There's nothing quite as satisfying as a great movie, be it the horror that thrills you, the drama that moves you, or the romantic comedy that pretty much shapes the way you dream of falling in love. And it's even more satisfying to occasionally get away from the big ol' blockbusters that populate the multiplexes.
When it comes to film festivals in South Florida, few have been around as long as the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival or, as it's charmingly abbreviated, FLIFF.
Founded in 1986 and now in its 30th year, FLIFF was a near-instant success with Florida filmgoers, growing into a three-week event spanning theaters from Miami to Boca Raton in its first few years. In its tenth year, FLIFF even took things to the sky, literally,a with a film festival that took place on Fort Lauderdale-bound Carnival flights.
"We're looking forward to a great 30th anniversary year, and we hope South Florida will experience these truly wonderful films."
By the time the naughties came along, FLIFF had become an immense festival, to the point that the 15th edition in 2000 ran October 16 to November 12 and claimed the distinction of being the world's longest film festival. And it only expanded the following year with Cinema Paradiso officially opening in Fort Lauderdale, the official home turf of the festival over the years.
Now, even Cinema Paradiso itself is no longer a one-theater locale, expanding to second location in Hollywood in 2013, offering a double helping of independent films and the potential for even more access. By no means are these the only two locations in the festival mix, however, with Sunrise Civic Center, the Amaturo Theater, and Miramar Cultural Center also being part of the fun.
Over the years, FLIFF has hosted some of Hollywood's most elite and august stars, directors, producers, and personalities, including Audrey Hepburn, Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, Michael Moore, Vincent Price, Roger Corman, Kevin Spacey, Tony Curtis, Christina Applegate, Tim Roth, John Waters, Matt Damon, Maria Bello, Ben Kingsley, Irene Cara, Jane Russell, James Caan, Anna Paquin, Tab Hunter, Bruce Dern, and dozens of others.
"Thirty is a significant milestone for FLIFF," says Gregory von Hausch, president and CEO of FLIFF. "As we reflect on our achievements, past films, and special guests, we also look forward to exciting new programs during the festival and throughout the coming year. Since I started on this journey in 1987, American indies have come a long way; they're better-written, -produced, and -realized, and they've gained tremendous popularity. Our selections of indies this year are certain to wow audiences."
With the 30th edition of the festival beginning November 6, cinephiles don't have long to wait. In fact, this year they need not even wait for opening night. A prefestival screening of a film shot in Miami will be held the night before the festival officially kicks off. Alejandro Itkin and Hunter Carson's Single in South Beach makes its U.S. premiere November 5 at FLIFF.
Discussion of indie films is a must, as there's plenty in the mix to get excited about, including plenty of female directors. There's Baby Baby Baby, starring Adrianne Palicki and Brian Klugman, who also directed the comedy film. There's Shanra J. Kehl's The Morning After, which consists of eight vignettes about waking up next to someone you spent the night with. There's The Adderall Diaries, based on Stephen Elliott's bestselling memoir, which features a stacked cast: James Franco, Ed Harris, Amber Heard, Christian Slater, and Cynthia Nixon. And there's Negin Farsad and Jeremy Redleaf's 3rd Street Blackout, a comedy that focuses on an internet-savvy couple who must face the absence of technology after Hurricane Sandy leaves them, along with the greater part of New York City, without power.
And of course, with any film festival comes the promise of cool special guests, and one of the films in the American indie category has a huge name: Christopher Lloyd. Pretty much anyone who grew up in the '80s will know that name solely due to his role in Back to the Future, but the actor is attending with his latest film, Arnold Grossman's The Boat Builder, and being honored with a 2015 FLIFF Lifetime Achievement Award.
One of the most anticipated films this year is Born to Be Blue, starring Ethan Hawke as jazz legend Chet Baker. Costarring Selma's Carmen Ejogo, the film is essentially a reimagining of Baker's struggle to overcome drug addiction and stage a comeback in the 1960s, with writer/director Robert Budreau blending fact and fiction as he pleases (hopefully to great effect for a biopic).
It's not all about the modern stuff at FLIFF, though, and anyone who witnessed any of the retrospectives they've had over the years would know that. Take, for instance, the seven-day, 20-film Audrey Hepburn retrospective that the festival pushed in 2011 or even the four-day millennium celebration in 2000, when Cinema Paradiso presented films from the '60s, '70s, '80s, and '90s on their respective day. This year, among other events, the festival is having a retro screening of George Lucas' American Graffiti at Cinema Paradiso Lauderdale, with career-achievement honoree Candy Clark — who stars in the film — in attendance.
But this is an international film festival — it's even in the name — and the foreign-film category is a favorite of von Hausch's.
"We're bringing back a version of Around the World in 80 Nights, a program that we presented a few years ago that pairs films from different countries with native cuisine, art, and music. We're looking forward to a great 30th anniversary year, and we hope South Florida will experience these truly wonderful films."
All of this, of course, is only a taste of what the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival has to offer, as there are dozens upon dozens of other films and events going on during the weeks FLIFF takes place. Documentaries, dramas, comedies, crime, action, adventure — the list goes on and on. With just a month left, only one thing is certain: It's time to get excited about heading to the movies.
The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival
November 6 to 22 at various theaters, including Cinema Paradiso Hollywood (2008 Hollywood Blvd.; 954-342-9137) and Cinema Paradiso Fort Lauderdale (503 SE Sixth St.; 954-525-3456). Visit fliff.com.