Celluloid Heroes

Sure, a film festival offers cutting-edge movies, but only for a week or two, and then the filmmakers -- with their films in tow -- pull out of town. Not so with two South Florida festivals opening this week. In each case organizers hope to leave a lasting impression.

When Franz Lynch and his wife, Keven, started the South Florida Black Film Festival ten years ago, they were tired of seeing the same black stereotypes in contemporary movies. "They did some research and found that there were films out there that dated back to the early 1900s that presented a more positive image of blacks," says Roslyn Williams, the festival's executive director.

So the Fort Lauderdale couple (who now live in Atlanta) showed vintage films alongside those by forward-thinking contemporary artists like Spike Lee and Danny Glover. This year's guest of honor is director Charles Burnett (To Sleep With Anger, The Glass Shield), who will screen his first film, Killer of Sheep. While the festival's national reputation continues to grow, local impact is still the number one priority. Previous festival entries, such as Follow Me Home and Watermelon Woman, have been shown in Miami even after the festival. "We're trying to get more local theaters to bring back some of these independent features, to give the audience an alternative," says Williams.

The local community was also the inspiration behind the Palm Beach International Film Festival, created three years ago. Festival profits go to film-education programs at Palm Beach Community College, the Alexander W. Dreyfoos, Jr. School of the Arts, and Palm Beach Gardens High School, says Mark Diamond, the festival's artistic director.

In fact the festival's board is so serious about its mission, it will cut costs this year by eliminating the closing-night gala and focus instead on the opening-night festivities on April 17. During a private reception and dinner at 8 p.m., achievement awards will be presented to Burt Reynolds and Sylvester Stallone at the Boca Raton Resort and Club (501 E. Camino Real, Boca Raton). "Private" is a bit misleading, because anyone who donates $1000 gains entry for two. Sure, it's steep for a glance at the stars, but your money goes to a good cause.

-- John Ferri

The Tenth Annual South Florida Black Film Festival runs April 19 through April 25. For more information call 954-698-5680. The West Palm Beach International Film Festival opens April 17 and continues through April 26. For more information call 561-233-1044. For prices, locations, and times, see "Film Listings.

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