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Phoenix Film Festival

Is More Than Just Movies

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Actress Ashley C. Williams and Director Michael A. Brown of Julia.
Director of A Dog Named Gucci, Gorman Bechard.
Jake Lee, director of the documentary short Fighters Moving Forward.
The 15th Phoenix Film Festival Kicked Off Its Eight Day Run On Thursday And The First Weekend Brought Animal Docs, Auctions, Indie Comedies and Much More To The Tables Of Local Film Lovers And Creators

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By Ryan Scott
Modern Times Magazine

March 30, 2015 — The 15th Phoenix Film Festival began its eight day take-over of the Harkins Scottsdale 101 on Thursday night, offering up a wide range of films and entertainment for both moviegoers and creators alike.

The festival kicked off on Thursday night with a premiere of Al Pacino’s latest film, Danny Collins, to a packed house in the Cine Capri. This would be the first of many packed houses over the weekend.

In 2000, the first year of the Phoenix Film Festival, 3,000 people attended. This year the festival organizers estimate that more than 20,000 will attend over eight-days, making it easily the largest film festival in the state of Arizona.

The Harkins staff were very welcoming of the festival attendees and seemed more than happy to have them there.

“Everything has been great,” said Harkins General Manager Jason Householde. “I Love this. It’s challenging, but they’re (PFF)  a great partner for us. We try and make it easy on one another.”

Householde added that the implementation of digital projections since the last festival has made things easier all around.

Friday, the events first full day, saw an array of people from all walks of life and an array of films that fit the same description. The special event for Friday night was yet another new Al Pacino film, Manglehorn, a comedy directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express), who was on-hand at the screening.

For those who couldn’t manage to get a ticket for the sold-out premiere showing, there were plenty of other options available to those looking to enjoy some cinema.

The International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival was also taking place over the weekend in conjunction with the Phoenix Film Festival, so there were lots of films to see in those categories. Blood Punch, a supernatural horror thriller about a young man named Milton who is lured into a dangerous love triangle, received a lot of positive buzz over the weekend.

Another horror movie that screened to help close out Friday night was Julia. The film’s director, Matthew A. Brown, was on hand for the screening of his brutal film about a rape victim named, you guessed it, Julia, played by Ashley C. Williams (The Human Centipede) who turns to a violent form of therapy in order to cleanse herself of the experience.

The film screened to a modest crowd to what seemed like a positive response in spite of the films very grim, horrific and brutal visuals. Both Brown and Williams stayed afterwards for a Q and A with the audience.

“I never worked with the concept of empowerment...it was about becoming one’s true self,” said Brown. He also added that he was a very big fan of Asian revenge cinema and that this was largely an homage to that, not so much a statement about the subject matter itself.

Williams was praised for her performance by several audience members during the Q and A.

“Own the beauty in the act of whatever you do,” said Williams. who later described the character of Julia as a “vengeful goddess.”

Violent and gritty revenge cinema isn’t for everyone, and there were plenty of choices on the other end of the spectrum as well on Friday.

The indie comedy Results, directed by Andrew Bujalski offered nice counter programming. The film stars Guy Pearce (Memento), Cobie Smulders (The Avengers) and Kevin Corrigan (Superbad) who star in a comedy about two personal trainers (Pearce and Smulders) who are shaken up when a wealthy client (Corrigan) comes into the fold.

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