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Philadelphia fest day by day schedule of future events

From April 8-21, the Festival Presents 250 Features, Documentaries, Animated Films and Shorts from 43 Countries

Awards go to Mary-Louise Parker and Tobe Hooper

2004 Highlights include Animation Festival, sponsored by University of the Arts; International Comedy Series; “Save the Boyd” Benefit; Hong Kong Horror in 3-D; New Films from Master Directors Breillat, Demme, Greenaway, Herzog, Téchiné, von Trier

Now in its 13th year and fourth with Raymond Murray as Artistic Director, the 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival (PFF) continues its ascent as a premier destination for film lovers on the East Coast with two full weeks of film screenings, from April 8-21.

Produced by the non-profit Philadelphia Film Society, the Festival will show 133 feature films and 114 shorts from 43 countries in five different venues across Philadelphia: the Ritz East in Old City, the Prince Music Theater and Gershman Y in Center City, and International House and the Bridge: cinema de lux in University City.

PROGRAMMING: The PFF programming is divided into eleven thematic focuses. Three are new to 2004:

International Masters: The festival will screen 14 films from some of the most distinguished directors in the world. Leading the list is the North American premiere of the stark and explicit Anatomy of Hell, by French provocateur Catherine Breillat. Other directors include Jonathan Demme, Lars von Trier, Peter Greenaway, and Werner Herzog, whose Wheel of Time is a lyrical study of Buddhism with the Dalai Lama.

Animation Mania: The Philadelphia Film Society will collaborate with the University of the Arts to celebrate the current state of independent animation with five programs curated by Michael Enright. Highlights include the latest feature film of Bill Plympton (Hair High), the 2004 Academy Award winner for Animated Short Film (Harvie Krumpet) and a family program on Easter evening, April 11.

International Comedy: The Festival will present four comedies that are major hits in their native countries –Australia, South Korea, Spain and Sweden. Comedies are usually underrepresented at festivals, since the word-play is often lost in translation, so this is an experiment to test how well comedy “travels” to Philadelphia.

Among the returning themes, two have become famous in their own right: Danger After Dark, an “orgy” of genre films curated by Travis Crawford which will present five North American and four East Coast premieres; and Cinema of the Muslim Worlds, which was profiled last year in the Wall Street Journal at the onset of the Iraqi invasion. Returning from 2001 but in an expanded form is Spanish and Latin American Cinema Now. The festival’s heart – Contemporary World Cinema – is given the new name of World Focus, and American Independents and New Korean Cinema, both also curated by Travis Crawford, return with a new slate of films.

With such Oscar®-nominated works as Spellbound, Winged Migration, My Architect, and Balseros (all previous PFF selections), the documentary is enjoying a renaissance. Fourteen works will be screened in Documentary Traditions, curated by Jennifer Steinberg, including the expose on fast-food “nutrition,” Super Size Me.

Six more appear in other sections, including Centerpiece Screenings (Story of the Weeping Camel, the first Academy Award submission from Mongolia), and Cinema of the Muslim Worlds (Asshak, Tales from the Sahara, a study of the Turag nomads, and Control Room, a look at Al Jazeera, the Arab news organization).

The annual Philadelphia CityPaper Festival of Independents returns, showcasing regional filmmakers and curated by Scott Johnston. Highlights of “Fest Indies” include the world premieres of Alexander Ballas’ In Justice, a drama set in the Philadelphia police department, and Eric Bresler’s Otaku Unite!, a look at Japanese animation fandom, along with two other features and six programs of shorts.

The “Set in Philadelphia” Screenwriting Contest, presented by Greater Philadelphia Filmmakers and sponsored by the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, will announce its winners during PFF, and the festival will end with a marathon screening of Festival Favorites on April 21.

AWARDS: The Festival will again honor noteworthy film figures, host a juried competition and give Audience Awards:

The 2004 Artistic Achievement Award will be given to actress Mary-Louise Parker, who won a 2004 Golden Globe for “Angels in America.” She is featured in the festival’s Closing Night Film (see below), and she will introduce her latest film, The Best Thief in the World;

The 2004 TLA Phantasmagoria Award will be given to horror auteur Tobe Hooper. He will introduce his latest work, The Toolbox Murders, and the Festival will show a new print of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, in honor of its 30th anniversary.

