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Philadelphia Festival full program detailed


The 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival is expanding its programming to the eyes and ears of film lovers of all ages as it introduces a section tailored specifically for families and another that explores music in film for its 15th anniversary season. Produced by the non-profit Philadelphia Film Society, the Festival will run from March 30-April 11 and will show a total of 231 films from 41 countries: 115 feature films, 30 full-length documentaries and 86 live-action and animated shorts.

The distinguished actor Laurence Fishburne will open the festival on March 30 when he introduces his new film, AKEELAH AND THE BEE, directed by Daniel Atchison, who will also attend Opening Night. Continuing its tradition of honoring leading figures in filmmaking, on April 5, the festival will present its Artistic Achievement Award in Acting to famed American actress and activist Susan Sarandon.

The festival will welcome leading filmmakers who are former Philadelphians to show their latest works, such as Lee Daniels, the Brothers Quay and Susan Seidelman. There will also be several films with themes of regional interest, such as the world premiere of a provocative film about the 2003 mayoral race, SHAME OF A CITY.

The Festival will close with Nicole Holofcener’s FRIENDS WITH MONEY, the Opening Night Film of the Sundance Film Festival. It is one of fourteen films that are making their first film festival appearance directly after their Sundance screening. In another demonstration of the festival’s growing prestige, many of its seven Centerpiece screenings are previews of high-profile new releases specifically offered to the festival, featuring such luminaries as Antonio Banderas, Gael Garcia Bernal, Morgan Freeman, Cuba Gooding Jr., Hugh Grant, William Hurt, Helen Mirren, Cynthia Nixon, Bruce Willis and Alfre Woodard.

The festival will offer a total of 326 screenings, held in six venues in three hubs across Philadelphia: the Ritz East and Ritz Five in Old City, the Prince Music Theater in Center City, and the International House, Bridge: cinema de lux and Cinema at Penn in University City. Then, from April 17-19, the festival will go on the road to Philadelphia suburbs with “Reels on Wheels,” presenting festival highlights at theaters in Ambler, Bryn Mawr and Doylestown.

Now celebrating its fifteenth season, the Philadelphia Film Festival is under the leadership of Artistic Director Raymond Murray, Executive Director Thom Cardwell, Managing Director Patrick Brogan and
Associate Program Director Travis Crawford. “This year the festival’s focus is really on the films and the audience,” says Murray. “Our programming is particularly strong this year, especially in some of our specialty focuses like Cinema of the Muslim Worlds, American Discoveries and Danger After Dark. And even in our World Focus it’s interesting to see that all the standard Hollywood genres are well represented, particularly the action movie, but each country adapts them in their own way.

“We’re also making a real effort to broaden our audience,” Murray continued. “We’ve wanted to do a family series for years, and this year we finally found the right films. Our music series should also appeal to a lot of different tastes, especially a younger audience. And we’re thrilled to be collaborating with suburban theaters to reach people who normally don’t come into the city. If they can’t come to our films, we’ll gladly bring our films to them.”

PROGRAMMING: Murray, together with Crawford and a team of curators, have assembled a program of 230 films that includes 8 world premieres, 12 North American premieres, 4 US premieres, and a record 42 East Coast premieres. The films are arranged into ten thematic focuses:

World Focus – The heart of the festival, a survey of international cinema with 46 films. Genres range from experimental (PORCELAIN DOLL, PIANO TUNER OF EARTHQUAKES) to social commentary (THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARECU) to comedy (ICEBERG, JONI’S PROMISE), but the thriller/action film is particularly strong this year (THE PROPOSITION, ROLLIN’ WITH THE NINES, THE WEDDING PARTY);

Spanish and Latin Cinema Now – Diversity is equally represented in these 12 films with thrillers (LOWER CITY, THE UNCERTAIN GUEST), trials of the heart (IN BED, ROMEO AND JULIET GET MARRIED, ELSA AND FRED [a senior romance]) and a narcoleptic pre-op transsexual musical (20 CENTIMETERS);

