Phoenix Film Fest
Attracts Diverse Field
The Offerings At The 2017 Phoenix Film Festival Ran The Gamut From Horror and Sci-Fi to International Gems And Local Products
By Mike Sallustio
Modern Times Magazine
April 18, 2017 — Since 2000, Phoenix Film Festival has been the biggest party in the valley for cinephiles, filmmakers and industry big shots. Since then, the festival has come a long way, partnering with the likes of the International Horror and Sci-fi Film Festival and the Arizona Student Film Festival to bring the largest, most eclectic film collection attendees likely to experience this side of Sundance.
The festival is a veritable movie mix bag. It’s the one event in the valley where viewers can catch a soon to be released, big-budget blockbuster like The Lost City of Z, starring Charlie Hunnam and Sienna Miller. On the other hand, Arizona natives can catch the cinema offerings of their very own home-grown filmmakers in the Arizona Shorts Showcases.
One man who’s no stranger to the festival is Hal C. Astell. To those in the Arizona independent film circle, Hal is a local celebrity. He’s been reviewing local films in the valley for well over a decade on his popular site, Apocalypse Later.
He also wears a killer kilt.
This was Hal’s 11th visit to the Phoenix Film Festival and as horror convention regular, it’s no surprise that what really draws him out year after year is the International Horror and Sci-fi Film Festival. Still, Hal isn’t only partial to genre films.
“Most of what I wanted to see was competition features,” said Astell.
While most of the films make their way to the Phoenix Film Festival just for the chance to be presented to an audience, a select few are pitted against each other for the top prize. There were 13 films selected this year for the Arizona Feature Film Competition and five more from around the world chosen for the World Cinema Competition.
“I’ve seen three [Arizona Competition] and one from World,” Astell said. “And all of them have been absolutely excellent.”
One filmmaker to have her film selected to be in the Arizona Feature Film Competition was Louisiana Kreutz. Kreutz’ feature film Quaker Oaths was one of the biggest draws at the festival. The film centered around the Quaker marriage tradition of having every wedding guest sign the marriage certificate and one couple’s quest to have each signature crossed out to confirm an upcoming divorce.
This was Kreutz’ first visit to the Phoenix Film Festival as well as her first attempt at a feature-length comedy, having directed a number of documentaries in the past.
Kreutz had nothing but good things to say about Phoenix’s film-loving audiences.
“I’ve had a great time at the Phoenix Film Festival,” said Kreutz. “We’ve had huge audiences come out to our film and pretty much every film I’ve gone into the place has been packed.”
It isn’t just Arizona audiences that make the Phoenix Film Festival the place to be; the festival also has a dedicated crew of individuals (many of them volunteers) who keep the event running like clockwork.
“All of the volunteers are so sweet,” Kreutz said. “My liaison Eileen was so awesome; all the programmers are awesome; everyone has been so nice.”
Another filmmaker who had her film shown in the World Cinema Competition was Kyla Simone Bruce. Bruce flew all the way from London to present her feature-length drama Undocument. The film details the lives of undocumented migrants and the challenges they face throughout Europe and the Middle East.
This was Kyla’s first time in Arizona and was pleased with the sense of community the festival encouraged.
“Immediately it felt like you had a network of friends.” Bruce said. “You make sure you see each other’s films, and the standard of the films have been amazing.”
Aside from the films presented at the festival, there are also plenty of events and activities to be had. The film festival opened up with a Premiere Event in the Party Pavilion. The bash is a place where attendees can take in some food, drinks and music while rubbing elbows with some of the film community’s big players. The festival also had plenty to do for the kids. The festival hosted a Kid’s Day along with an Educational Outreach Program to inspire children to take their place behind the camera.
Whether you like horror, indie films, or big budget adventures, the Phoenix Film Festival offers something for every type of movie lover. But at its heart, what drives the festival directors and hard-working volunteers the most is providing a place where audiences can celebrate films of all genres while interacting with the artists who create them.
If you missed this year’s Phoenix Film Festival, worry not, the event will most certainly be back next year with a whole new selection of films, both local and international. So mark your calendars and get your tickets early, because this is one show you won’t mind waiting in line for.
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