The Festival will also present a juried competition with prizes for Best Feature Film, Best Documentary, Best First Film, Best Director and Best Animated Short Film. After every screening, audience members will mark ballots to determine the Festival’s Audience Awards for Best Feature, Documentary and Danger After Dark.

HIGHLIGHTS: Among the festival’s many highlights:

The Festival will offer 53 major premieres: three World, 13 North American, ten US, and 27 East Coast;

The Festival will open Thursday, April 8, with Shade, a poker-hustling film by first-time director Damian Nieman, with an all-star cast of Stuart Townsend, Sylvester Stallone, Melanie Griffith, Gabriel Byrne, Hal Holbrook, Thandie Newton, Dina Merrill, Bo Hopkins and Jamie Foxx;

On Friday, April 9, the Festival will give its third world premiere, Robert Hall’s Lighting Bug, about a teenage horror movie fan growing up in Alabama. Cast members Laura Prepon (“That 70s Show”) and Hal Sparks (“Queer as Folk”) will introduce the film;

On April 10 and 11, the Festival will hand out 3-D glasses for the East Coast premiere of the Hong Kong horror film, The Park;

On Sunday, April 11, the Festival of Independents will show the best films from the Philadelphia edition of the 48 Hour Film Project, which requires filmmakers to make a short film in only one weekend;

On April 11 and 12, the Festival will show Paul Cronin’s documentary Film as a Subversive Art: Amos Vogel and Cinema 16, the story of the legendary film club created in 1947. Each night there will also be a different program of shorts that had been screened by Vogel at Cinema 16, curated by Michael Chaiken;

On April 15 and 17, the Festival will screen Baadasssss!, written and directed by Mario Van Peebles, who plays his father Melvin in his struggle to create what became the defining African-American independent film, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasss Song;

On Friday, April 16, the Friends of the Boyd will hold a benefit to save the city’s last remaining movie palace with a screening of The Swan, starring Grace Kelly and made just before her marriage, co-starring Alec Guinness, Louis Jordan and Agnes Moorhead. The benefit includes a VIP reception and after-party;

On Saturday, April 17, the annual silent film presentation will be the 1929 British melodrama Piccadilly, starring Anna May Wong, Gilda Gray and Charles Laughton with live accompaniment by Don Kinnier;

The Festival will close on Wednesday, April 21, with the Sundance hit Saved!, a farce set in a Baptist High School and starring Jena Malone, pop star Mandy Moore, Macaulay Culkin, and Mary-Louise Parker.

EVENTS: To accentuate the “festival” spirit, PFF will host several parties and film-related gatherings and events. The celebrations begin Opening Night with a post-screening “Shade” part at the Top of the Tower, and end Closing Night with a party at the Denim Lounge. The popular Cine Cafes will be held at the Penn Bookstore April 12-15, 5-6:30 pm. The Bridge will host two roundtable discussions with filmmakers and critics: “Documentaries Today” on Saturday, April 10, 12-1:30 pm; and “Emerging Filmmakers” on Saturday, April 17, 12-1:30 pm.

The Festival of Independents will hold its own Opening Night party at Artists@work on April 9 and Closing Night party at The 5 Spot on April 18. Several programs will surround the announcement of the “Set in Philadelphia” Screenwriting Contest and the University of the Arts Animation Mania.

LEADERSHIP: Founded in 1992 by the International House as the Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema, the Philadelphia Film Festival has been presented by the Philadelphia Film Society since 2001, with Raymond Murray as Artistic Director and Thom Cardwell as Managing Director.

“After three years of experimentation, we now think we have a model that works,” said Murray. “We deliberately create a sort of festival ‘overload,’ so that people can submerge themselves in cinema and experience worlds they might not imagine. We’re also more selective in our schedule of special events and parties, focusing on quality rather than quantity. We’ve come to realize that for Philadelphia audiences, the programs are the true events. And that’s as it should be – in Philadelphia, film comes first.”


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