Cinema of the Muslim Worlds – One of the Festival’s two signature focuses returns to prominence with its strongest line-ups in years. Many of the ten films focus on women in Muslim society, but in styles that range from searing (THE UNWANTED WOMAN) to mysterious (PORTRAIT OF A LADY FAR AWAY) to genuinely funny (HAMLET OF WOMEN). Plus the first gay-themed film in the focus’ history (GO WEST);

American Discoveries – Another especially strong section, with 12 films from across the country. Headliners include WRISTCUTTERS: A LOVE STORY, about a boy who tracks down his girlfriend – after they’ve both committed suicide; DISAPPEARANCES, a prohibition-era drama set in Vermont; and WASSUP ROCKERS, Larry Clark’s film about East LA Chicano skateboarders who decide to visit Beverly Hills;

Documentary Tradition – A collection of 17 cutting-edge non-fiction films, curated by Jennifer Steinberg, who has a knack for picking Oscar nominees. Expected hits are THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED, an “under the rock” look at the MPAA ratings system; WORDPLAY, a look at the people who create crossword puzzles, including the iconic New York Times; and FUCK, a wickedly funny study of the ultimate curse word;

UArts Animation and Shorts Festival – Curated by Michael Enright and sponsored by University of the Arts for the third year, this focus opens with the politically outrageous Hungarian animated feature, THE DISTRICT, and continues with two programs of shorts, “Adventures in Animation,” and “My Life in ‘Toons”;

Philadelphia CityPaper Festival of Independents – The annual festival-within-a-festival of regional filmmaking, curated by Scott Johnston, has been expanded this year with six feature films (four documentaries, two fiction), five of which are world premieres, and four shorts programs. “Fest Indies” opens March 31 with SHAME OF A CITY, a fearless look at the 2003 mayoral election, and closes April 10 with DANIELSON: A FAMILY MOVIE (or, Make a Joyful Noise Here);

Danger After Dark – The Festival’s other signature focus – and its most unconventional – is a celebration of the “genre” film, curated by Travis Crawford. The focus has become an international sensation; seven of the festival’s 12 North American premieres are DAD films. What is new this year is the number of films coming from outside the traditional “genre” home of Japan, including Greece’s EVIL, Australia’s FEED, Thailand’s HELL, and four films from the British Isles (THE DESCENT, EVIL ALIENS, ISOLATON, WILD COUNTRY);

NEW THIS YEAR: For the Family – This year the Festival is inaugurating a series of four films specifically for young people and their parents that will be shown on the weekends during the day; as a result, the festival is adding a special ticket price of $6 for children 12 and under for these four films. Three films are in English, and the fourth is in Spanish especially for Latino families (though non-Spanish-speaking young people are welcome to have their first try at subtitles). The four films are:

CASI CASI – From Puerto Rico, a boy does everything he can to win a student council president election to impress a girl, until she decides to run herself, then he does everything he can to lose;

HOOT – Based on the book that won the 2003 Newberry Medal for children’s literature, a boy tries to save an owl habitat from real estate developers, only to discover a web of corruption;

THE MIGHTY CELT – From Ireland, the lives of a single mom (Gillian Anderson) and her 14-year-old son are changed when the boy adopts an awkward racing dog;

THE PEACE TREE – Two little girls – one Christian, the other Muslim – want to share each other’s holiday celebrations, but when their parents object, they create their own celebration. Based on a true story;

NEW THIS YEAR – Lights! Camera! Music! – The Festival’s second new focus offers eleven features and documentaries that celebrate the joy and power of music. Some films examine particular musical styles, ranging from underground music scenes (BEIJING BUBBLES: PUNK AND ROCK IN CHINA’S CAPITAL) to the creation of bossa nova (THIS IS BOSSA NOVA) to a South African retelling of the classic opera Carmen (U-Carmen E–Khayelitsha).

Other films look at the people behind the music, either fact or fiction: documentaries on a neglected bebop singer (TIS AUTUMN: THE SEARCH FOR JACKIE PARIS) or a famed songwriter (LEONARD COHEN: I’M YOUR MAN), a dramatic biography of a lost genius (STONED), and a wicked mockumentary about the London music scene of the 60s and 70s, starring conjoined twins (BROTHERS OF THE HEAD).

