Sedona Film Festival’s Treats
Include Honoring Leachman
Event Will Offer Film Lovers A Chance To Check Out Oscar-Nominated Documentaries As Well As Robert DeNiro’s Latest, Along With 100-Plus Selections And Music
By Karen Weil
Modern Times Magazine
Feb. 13, 2016 — Still going strong at 90, Cloris Leachman will receive a Lifetime Achievement award at this year’s Sedona International Film Festival, which opens Friday, Feb. 17.
Leachman, who has no less than four movies out this year — including festival entry The Comedian with Robert DeNiro — is just one of the highlights from the festival.
“An Evening with Cloris Leachman” will be held at the Sedona Performing Arts Center. Ed Asner and Valerie Harper — two of Leachman’s co-stars from The Mary Tyler Moore Show — will introduce Leachman, followed by a Q&A session with all three actors.
The award-winning Leachman “is an icon and we’re thrilled to be able to recognize her for an incredible body of work,” said Patrick Schweiss, Sedona festival executive director.
Leachman won a best supporting actress Oscar in 1972 for The Last Picture Show — and seven Emmys for her work several TV shows, including Mary Tyler Moore.
Like her Moore co-star, Betty White, Leachman is popular with younger movie and TV fans. She appeared on Dancing with The Stars in 2005, and even had a memorable role in the 2006 raunchy cult hit Beerfest.
Leachman attributes her staying power to loving what she does.
“I try to eat well,” Leachman said, through a spokesperson. “I'm a vegetarian.” She also tries to get as much rest and, “have as much fun as possible.”
The recent loss of Mary Tyler Moore was deeply felt throughout the entertainment world, and Leachman said she has fond memories of her trailblazing co-star.
“We had a lot of fun over the years on The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” Leachman said. “I'd give anything to hug Mary one more time.”
Leachman also has praise for another iconic performer, DeNiro.
“He's a great actor,” she said. “I only have a few scenes with [him] at the end of The Comedian. My character's Friars Club roast towards the end of the movie is worth the wait!”
A much-venerated actress, Leachman will introduce The Comedian, which also stars Edie Falco, Charles Grodin and Harvey Keitel, at 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Now in its 23rd year, the nine-day festival features over 160 selections out of more than 1,200 documentaries, features, shorts and special-interest films. Screenings will begin Feb. 18 at one of three venues: SPAC, Mary D. Fisher Theatre and Harkins Sedona 6 Theatres.
“Choosing the films we screen is among the most difficult challenges for our team because even those that don’t make the cut are terrific,” Schweiss said. “If only we had more time, more screens and more space.”
While the festival’s format may be the same, “the experience is different every year,” said spokesperson Steve Carr. “The entire [Sedona] community gets involved, and filmmakers feel so welcomed. There are films for every interest.”
Carr said a “very eclectic, interesting mix of individuals” head to Sedona for the event. “It’s my favorite week of the year.”
Two Oscar-nominated documentaries will be screened: I Am Not Your Negro, based on James Baldwin’s unfinished novel, and Fire at Sea, focusing on Europe’s migrant crisis.
Included in this year’s line-ups are two films by Sedona filmmakers: Bryan Reinhart – producer and director Born to Rewild, which follows John Davis, who traveled 5,000 human-powered miles in eight months -- and Ben Fama Jr., whose documentary A Reason to Believe explores the psychology of belief.
There were 30,000 festival tickets sold last year, and “we expect attendance to be about the same or more,” Carr said. “The festival’s popularity is growing.”
A decade ago, the Sedona festival was in trouble. But the executive director “made calls, asking filmmakers to submit their work,” Carr said. “Now, filmmakers are pleading to get theirs in.”
Other festival selections of note this year are:
• A Planet Ocean, a documentary exploring how plastics, once they enter the oceans, break up into small particulates that enter the food chain where they attract toxins like a magnet.
• Good Fortune, the story of billionaire John Paul DeJoria, the once-homeless entrepreneur, philanthropist and co-founder of the Paul Mitchell line of hair products.
• The Carer, staring Brian Cox as Shakespearean actor Sir Michael Gifford who is frustrated by his Parkinson’s disease and being cooped up in his country estate.
• The Happys, with Janeane Garofalo, about a woman who decides to leave her boyfriend after walking in on him with another man, only to return if he promises to marry her.
• Drawing Home, with Kate Mulgrew and Rutger Hauer, inspired by a true story about a young East Coast debutante dating the most eligible bachelor in the world, John D. Rockefeller III in the 1920s.
• Real Boy, an intimate story of a family in transition as 19-year-old Bennett Wallace navigates early sobriety, late adolescence, and the evolution of his gender identity.
• Fanny’s Journey, a compelling period piece about a group of Jewish youngsters fleeing Nazi-occupied France in an inspired-by-fact World War II drama.
Along with films, there’s also music: Three-time Grammy winner Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers will perform on Saturday, Feb. 18, while noted singer and pianist Michael Feinstein will play classic American tunes on Friday, Feb. 24.
Peter Marshall, a singer and actor who hosted much-loved The Hollywood Squares game show for years, will be on stage on Tuesday, Feb. 21.
Festival ticket-pack prices start at $110 (or $90 for full-time students). For more information on the festival, a full schedule or to buy tickets, go to http://www.sedonafilmfestival.org/Page.asp?NavID=162 or call 928-282-1177, Ext. 201.
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