Friday, January 27, 2006

On Film Festivals

With Sundance in full swing, I have film festivals on the brain. OK, the buzz from Sundance is weak, at least in the sources I'm reading, but nevertheless I'm getting stirred up for the three festivals I'll be attending before the next three and a half months are up.

This week I submitted my press pass requests to the Cleveland International Film Festival and Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival, both of which were approved. Who says that it doesn't pay to slog away at this stuff for years without drawing a check for it?

As I understand it, Cleveland's film selections won't be announced until some time in February. If you live near Cleveland--and yes, that means Columbus readers who are only a two-hour drive away--this festival is worth visiting. Last year I attended for the first time and found it to be well-organized and easy to navigate. (You can read my write-up at The Film Journal.) All of the films are shown in Tower City Cinemas, a prime downtown location that affords festival attendees the pick of several places to eat within the shopping center. I did five films in a day with no trouble, meaning there was ample time to eat and catch a little of the NCAA basketball tournament on TV. This year morning screenings have been added during weekdays, and midnight screenings will be scheduled too.

I've attended Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival, or Ebertfest for short, since 2001 and blogged about it the last two years. (Here are summaries and photos from last year's opening night, day 2, day 3, day 4, and day 5.) I waited around too late to buy a festival pass last year and had to take the press pass route. Little did I know it at the time, but that's what I had to do this year. Jarod Musgrave, who I've met at previous festivals, raises the point that festival passes aren't hard to buy, but don't bide your time because they're gone before you know it. According to Ticketweb, Ebertfest passes are sold out.

It's very impressive that the festival now sells out of the limited number of passes three months before the event, let alone before any of the films have been announced. (Tickets to individual films--a third(?) of the Virginia Theatre's seats--are held for sale closer to the festival.) Obviously they're doing something right in Champaign-Urbana. Many of those who attend are repeat customers, so they're having a good time and placing faith in the programming decisions. (While those of us programming the Deep Focus Film Fest don't have the name recognition of Ebert, I hope that our curated festival can develop the same kind of trust from audiences. Plus, you'll know upfront what you're paying to see.)

In Jarod's Ebertfest post, he takes a stab at what films might be selected this year. VERTIGO in 70mm seems like a strong possibility based on last year's rumor. DUMA, a very good film that will(?) look great on the Virginia's big screen, is a likely frontrunner for the free children's matinee. (Despite the efforts of Ebert and a few other critics, attempts to draw attention to it failed to ignite ticket sales. Still, the studio didn't give DUMA much of a chance with how it handled the release.) The Alloy Orchestra will be back, although the film they'll accompany is unknown. During the best films of 2005 Ebert & Roeper show, it was strongly hinted that JUNEBUG would be at the festival. How about Sundance entry SOMEBODIES? Last year Ebert picked two "pre-overlooked" Sundance films, and this one has the built-in advantage of having Ebertfest festival director Nate Kohn as one of its producers.

So upcoming months will bring my festival blogging from Cleveland and Champaign-Urbana. The same will hold true during the Deep Focus Film Fest, except for the writing from the road part.

While I'm thinking about it Deep Focus director Melissa Starker is trying out the blogging thing while she's at Sundance. You can read her daily updates at the Columbus Alive site. (Right now her newest post appears on the site's front page. If you're reading this a week from now, you'll probably have to do a little digging.)


  1. Ebert also mentioned a few possibilities in his best-of-'05 piece. So don't count out the following for Ebertfest selection: Off the Map, The Weather Man, The Woodsman, and especially Keane, which has the added virtue of being excellent.

    I might be attending the Cleveland Fest for a few days, so if you want to have lunch sometime while we're up there, let me know.

  2. For purely jealous reasons I'm hoping those titles don't make Ebertfest. I've seen them all. Looking back at his 2004 list, only one Top Ten selection (Badasssss!) and one honorable mention (The Saddest Music in the World) made last year's festival lineup.

    Looking at his best of 2005, I wouldn't be surprised if Nine Lives or Yes turned up, although Duane Hopwood, which must have had the most meager of releases, seems like a prime candidate.

    Let me know about the Cleveland Film Festival as it gets closer. Obviously I have no idea when I'm coming since the schedule isn't up yet.