The Philadelphia Film Society is pleased to announce that the 18 Â½ Philadelphia Film Festival will take place this year on October 15-19!
LAW ABIDING CITIZEN will open the Festival, with director F. Gary Gray and additional special guests in attendance, while PRECIOUS: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire will close the Festival, with director Lee Daniels and additional special guests in attendance. In between, the Festival will feature many incredible premieres, including THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS, SERIOUS MOONLIGHT, GOOD HAIR, RED CLIFF, and the controversial ANTICHRIST. The Festival will also highlight DARE and TENURE, two films shot in and around the greater Philadelphia region.
While the Festival has long been held in the spring, PFS felt it was important that we relocate to the fall in order to program the Festival from a much larger and excellent selection of films following their debuts at Cannes, Toronto, Venice, and other well-known international festivals.
Along with the change in calendar position, PFS is proud to announce our new Artistic Director, Harlan Jacobson, film critic and co-founder of Talk Cinema. His addition to the Festival staff is sure to bring a fresh perspective to our programming!
Among the films we’ve already confirmed, there are: 6 films from Sundance, 3 films from Berlin, 3 films from Cannes, and 7 films from Toronto. Likewise, the films feature: 4 Oscar-winning actors and 2 Oscar-winning directors (with another 4 and 2 nominees, respectively). Two films claimed awards at this year’s Cannes film festival, another film dominated the awards at this past Sundance film festival, and three films are gala or special presentations at Toronto.
Here are a look at some of the films to look forward to –
The premise is simple; following a terrible tragedy, a young married couple (played by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg) retreats to a cabin in the woods to cope with their grief. When a series of bizarre and surreal events starts occurring, the couple begins to crack from the stress, threatening their bond forever. In the hands of an auteur, this basic concept becomes something much more shocking. Famous for his uniquely searing arthouse melodramas, Lars von Trier ups the ante yet again, and returning with what is, without a doubt, his most controversial work ever. Like most pieces of thought-provoking art, Antichrist is best viewed completely fresh with little to no prior knowledge of the material. From the first glimpse of its gorgeous black and white opening sequence to the uncomfortable rumble of its perfectly colored climax, the audience is treated to a plethora of brilliant twists and metaphors. For those willing to take the risk, the film offers incredibly beautiful imagery and surgically precise manipulation, but its content makes von Trier’s previous films like Dancer in the Dark look like a walk in the park. Consider yourself warned.
After 13 years of marriage, Ian (Timothy Hutton) is leaving his wife Louise (Meg Ryan), a Manhattan barracuda attorney used to litigating everything. Scattering rose petals on the country house bed in anticipation of the arrival of his new girly-girlfriend, Sara (Kristen Bell), Ian is shocked to see Louise at the bedroom door. Louise is so shocked herself by his see-ya note to her that she knocks him out â€“bing!–with a flying vase. When Ian wakes up, he’s duct taped to a chair. Louise means to talk some sense into Ian’s idiot male brain. Only there are some things you just can’t litigate. Before this is over, Ian will move upstairs even as he moves down the dignity scale by waking up again, this time duct taped to a toilet. What ensues is a three ring circus that starts out as a Mexican standoff, then takes a left into Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf territory, and finally veers right into Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs and the defense of the familyâ€”even if it’s a family neither party wants any part of anymore. Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Cheryl Hines is the only actress-turned director who could pull this nutty dramedy off, and it’s her debut film, too. The late Adrienne Shelly, who was murdered in her New York City office just days after her film Waitress was accepted at the 2007 Sundance film festival, wrote the script for Serious Moonlight. As the lawyer-wife, Ryan is totally supple, an ace comedienne juggling outrage, idiocy, and deception with adroitness. And Tim Hutton shows he can act funny, with both hands tied behind his back.
