Best Film Festival (2002)

Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival

Yeah, yeah, we know you've heard it all before: As we've declared for the past two years, the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival is tops. And as the festival approaches its 17th season, that's truer than ever. Organizers like to cite numbers -- how it has grown from 7 days to 28, from 20 or so films to more than a hundred, from 20 screenings to 300, from 1500 in attendance to nearly 70,000. Despite those impressive stats, however, what really distinguishes the festival is its continuing commitment to movies you're highly unlikely to see at any of the megaplex chains. Where else, for instance, could you have seen last year's Soul Bowl, a funky little documentary about a longtime rivalry between two Broward County high school football teams? Or such defiantly noncommercial movies as The Zookeeper, which casts Sam Neill in the title role of a drama set in a war-torn Eastern European country, and The Old Man Who Read Love Stories, which plops Richard Dreyfuss into the Amazon rain forest as an aging Hispanic explorer? Or, for that matter, the extraordinary Australian flick Lantana -- with a startling ensemble cast featuring Anthony LaPaglia, Barbara Hershey, and Geoffrey Rush -- that went on to receive rave reviews nationally but never caught on with audiences or the academy? That's what an international film festival should give us. Let's just hope ours doesn't settle into complacency.


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