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April 15, 2004 2:00 AM
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"Connie and Carla" Sashay to Palm Beach Film Festival Opener

"Connie and Carla" Sashay to Palm Beach Film Festival Opener

by Brian Brooks









Nia Vardalos (right) and Toni Collette in a scene from Michael Lembeck's "Connie and Carla," which will open the Palm Beach International Film Festival Thursday night. Image courtesy of the Palm Beach International Film Festival.

The Palm Beach International Film Festival launches its ninth annual event tonight, including 15 world premieres, four U.S. premieres as well as 19 Florida debuts. Opening the festival is Universal Pictures' comedy "Connie and Carla" directed by Michael Lembeck and starring Nia Vardalos ("My Big Fat Greek Wedding") and Toni Collette ("Japanese Story"). The film follows two struggling dinner theater performers who accidentally witness a mafia hit. In order to disguise themselves, they assume the roles of drag queens, inadvertently becoming the stars of the cabaret circuit. Vardalos and Lembeck will attend the opening.

Brian A. Green's love drama "Fish without a Bicycle" is among the films having its world premiere at PBIFF. Australian feature "Girls from Ipanema" by Wendy Dent will also have its world debut. The film unfolds in the mix of shanties, samba, sex, surf and sun at Rio de Janeiro's most famous beach. Spanish director Antonio Farre's "Caballe mas Alla de la Musica" (Caballe: Beyond the Music) about the life and work of singer Caballe will have its U.S. premiere, along with Nariman Turebayew's "Little Men" (Kazakhstan), the story of two down-and-out con men who seek to fulfill their dreams by leaving behind their unassuming circumstances.

In addition to the festival's extensive roster of screenings, PBIFF will also host student films, outdoor music and film ("Grease") as well as gala tributes. Academy Award-nominated actor Michael Clarke Duncan ("The Green Mile") will receive the festival's career achievement award. Fellow Oscar-nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo ("House of Sand & Fog") will be the recipient of the Horizon award, while actor/director/writer Ben Gazzara ("Dogville") will be presented with the festival's Legend award. The late Rod Steiger will also be feted at the awards gala taking place April 17.

Toni Kalem's directorial debut "A Slipping Down Life" starring Lili Taylor, Guy Pearce and Sara Rue will close the festival April 22. The film centers on Evie (Taylor), whose banal existence in a dead-end job and living with her father is uprooted after becoming mesmerized by a handsome and brooding musician. Rue is expected to attend the event.

[ For more information, please visit: www.pbifilmfest.org. ]

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