Celebrities – shlebrities ….who needs ‘em? That's according to Randi Emerman, the Director of the Palm Beach International Film Festival.
No red carpet and no big names – this year the focus is purely on the film and the filmmakers who fly in from around the world to showcase their films in Palm Beach County.
“We are excited about this year’s festival,” comments Emerman, speaking about the 17th annual PBIFF. “It’s all about the film.”
The festival begins April 12th and runs through April 19th and includes 24 world premieres, 14 U.S. premieres and 2 North American premieres. Films include features, documentaries and shorts showcasing life in various countries including Israel, Romania, Thailand, Tanzania, Italy and France.
“The festival reflects our ongoing mission to engage with the community,” Emerman explains, ”expanding and enhancing its knowledge of the world through the unique lens of independent film. We encourage people to take this opportunity to enjoy these diversely international stories."
The opening night film, Robot & Frank,stars Frank Langella, and is an off-beat buddy film direct from Sundance, and directed by Jake Schreier. In addition to Langella, the cast includes James Marsden, Liv Tyler and Susan Sarandon.
The festival continues with John Murlowski’s Zombie Hamlet, a comedy starring June Lockhart (Lassie; Lost in Space) as Hester Beauchamps, a Southern plantation owner, with John Amos (Good Times) and Shelley Long (Cheers). Lockhart will be in attendance to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at a Silver Screen Splash Brunch in her honor on April 15thin West Palm Beach. “We are thrilled to be able to honor the lovely June Lockhart at this year’s festival,” says Emerman. “Throughout her career, not only has her popularity held strong, but also her enthusiasm and dedication for her craft.”
Also attending the festival are two mother/son collaborators: Judy Blume, author of the young adult novel Tiger Eyes has adapted her best-selling book into a film directed by her son, Lawrence Blume. Both will be in attendance at the screening on April 16th at the Muvico Theatres at CityPlace in West Palm Beach.
Yael Katzir, director of the short documentary, Violins in Wartime, produced by her son Dan Katzir, recounts the story of a master violin class scheduled during the second Lebanon war that perseveres despite the conflict and worries surrounding it. Ida Haendel, Miami resident and world renowned violinist who is featured in the film alongside maestro Shlomo Mintz will attend the screening on April 15th, at the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center in Boca Raton.
Returning to the festival is former student and current filmmaker, John Logan Pierson. While a high school student at St. Andrews School in Boca Raton, his film Nomads on the Edge won the $5,000 Burt Reynolds prize at the 2006 PBIFF. Logan has since gone on to earn his degree in film and business at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in New York City and his short film A Marine’s Guide to Fishing will screen at this year’s festival.
“I’m excited to return to the festival,” says Pierson, “especially with a film that I’m very proud of.”
The film tells the story of returning veteran who has lost a limb in Iraq and his first day back at work on the dockyards of Maine and the struggles he faces. Pierson and Nicholas Brennan, the writer and director of the film, put out a search to find a real-life veteran to play the part and found Matthew Pennington, a 23-year old vet who lost a leg to an IED explosion in Iraq.
Says Pierson, “After returning home disabled, Pennington was depressed and when a friend sent him the casting notice, he decided to try out and got the role. This decision turned his life around.”
“He now uses this film as an educational tool and travels to hospitals and universities and tours the country sharing his experiences helping others in his situation.”
The closing night film, Sassy Pants, called an ‘edgy comedy’ by the Hollywood Reporter, premiered in January at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. This coming of age debut film by director Coley Sohn, based on her award winning short Boutonniere, stars Anna Gunn, Ashley Rickards, Diedrich Bader and Haley Joel Osment, making his film comeback as a gay bartender after his 1999 film, The Sixth Sense.
Sassy Pants tells the story of Bethany Pruitt (Ashley Rickards), valedictorian of her home-schooled class, her difficult mother and her escape into teen fashion, courtesy of her absentee gay father. Enrolling in the Fashion Art Technology Institute, she breaks free and ‘fashions’ her own future. The trials and tribulations of how she gets there redefine her and her family and redefine her wardrobe in the process.
Other highlights of the week-long festival include: Opening night party on ‘the most amazing rooftop in CityPlace,’ according to Emerman, the closing night party at the 51 Supper Club in West Palm Beach, a Weekend of Shorts at the Lake Worth Playhouse and the Voices of Local Films at the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center and a reception and evening of music videos at DeBilzan Gallery in Delray Beach.
Tickets are: $10 general admission and $7 for seniors and students available in advance at www.pbifilmfest.org or at the respective theaters’ box office during the festival.
Lifetime Achievement Award - Sunday, April 15th to June Lockhart at the Silver Screen Splash, at The Lake Pavilion on the waterfront.
Screenings will be held at Muvico Parisian 20 at CityPlace in West Palm Beach, Cobb Theatres in Downtown At The Gardens, Lake Worth Playhouse Stonzek Theatre in Lake Worth, Debilzan Gallery in Delray Beach and Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center in Boca Raton.
Platinum passes are available for $500, which include priority admission to all films, VIP parties and the Silver Screen Splash brunch; Premiere passes are available for $200, which provide admission to the opening and closing night film and party, as well as all regular festival screenings; Gold passes are available for $150, which provide admission to all films and seminars. For more information, call (561) 362-0003.
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