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Philadelphia Fest pleased over 65 000


The 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival ended its 14-day celebration of cinema by posting an attendance record of 65,101, beating last year’s record of 61,000. Of the 300 screenings the Festival held from April 7-20, a record 90 sold out, and 20 films drew an audience of over 600.

At its Closing Night on April 20, the Festival announced Jury Prizes and Audience Awards. Leading the list of winners were the feature films ROAD (Jury Award), MACHUCA (Audience Award) and ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW (“Archie” Award for Best First Film), the documentaries SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL (Jury Award) and MAD HOT BALLROOM (Audience Award), and filmmaker Theo Van Gogh (COOL!).

The Festival was produced by the Philadelphia Film Society under the leadership of Artistic Director Raymond Murray, Executive Director Thom Cardwell and Managing Director Patrick Brogan. “This year the festival reached a certain level of maturity and secured its position as a major cultural event in the city,” said Murray. “It brings in a tremendous influx of people from the suburbs and beyond, as restaurant and hotel owners can attest.”

Mr. Murray credited film selections as having an especially strong and far-reaching effect on attendance. “People seemed particularly pleased with the programming this year,” Murray added, “and we were very gratified at the success of our outreach into communities that don’t normally come to film festivals.”

As examples, Murray cited the especially youthful audiences that flocked to A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and the festival’s Danger After Dark selections, and the urban black community which welcomed the festival’s first “hip-hip” films, DEATH OF A DYNASTY and STATE PROPERTY II, as well as WHITE MEN CAN’T RAP.

THE FIGURES: This year’s Festival drew 65,101 film lovers, an increase of 4,000 from 2004. The number and percentages of sell-out screenings continued its steady climb, from 15% in 2001, to 25% last year, to 30% this year, with 90 sell-outs.

Twenty films had total audiences of over 600, up from sixteen last year. The top film was Alex de la Iglesia’s FERPECT CRIME, with 1,277 people at three screenings. This shatters the record for the largest attendance of a single film in festival history, which was set last year by Robert Hall’s LIGHTNING BUG (905 attendance).

Unlike previous years where specific genres dominated the top-ten list, this year’s most popular films spanned the festival’s entire programming. RITTENHOUSE SQUARE, a documentary about Philadelphia’s beloved park, which premiered at the festival, came in next with 883, followed by the French film FAR SIDE OF THE MOON (833), LONESOME JIM (823 -- part of the festival’s award tribute to director Steve Buscemi), and the Japanese film IZO (800). Rounding out the list of top ten films were ME AND YOU AND EVERONE WE KNOW (799), SURVIVE STYLE 5+ (778), HOUSE OF D (731), OLDBOY (728) and THE EDUKATORS (718).

THE AWARDS: For the fifth year, the Philadelphia Film Festival held a juried competition. The winners were:

Best Feature Film: THE ROAD (South Korea), directed by Bae Chang-ho;

Best Documentary: SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL: The Journey of Romeo Dallaire (Canada), directed by Peter Raymont;

Best Director: The late Theo Van Gogh, for COOL! (The Netherlands);

Best Animated Short Film: HELLO (Australia), directed by Jonathan Nix;

“Archie” Award for Best First Film: ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW, directed by Miranda July (sixth highest film in attendance).

The “Archie” is named in honor of the late Archie Perlmutter, a founding board member of the Philadelphia Film Society, a founder of the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival and an avid film promoter in the region.

After every screening, ballots were given to audience members to determine the Audience Awards, based on a 5-point scale. The winners were:

Best Feature Film: MACHUCA (Chile), directed by Andrés Wood (rating of 4.66); the next four were SAINT RALPH, PEAS AT 5:30, BROTHERS and TOO BEAUTIFUL TO LIE.

Best Documentary: MAD HOT BALLROOM, directed by Marilyn Agrelo (rating of 4.86); the next four were AFTER INNOCENCE, MURDERBALL, SEEDS and SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL;

Best Danger After Dark Film: KONTROLL (Hungary), directed by Nimrod Antal (rating of 4.40); The next four were OLDBOY, ARAHAN, SURVIVE STYLE 5+, and MACK, HAMMERED, SLAUGHTERED AND SHAFTED.

Overall, 52 films received a score between Very Good (4) and Excellent (5) – just over a third of the total number of full-length films.

A long-standing component of the Festival is the Philadelphia CityPaper Festival of Independents, a showcase for regional filmmakers. On April 17, “FestIndies” announced its award winners:

Best Feature - WHITE MEN CAN'T RAP, directed by Rick Morris

Best Documentary- HEROIN TOWN, directed by Josh Goldbloom

Best Experimental Short - BILLVILLE, directed by Jena Serbu

Best Animation Short - PSYCHOSIS, directed by Stephen Murphy

Best Narrative Short - WHOLE: A TRINITY OF BEING, directed by Shelley Barry

NFL Technical Achievement Award - CELLAR, directed by Ben Hickernell; NFL Films will give Mr. Hickernell $2,500 in technical services and support for his next project.

Earlier in the Festival, Greater Philadelphia Filmmakers, a program of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, announced the winners of the 2005 “Set in Philadelphia” Screenwriting Competition (SIP):

Grand Prize: David Hoag for THE BIOGRAPHER;
Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce Regional Award: Kent Murray for ACCORDING TO PLAN.

THE GUESTS: Nearly 150 filmmakers, actors, media and industry leaders attended the Festival. Leading the list was actor Malcolm McDowell, who received its Artistic Achievement Award. He introduced both his early film that made him a star, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, and his latest film, the psychological thriller EVILENKO.

During his acceptance speech before A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, McDowell regaled the sell-out audience with anecdotes from his illustrious, if provocative, career; he told several stories about the infamous CALIGULA, including some that featured an imitation of Sir John Gielgud that was dead-on.

The festival’s other award winner was actor-director Steve Buscemi, who accepted the American Independents Award. In an extended Q&A, Buscemi said that one of his chief criteria for selecting a directorial project was ensemble acting, as demonstrated by his featured film, LONESOME JIM, starring Casey Afflek, Liv Tyler, Mary Kay Place, Seymour Cassel, and Mark Boone, Jr.

Among the other headlining guests were:
· PERFECT CRIME’S director Alex de la Iglesia and co-writer Jorge Guerricaechevarria;

· Damon Dash, who introduced his two new films, DEATH OF A DYNASTY and STATE PROPERTY II, a world premiere;

· David Duchovny, who introduced his directorial debut HOUSE OF D;

· Editor Thelma Schoonmaker, who led a tribute to the 100th birthday of her husband Michael Powell, which included a rare screening of I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING;

· Actor Marton Csokas, co-star of EVILENKO, who had to fend of LORD OF THE RINGS autograph hounds;

· Peter Riegert, another actor-turned-director who introduced his directorial debut, KING OF THE CORNER;

· Four directors from Japan and one producer from Taiwan – the most guests to come from the Pacific Rim in any one Philadelphia Film Festival: Ryuichi Hiroki (L’AMANT), Shinji Aoyama (LAKESIDE MURDER CASE), Go Shibata (LATE BLOOMER),and Shuhei Fujita (QUIET SUMMER), along with its producer, Liang-Yin Kuo of Taiwan.


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