Tickets October 18th
Tickets October 19th
A dramedy with a hint of romance set against the backdrop of the academic world, Tenure picks up at the beginning of a new school year, with Associate Professor Charlie Thurber (Luke Wilson) once again pursuing his quest to obtain tenure at a Gray College. Unfortunately for Charlie, as he begins to make process on his tenured position, Elaine Grasso (Gretchen Mol), an impressive new tenure-track professor, is brought on staff to vie for the available position. After witnessing a colleague fail impressively in his tenure review, and seeing Elaine gain ground in her tenure pursuit, Charlie dedicates himself to doing whatever is necessary to achieve tenure, including sabotaging Elaine wherever possible. As Charlie develops a relationship with Elaine, however, he quickly finds himself conflicted between personal desires and professional aspirations. Carefully crafted by director Mike Million, Tenure provides a humorous look at the dealings professors must endure in order to obtain tenure. Tenure also features humorous supporting performances by David Koechner and Rosemarie DeWitt, as well as beautiful shots of the Philadelphia suburbs, including Bryn Mawr and Rosemont colleges, where much of the filming took place.
Tickets October 16th
Tickets October 17th
Buck the Drug Dealer
A kind of Up the Down Staircase for the Age of Obama, no film electrified Sundance the way Philly producer-director Lee Daniel’s Precious did. And then did it again in Cannes. And Toronto. And New York! At Sundance, Precious won three key awardsâ€”the grand jury prize in the dramatic competition, the audience award and a special acting prize for Mo’Nique. In Toronto, it grabbed the audience award.
Daniels (Shadowboxer, The Woodsman, Monster’s Ball) returns home to close the fest with an exclamation point of a story that never gives up on its characters. Played unforgettably by Gabby Sidibe, Precious is a 300 pound, illiterate black girl lumbering through the mean streets of 1987 Harlem, fending off rape, battling her mother who’s emotionally and sexually combative, and outlasting a matrix of beleaguered teachers and bureaucrats. Based on the 1996 novel by Sapphire, a New York City writer and special-ed teacher, Precious is no dumpster-to-champion story but one that brilliantly captures the flicker of life in a girl all but declared DOA. Sidibe’s Precious lumbers through a constantly insulting world, shrugging it all off, allowing just enough life to seep through the slits of her eyes to signal her will to fight for herself. As Precious’ mother, Mo’Nique doesn’t’ just chew sceneryâ€”though when the time comes she wolfs it downâ€”but carries the strength of the book forward in getting to the psychology of women in rubble. In Daniels sure hands, Mariah Carey also finds her strength as an actress, playing it close to home as a savvy New York social worker.
In order to earn back their freedom and get off parole, two cowboy space-convicts must accept a dangerous mission to save an innocent young girl from a self-obsessed ruler in this one-of-a-kind science fiction musical comedy. In a bar on Mars, an unsuspectingly gentle outlaw that goes by the name of Stingray Sam has turned to a life of lounge singing as he hides out from the law during the decline of the interplanetary economy. Much to his surprise, he is greeted mid-barroom brawl by his old friend, The Quasar Kid, who has come in the hopes of reuniting with Stingray for one final mission that will wipe their records clean. Their task: To rescue a carpenter’s unsuspecting daughter from the clutches an evil bureaucrat named Fredward, a ruler from a curious planet where men procreate with each other to create children with compound names. Pretty soon, the duo is back on the road in an enthralling adventure, jam packed with hilariously self-aware comedy involving miniature robot suits, olive chugging and plenty of dancing. Director Corey McAbee (The American Astronaut) returns from his eight-year hiatus with a six-part episodic series. Flawlessly blending genres to create rare hybrid that induces nostalgia in any classic film lover, Stingray effectively maximizes its use of low budget filmmaking as McAbee mixes gorgeous black and white cinematography with color collage art to create a unique and fascinating world. Each mini episode comes complete with a song courtesy of McAbee’s own band, American Astronaut, a cliffhanger, and a sponsor advert, reminding us of the early days of film-going where the price of admission got you a little bit of everything.
