FLIFF Hosts Lavish Gatsby Affair but Maintains Indie Integrity

The first film at the 2013 Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLIFF), Free Ride, debuted to a packed audience. The crowd included the likes of producer Stephen Moyer (AKA Bill Compton of True Blood -- yes, the Vampire Bill), director Shana Betz -- who wrote and directed the film based on her mother -- and many sponsors and other participating directors.

After the film premiered, guests headed to a Great Gatsby-themed soiree that looked straight out of Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of the classic novel. It was the cat's pajamas, if you will. The house itself was a work of art. Located on the Intracoastal Waterway, it held three bars, eight bedrooms, two pools, a man-made beach, and a 100-foot VIP yacht. Balloons clouded the pool while professional dancers decorated in flapper attire fox-trotted under a clear night sky. The courtyard was sprinkled in twinkle lights, and the guests were bedazzled in beaded dresses and gowns, zoot suits, and fedoras.

One of the sponsors, Cyndi Boyar, was dressed to the nines with her equally gorgeous friend, Hunter Powell, who flew down from New Jersey for the festival. "I'm a celebrity makeup artist, and I decided I wanted to be a part of FLIFF," says Boyar.

She's sponsoring two films, both of which she can proudly name the exact page they're found on in the official FLIFF magazine. Taking Charge: The Pauly Cohen Story and The Trouble With the Truth, starring Lea Thompson. Thompson was also wandering the party in a tight green dress looking so young that it made us wonder if she has actually traveled Back to the Future.

Though the party was filled with people in the arts, two directors stood out in the crowd, each for different reasons. Paul Osborne, director of Favor, could have been the only entertainment at the party and it still would have been a great night. He was charismatic and charming and made the idea of seeing his film seem downright delightful.

Isaak James, looking himself like Gatsby in a tight black suit and an almost shy smile, directed the drama By Way of Home, which features his father, Alain Hasson. He's made a habit of directing a film and bringing it to FLIFF every two years. "Although this festival is growing, it's still smaller than some of the others, a fact I really appreciate. The larger festivals have gotten too big, to the point where they are inaccessible to truly independent movies. FLIFF isn't like that."

Marlyn Hodgens, a manager at Muvico Pompano, was among the guests. "Muvico is one of the sponsors and shows four movies a day from FLIFF," she said, remarking how the festival has grown. FLIFF has has been ongoing for 28 years, and the festival's year-round arthouse, Cinema Paraidiso-Lauderdale, has become a South Florida staple for cinephiles. It's so popular, they even opened a second one in Hollywood.

One handsome couple at the party, Arthur and Helen Smith, explained their involvement with FLIFF. "We're part of a women's organization called Entre Nous, and we do fundraising for the festival," says Helen, whose red fringed outfit popped brilliantly in the crowd of mostly black and white garments.

The owner of the home, Steve Savor, built the 18,000-square-foot mansion solely for philanthropic purposes. He's a muscular, blond-haired man who spent most of the party ensuring that everyone's needs were met. His hair got increasingly messier as the night went on, a sure sign of a good host. Entre Nous was directly responsible for his participation in FLIFF.

"I moved here 12 years ago," Savor explains, "and happened to go a polo match that Entre Nous had set up to raise money for the festival. There were about 20 people there, and when I met the Entre Nous ladies, they were incredibly welcoming. At the end of the night, I told them that they had made a friend for life, though they didn't quite know what that meant at the time," he says with a sly grin. He means that they probably didn't expect Savor, a successful and now-retired lawyer, to host such lavish affairs for their organization. He also grew the fundraising polo match from 20 people to 400.

The evening ended with bang when Savor received a plastic Oscar for being one of the film festival's most inventive sponsors. He celebrated by presenting Alto Reed, the incredible saxophonist from the Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band and letting him serenade the audience with jazz while a beautiful model waved two giant white feather fans and danced in a glittery, person-sized champagne glass. A dazzling end to a spectacle-filled night.

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