Film Reviews

A Less Fluffy FLIFF

The annual film fest has trimmed the carbs but saved the meat.

In its 21 years, the crusty Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival evolved from an intimate little affair for South Florida cinephiles to the World's Longest Film Festival, recognized as such by the Guinness Book of World Records. This year, however, director Gregory Von Hausch has vowed to put FLIFF on a kind of Atkins Diet. No cutting back on the meat — the usual number of films will hit the big screens — but packed into a more compact body. Voilà, a FLIFF that will actually last less than a month.

Still, the slimmed-down festival jams more than 200 films into just 29 days, with entries flying in from 40 countries. They include nine world premieres, two North America premieres, 72 Florida premieres, a horde of South American films, a gritty little package of surf flicks (prepare to pick the sand out of your teeth), and a plethora of documentaries and comedies, all to be shown between October 16 and November 14. (FLIFF was originally scheduled for October 20 to November 12, but, as we all know, diets don't work.)

"If the films weren't that good, it would have been easier," Von Hausch says, referring to his (chronic) inability to reject late submissions.

Although there are many goodies of note, the pièce de résistance may be Pedro Almodóvar's Volver, a comedy starring Penelope Cruz and Carmen Maura and recently awarded Best Film of the Year by the International Federation of Film Critics. It's the feature at the festival opener this Friday at the Parker Playhouse. From there, the action shifts to Cinema Paradiso, with additional venues that include the Museum of Art, the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center, and Las Olas Riverfront.

All venues will be graced with international and local stars, directors, writers, film aficionados, and, at the screening of Sharkwater — a much-lauded documentary on, you guessed it, sharks — a 17-foot great white who wants to be photographed with you. Other documentaries of note include Tell Me Cuba, an exploration of the 45-year embargo on those crazy communists, and The Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing, a close look at the in-your-face country singers and their problem with George Bush.

Documentaries too heavy? Check out Curb Your Enthusiasm star Jeff Garlin's romantic comedy I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With, about, as the promotional material puts it, "a man, the food he loves, and the woman who tortures him." Or perhaps local filmmaker Tas Salini's wry Gringo Wedding, based on his observations of young men using international dating services and translators who don't value accuracy.

Salini, a film professor at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale who assigns the FLIFF as homework every year, named the main reason he and his cast will attend. "It's around the corner," he says.

The somewhat compacted festival has eased the stress on staff and on the marketing budget, Von Hausch says, making his life easier: "There are fewer voodoo dolls with my likeness hanging around the office."

New Times reviewers will keep track of the FLIFF highlights, week by week.

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Ashley Harrell
Contact: Ashley Harrell