Friday, October 2, 2009

Philadelphia Film Festival does a double take in 2009

The 18 ½ Philadelphia Film Festival, which has Fellini nodding in his grave, exists as an offspring to The Philadelphia Film Society following the Philadelphia Film Festival organizers' marriage split.

After a series of threatened lawsuits and heated feuds this summer, The Philadelphia Film Society diverged from its former festival-planning partner TLA Entertainment. TLA renamed the event CineFest, which will resume in the spring. Meanwhile, the PFF still belongs to The Philadelphia Film Society.

The festival, typically an April event, is under singular management and therefore celebrating a half-birthday in the spite of the behind-the-scenes divorce.

The mini-festival is scheduled to showcase 37 films from 15 countries over the course of five days - Thursday, October 15 to Sunday, October 19. Films will be shown at two Center City locations - Ritz at the Bourse (400 Ranstead St.) and the Prince Music Theater (1412 Chestnut St.).The selections are predominantly reruns of flicks shown at Cannes, CineVegas, Chicago and Toronto that will now get to play here.

The Philadelphia Film Society's J. Andrew Greenblatt told Philadelphia City Paper that director F. Gary Gray and “special guests” will be in attendance for Gray’s film Law Abiding Citizen, and director Lee Daniels will bring Precious star Gabourey Sidibe.

The roster’s highlights:

Saturday appears to have the greatest number of high-profile selections: The Men Who Stare at Goats, the kooky George Clooney CIA farce; Bronson, the biopic of a crazed British criminal; and The Messenger, the Oren Moverman (co-scripter of I’m Not There) war drama about a soldier who falls for his deceased comrade’s wife.

The closing night feature, Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire, directed by Lee Daniels of West Philly has garnered some serious buzz. Precious, an overweight, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child, enrolls in an alternative school and learns a thing or two. Why and how a line from the credits made its way into the title is uncertain. It also de-emphasizes the reality of such a story with the reference to its “novel” roots. Nevertheless, based on the trailer, the flick looks to be one of the most emotionally taxing films of the festival. Precious screens Sunday at 7:30 p.m. since Monday is a best-of run of the films.

The lurid modern-biblical horror film Antichrist, made by Danish auteur Lars Von Trier, has everyone talking and reacting in various forms of disgust and awe. Charlotte Gainsbourg, one-half of the film’s cast, earned the Best Actress award at May’s 62nd Cannes Film Festival. It’ll be screened Friday night at 7:45 p.m. at the Ritz.

For more info: Go to or call 215-253-3599 for more details. Tickets are open to public beginning Monday, October 5. Films cost $10 excluding opening night and centerpiece screenings.

Other film festivals in Philadelphia this month include FirstGlance Film Festival (Oct. 22-25), Project Twenty1 Film & Animation Festival (Oct. 1-4) and the second annual Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival (Oct. 9-11).

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