By Amy Nicholson
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The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival — or FLIFF, as it is endearingly known — returns for its 28th incarnation on October 18 and runs through November 11. FLIFF is already recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest film fest in the world, and this year, with about 175 films — many of them U.S. or world premieres — and a second home base, in Hollywood, it promises to be bigger and better than ever.
"We're very excited, of course, about the Hollywood location, which will be going opening under fire the second day of the festival with five films and then will be open every day of the festival with at least five films a day," says Gregory von Hausch, president and CEO of FLIFF. "We've got a team of people over there that are literally working almost around the clock just to get it ready in time. Apart from that, we have pretty close to like 200 films; the festival is bigger in number of films and screenings than ever."
The new location, Cinema Paradiso-Hollywood, is located in the middle of downtown Hollywood, on Hollywood Boulevard. Though it doesn't have the unique charm of the repurposed old church of the original location in Fort Lauderdale, the new theater is within walking distance of restaurants and bars and offers plenty of surrounding parking.
Why such a long festival? South Florida — Broward in particular — is a massive sprawl of human activity, so FLIFF mimics its surroundings.
"One time, a Sun Sentinel critic wrote a story that said ,'FLIFF saying they're the longest festival in the world is like a band saying they're the loudest band in the world,' " von Hausch says. "But the point of us being so long is to give more people more opportunities... Since we're so spread out in South Florida, we made it as easy as possible with all of our outreach and by affording people an extended amount of time to participate — that was the original reason behind it. Of course, there's a selfish reason too: It gives us more time to sell tickets, but really, it's a combination of those two elements that drove us to do it... We don't want to be a cookie-cutter festival. We certainly aren't."
Another byproduct of the extended period is more celebrities. With a bigger window, busy actors and directors are better able to work a FLIFF appearance into their schedule.
"We're really excited about the celebs coming in: Lea Thompson, Tab Hunter, Ed Asner, Ann-Margret — that's gonna add a certain panache to the whole fest," von Hausch says. "The advent of the new gala we're gonna have on the 29th, and having Michael Bolton perform at it, is kinda groovy."
Hunter, Asner, and Ann-Margret will each receive Lifetime Achievement Awards during special events. If you grew up in the '80s, there's something extraspecial for you this year. Thompson, who will be on hand for her new film, The Trouble With the Truth, will also host a free, outdoor screening of Back to the Future at the original Cinema Paradiso location in Fort Lauderdale at 7:15 p.m. Saturday.
Even with such a long festival, Anna Paquin, who was supposed to be on hand for her film, had to back out at the last minute. But True Blood fans, don't weep bloody tears yet; Bill will still be there.
"Stephen Moyer is still coming, so the girls might be happy about that," von Hausch says. "That film [Free Ride] is one my favorites for the festival. It's a true story that took place in Fort Lauderdale in the '70s. We have a huge party afterwards; it will be a great way to launch the festival."
Films will be screened at several theaters and locations, with the bulk showing at the two Cinema Paradisos. There will also be two black-tie galas. The Opening Night Entre Nous Black-Tie Extravaganza, themed after The Great Gatsby, will be hosted at the home of philanthropist Steve Savor, but the closing event, the Inaugural FLIFF Chairman's Awards Gala, will take place at the Westin Diplomat Resort (3555 S. Ocean Drive in Hollywood) with a live performance by the aforementioned "groovy" Michael Bolton.
View the full lineup of FLIFF films and events as well as purchase tickets by visiting FLIFF.com or calling 954-525-3456. There is even a free FLIFF app available for download from iTunes or Google Play.
Where to start? Here's a rundown of the five must-see films of the first week of FLIFF 2013:
By Way of Home
4 p.m. Saturday at Muvico Pompano, 2315 N. Federal Highway, Pompano Beach.
1:15 p.m. Sunday and 5:30 p.m. Monday at Cinema Paradiso-Fort Lauderdale, 503 SE Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale.
5 p.m. Sunday at Sunrise Civic Center Theater, 10610 W. Oakland Park Blvd., Sunrise.
After being laid off from her teaching job in Boston, Brooke moves back home to live with her parents. In the shadow of the dying Occupy Movement, she is but one of the many overeducated and underemployed forced to make such a retreat. Disillusioned and weighed down by the daily monotony of working in her family's restaurant, she struggles to find a way back to her independent, adult life. When her estranged childhood friend Morgan pays an unexpected visit, old wounds are reopened, and Brooke is forced to confront all the thwarted expectations she once had for herself. Set in a winter on Cape Cod that's both bleak and beautiful, By Way of Home is an intimate portrait of a generation interrupted, a story about family, friendship, love, and the ever-more-elusive American dream.
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