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Sand and Celluloid at Fort Lauderdale Film Festival

As the weather turns cold and nasty in most parts of the United States, all eyes turn southward to the sunshine state of Florida, where, among other benefits, one of the country's most respected regional film festivals is currently unspooling, The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival (affectionately known as FLIFF) is celebrating its 23rd edition, which began on October 15 and runs through November 11....that's a month-long celebration of sun, sand and celluloid.

This year's Festival, "a vacation from ordinary film", will present over 200 films, most attended by filmmakers and or celebrities preceded by a reception or followed by party at trendy area restaurants and nightclubs. In all, the Festival will showcase 59 gala premieres, including 9 World Premieres, 6 U.S. Premieres, 5 East Coast Premieres and 39 Florida Premieres. Programming is organized under the banners of American Independent Features, World
Cinema, Documentaries, Sunshine Celluloid, and short films.

Festivities began on October 17 with the Opening Night Gala screening of the action suspense feature COYOTE. which won both the Audience Award and Best Actor honors at its world premiere at the San Diego Film Festival. Director Brian Peterson, who also stars in the film as a runner for illegal immigrants across the US/Mexican border. Other cast members including Brett Spackman, Carley Adams, Marina Valle, Osvaldo Hernandez and David C. Thompson were in attendance for the premiere screening and the Entre Nous Gala that followed at the Signature Grand.

On November 5, as the FLIFF Centerpiece Film, the Festival is presenting the World Premiere of PLAY THE GAME, an original comedy about a grandson and grandfather that share dating tricks. The film, directed by Marc Fineberg, stars beloved television stars Andy Griffith, Doris Roberts and Liz Sheridan. Set to close the Festival on November 9 is the Southesast Premiere of BART GOT A ROOM, a South Florida-shot comedy that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film, a gentle and winning comedy on family ties, is directed by Brian Hecker and stars William H. Macy, Cheryl Hines and newcomer Steven J. Kaplan, as a young man who obsesses about the bigger night of his life....his high school prom.

The Festival is showcasing a number of World Premieres, including PANTS ON FIRE, a buddy comedy about actors in Hollywood, directed by Collin Campbell; TIED TO A CHAIR, a sensual romantic comedy directed by Michael Bergan and starring Bonnie Loren and Mario Van Peebles; the nouveau horror film TERROR INSIDE, directed by Jozef Lenders and starring former teen idol Corey Feldman; SAVING FACE, a documentary investigation into the death of local Miamian Matt Kern; COURTING CONDI, a documentary portrait of one man’s quest to woo the Secretary of State; ANIMALS, an animal-rights doc that chronicles the compelling rescue of 83 cats and dogs from an animal hospice; NEEDLE THROUGH BRICK, a reportage on the struggle to maintain culture and tradition in rapidly changing Malaysia; and MY BIGGEST FAN, the unusual story of how a local Broward County woman staged a film event after 9/11 and brought a once famous film star back into the limelight.

Making their U.S. Premieres are an eclectic mix of international films, including the British comedy CAUGHT IN THE ACT by director Matt Lipsey, starring cult faves Steve Speirs and Freddie Jones; CIAO BELLA, a romantic comedy form Sweden directed by Mani Masserat-Aghat ; REZ BOMB, an actioner filmed on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation by Steven Lewis Simpson; VIRTUALLY A VIRGIN, a champagne cocktail about a young fashionista in trendy Budapest by Hungarian director Péter Bacsó ; SUMMER’S TAIL, an emotional coming of age story from Taiwan by director Cheng Wen-Tang ; and VIRTUAL JFK: VIETNAM IF KENNEDY HAD LIVED, a provocative film essay on how America and the world would have been changed if President Kennedy had not met his end in Dallas in 1963, directed by Koji Masutani .

This year's Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival will hold court at three venues: the arthouse Cinema Paradiso (the Fort Lauderdale Film Society's permanent all-year round home for alternative programming), the AMC Coral Ridge theater multiplex and the prestigious Miniaci Performing Arts Center. For in-depth coverage of the event, visit the FLIFF Online Dailies site:

Sandy Mandelberger, Festival Circuit Editor

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