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Best Film Festival Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach 2001 - Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival

Last year we honored the FLIFF in this category almost begrudgingly, in part because it was "pretty much the only game in town." Well, after a decade and a half it's still the biggest game in town and at 28 days has expanded to claim the dubious honor of being the longest film fest in the world. (Palm Beach, of course, has its own affair, but it just doesn't stack up.) Fortunately the FLIFF has clung to the things that have long set it apart, including its predilection for films with little or no commercial potential, its support for gay and lesbian cinema, and its occasional sixth sense when it comes to anticipating Academy Award contenders. The most recent festival gave us samples of each: the shamefully overlooked Maze, a fascinating study of an unlikely romance between a Tourette's-afflicted painter (Northern Exposure actor Rob Morrow, who also directed the flick) and a friend (Laura Linney, whose excellent work was overshadowed by her Oscar-nominated performance in You Can Count on Me); the knockout, Cassavetes-style gay drama Straight Man and the uneven but worthwhile lesbian-themed coming-of-age tale Swimming; and the Oscar-nominated Shadow of the Vampire, as well as the surprisingly overlooked State and Main from director David Mamet. The festival also reaffirmed its commitment to independent filmmaking with a tribute to John Waters, including a screening of his underrated Cry-Baby, a showing of a documentary about him titled In Bad Taste, and an appearance by the rogue moviemaker.

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