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Sedona International Film Festival
Brings Hollywood To AZ

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Beginning Later This Month, The Festival Will Feature Members Of The Hollywood Elite, Including Pierce Brosnan, Richard Dreyfuss And Also Five Oscar-Nominated Films

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By Ryan Scott
Modern Times Magazine

Feb. 12, 2018 — The 24th edition of the Sedona International Film Festival is set to take over northern Arizona later this month, with more than 150 selections of feature-length films, documentaries and shorts, including five of this year’s Oscar nominees. Those films include Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Last Men in Aleppo, Faces Places (Best Documentary Feature); The Insult (Foreign Film); and Watu Wote: All of Us (Live Action Short Film).

“We have five films that are vying for Oscars,” said Sedona Film Festival Executive Director Pat Schweiss. As it happens, The Oscars are the last night of the festival and several venues taking part in the festival are actually showing the Oscars. Schweiss says that “everything is my responsibility,” as they have a very small paid staff, with just three people on the payroll, who run the festival.

Consequently, volunteers also have a big role to play.

“We have about 150 volunteers that make the festival happen,” he said. “It’s blood, sweat and tears, but it’s a great thing. It takes a village, as they say.” Another volunteer group of 25 to 30 individuals watches hundreds of movies to narrow the selection for the festival.

Among the more high-profile features being shown at the festival include Poisoning Paradise, a film by Pierce Brosnan and his wife Keely. Not only is the movie dealing with interesting subject matter in regards to the impact of testing genetically engineered seeds and crops in Hawaii, but the Brosnans will actually be on hand at the festival in Sedona for the screening and will participate in a post-screening Q&A.

“What we really pride ourselves on, and there’s a few things, but bringing in films that matter,” Schweiss said. “Films that move you, that touch you, that touch your heart. We pair that with bringing all of the filmmakers in so you can have that interaction, with Q&As after almost every single screening of films.”

So how is it that a film festival in Sedona manages to wrangle talent like a former James Bond and Oscar-winner Richard Dreyfuss, who will return to the Sedona International Film Festival, where he will be honored with a 40th anniversary screening of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, as well as a screening of 1978’s The Big Fix? According to Schweiss, it’s got a lot to do with how they treat the filmmakers and talent.

“Our filmmakers are treated like royalty,” he said. People from the hospitality industry donate rooms, local restaurants donate food and many chip in to make sure that the talent is taken care of. “It’s such a positive festival experience for our filmmakers that that automatically trickles down to our audience, and they sense that,” Schweiss added.

When Schweiss started with the Sedona Film Festival 14 years ago, it was but a modest version of what it has become. What started as a three day festival has blossomed into a sprawling nine-day event that covers two whole weekends. So, what is it that keeps people coming to a festival like this in Arizona, when there are other, possibly flashier festivals that take place all around the country?

“I’m not stupid or naive enough to believe that our beautiful scenery doesn’t have a lot to do with our success,” Schweiss said. “We have a very, very, very beautiful place to come to. It contributes very greatly to the desire for people to want to come to the Sedona Film Festival. And what do we do? We put you in a dark theater so you can’t see our scenery anyway.” He also is aware that not everyone can commit to all nine days, but that’s not a problem. “For visiting purposes, a lot of people can’t come for nine days from out of town. We’ve got a group that comes for the first half of the festival and for the second half of the festival. And, of course, local supporters are here for the whole festival. That’s kind of nice.”

In addition to screenings of the movies throughout the week and special events, the festival will also honor Four-time Academy Award nominee and multiple Emmy Award-winner Jane Alexander will with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Alexander received the first of four Oscar nominations for her performance in the 1970 film version of The Great White Hope, having also starred in the Broadway version. She also was nominated for her roles in All the President’s Men (1976), Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) Testament (1983) During her appearance in Sedona, the Festival will screen Testament, The Great White Hope and Kramer vs. Kramer.

“She’s got such a range of work. On screen, on stage,” Schweiss said.” We got her because of a local connection. She’s a very dear friend of hers is one of our supporters of the festival...it worked out really well.”

The Sedona International Film Festival kicks off on Saturday, Feb. 24 at the Mary D. Fisher Theater, located at 2030 W. Highway 89A, the Sedona Performing Arts Center at Sedona Red Rock High School, located at 995 Upper Red Rock Loop Road and the Sedona Harkins 6. Attendees can purchase tickets for single events, or purchase multi-ticket packages. Or, if you’re feeling like really taking it all in, there’s the Platinum All-Access pass, for $1,150.

Though, Schweiss encourages attendees to “dabble,” if they can’t stay for the whole festival. “I always say you can experience the world without ever leaving your theater seat.” For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.sedonafilmfestival.org.
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