded films like the Guatemalan “Ixcanul Volcanco”, “Rams” from Iceland, and food-centric picks like “The Birth of Sake” and “Beer Runners”.
Seeing as the festival coincides with Halloween this year, 11 features will make up a selection called “A Very Scary Sleepover: Wes Craven’s Halloween Nightmare” which runs from 11 a.m. on Halloween morning to 6 a.m. the next day. Included are seven titles from the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise, “Scream” and “The Last House on the Left.”
And it couldn’t be a film festival in the city of brotherly love without recognizing area-based films and filmmakers. There are seven features scheduled in the Greater Filmadelphia category, including the Delco-based “The Prince of Pennsylvania,” a documentary about John duPont.
“It doesn’t feel like there are a lot of areas that are lacking, and I think there are a lot of gems,” Lerman said about this year’s festival. It may be such a perfect line-up he couldn’t pick just five must-see titles.
“I wish I could, but I can’t… I will tell you there are 116 must-see selections in the festival this year (sans shorts),” said Lerman.
To check out this year’s program guide, view the schedule and to buy tickets, visit filmadelphia.org/festival.