As part of the focus, Festival organizers are working with Philadelphia’s music community to arrange for live performances to precede or follow select screenings. More information will be announced.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: Beyond the programming focuses, the Festival offers numerous cinematic high points:

Susan Sarandon: On Wednesday, April 5, the Festival will present its Artistic Achievement Award in Acting to Susan Sarandon, star of such films as BULL DURHAM, THELMA AND LOUISE and DEAD MAN WALKING. The presentation will begin with a clip-filled retrospective of Ms. Sarandon’s career, then she will sit down for a conversation and extended question and answer session with the audience.

Centerpiece Screenings: Representing the “best of the fest,” these seven films include, as mentioned above, several advance screenings of major upcoming releases. The 2006 Centerpiece Screenings (with their directors) are: AMERICAN DREAMZ (Paul Weitz), HALF NELSON (Ryan Fleck), THE KING (James Marsh), KINKY BOOTS (Julian Jarrold), LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN (Paul McGuigan), ONE LAST THING…(Alex Steyermark), SHADOWBOXER (Lee Daniels) and TAKE THE LEAD (Liz Friedlander).

Hollywood and Broad: Philadelphia has become an incubator for a growing number of filmmakers, and several are bringing their latest works back home, such as producer Lee Daniels, who is making his directorial debut with the thriller SHADOWBOXER, and the Brothers Quay, masters of surreal animation who have made their first feature film in a decade, the equally surreal THE PIANO TUNER OF EARTHQUAKES. Philadelphia natives Susan Seidelman will introduce her new film BOYNTON BEACH CLUB, and Chris Deauw his documentary THE LAST WESTERN, as will Temple University graduates Louis Pepe and Keith Fulton their mockumentary BROTHERS OF THE HEAD. Philadelphia-raised actor David Boreanaz leads the cast of THESE GIRLS and West Chester teen actor Charlie McDermott stars in DISAPPEARANCES.

Other films have themes or settings of interest to the region. THE CAMDEN 28 is the story of the trial of anti-Vietnam War activists across the Delaware. HARD COAL depicts the lives of anthracite coal mining. ONE LAST THING…, by former Pennsylvanians Alex Steyermark and Barry Stringfellow, is partially set in Marcus Hook.

The Black Experience: In contrast to previous years, the 2006 Festival has well over a dozen films with black themes or lead characters. Films from, or set, in Africa include Boy Called Twist, SISTERS IN LAW, WAH-WAH, U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha and HIP HOP COLONY: THE AFRICAN HIP-HOP EXLPOSION. Urban dramas include ROLLIN’ WITH THE NINES and TURNTABLE; documentaries include BEYOND BEATS AND RHYMES, BEEN RICH ALL MY LIFE, LION IN THE HOUSE, and other films of interest are SHADOWBOXER, KINKY BOOTS, HEADING SOUTH, and ZIM & CO.

Kings of Silent Comedy: While not part of the “For the Family” focus, this year’s annual silent film program is very family friendly. Entitled “The Four Kings of Silent Comedy” Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel & Hardy” and curated by George Stewart,” the program features five classic comedy shorts by these comedic masters, with musical accompaniment provided by regular Festival guest Don Kinnier. The single screening is – appropriately enough – Saturday, April 1 (April Fool’s Day), at 12:30 pm at the Prince Music Theater.
Downey goes to the Dogs: Also on April 1, the Festival will continue its multi-year salute to Robert Downey, Sr., (RITTENHOUSE SQUARE, PUTNEY SWOPE) with the screening of his 1970 satire, POUND. This social satire had been thought to be lost until a print was discovered only last year.

48 Hour Film Project: For the fourth year, the Festival 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 (Friday, March 31);

Awards: The festival will continue its annual juried competition and audience awards. The juried competition are Best Feature, Best Documentary, Best Director, and Best First Film, named the “Archie,” in memory of the late Archie Perlmutter, a founding board member of the Philadelphia Film Society. The Audience Awards are for Best Feature, Best Documentary and Best Danger After Dark film.


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