Master filmmaker John Woo’s Red Cliff has been one of the most anticipated big canvas battle films in recent film history. Initially a nearly five hour filmâ€”at $80 million the most lavish Chinese language film ever madeâ€”this edition, specially edited by Woo, is two and a half hours of thundering hooves, massive armies, costuming that should show up on Fashion Avenue, noble warriors, and more color, light, love, war, envy, jealousy, power and terrible beauty than a body’s got a right to see in a lifetime. Thematically in Woo and other big canvas Chinese directors, it’s always the few overcoming the manyâ€”as dependable a hook in the Chinese mindset as boy meets girl in France. In Red Cliff, a noble alliance of Southern cantons forms to resist the forced unification sought by the tyrant in the North. Woo may have set his big picture in the third century, but it’s hard to miss the implications 18 centuries later. It is, however, only a movieâ€”a gorgeous one at that, in no small part due to cinematographers Lu Yue and Zhang Li, The Orphanage FX team and composer Taro Iwashiro. With a cast of warriors as far as the Yangtze and then some, all led by Hong Kong superstar Tony Leung, Taiwan-Japanese hunk Takeshi Kaneshiro, Mainland star Zhang Fengyi, Taiwanese super-model Lin Chi-ling, You Yong, and Mainland sprite Vicki Zhao, Woo has fashioned a thrilling epic that just may live up to its billing as â€œThe Decisive Battle of All Time.â€ At least until the next one.
Tickets October 16th
Tickets October 17th
Long Trailer with Subtitles
Nearly fifteen years after Larry Clark and Harmony Korine shocked the independent film world with Kids, newcomer Adam Salky directs from a script by Philadelphia-born screenwriter David Brind, who presents an equally dark, though very different and very comedic, portrait of teens in 2005. There is Alexa, the over achieving by-the-book student who yearns desperately to find her bad side. Right alongside of her is Ben, the sexually confused, angsty outsider who fights his own nature to fit in. Finally, Johnny, the popular kid who hides his deep-seated depression behind his good looks and bad-boy persona. When these three star-crossed paths intersect in between school play rehearsal and awkward sexual encounters, sparks fly in unexpected ways and their memories of high school may never be the same again. Echoing much of the dark humor of the great American cinematic risk takers like Todd Solondz or Greg Araki, first time narrative filmmaker Salky and screenwriter Brind present us with an accomplished and thoughtful story about the nature of modern adolescence. A Bryn Mawr based production, Dare is edgy, home grown filmmaking at its finest.
Tickets October 17th
Tickets October 19th
Law Abiding Citizen
It was hard to miss director F. Gary Gray in town the past year, all over Philly shooting our opening night film. No simple chopper shots swirling around William Penn atop City Hall and then off to a studio in Burbank, thank you very much, where the Oscar-bearing Jamie Foxx, Gerard Butler, Oscar-nominated Viola Davis (Doubt), and Colm Meany could chillax. Nope, Law Abiding Citizen is a legal thriller that was prima facie made in Philly–from street scenes, including popping by Del Friscos on Chestnut for steak, to dropping in on City Hall (see Mayor Mike Nutter in a cameo bit swearing in the new DA), where law and order is trying to get hold of a runaway train by the name of Clyde Shelton. As the film’s central character, a model upper middle class citizen, Gerard Butler passes way beyond controlled fury after his wife and daughter are raped and murdered in front of him by a pair of particularly medieval home invaders. Shelton’s rage goes on a long slow burn, only to emerge years later to dismantle Assistant District Attorney Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) and the criminal justice system for plea bargaining away the death penalty justice Shelton sought for his family’s killers in exchange for a sentence of parole after five years. You won’t forget Shelton’s rampageâ€”particularly in a few scenes not made for the High Tea set. Screenwriter Kurt Wimmer and director Gray, however, take the typical policier and give it a twist: the culprit operates openly, defiantly, and politically from the right–not to restore balance but to reveal and wreck the judicial imbalance that passes for courtroom business as usual. Made in Philadelphia and a world festival premiere.
Tickets October 15th
Tickets October 15th later showing
For a look at the full schedule of films playing and more go to the Philadelphia Film Festival Website.