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November 25, 1997 2:00 AM
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The 1997 Ft. Lauderdale Film Festival

The 1997 Ft. Lauderdale Film Festival

by Mark Rabinowitz




The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLIFF) continued its
run as one of the premiere regonal film festivals, with this year's 12th
annual fest boasting a mostly solid slate of U.S. and international
films -- small ("Up On The Roof") and large ("Critical Care").

As a regional fest, the FLIFF isn't trying to shed its South Florida
roots, and this year was programmed almost exclusively U.S. and regional
premieres, wisely leaving the world premieres to such fall fests as Toronto,
New York or The Hamptons. Ft. Lauderdale audiences were given their
first chances at seeing films such as Alain Berliner's "Ma Vie En Rose",
Iain Softly's "The Wings Of The Dove", Bill Bennet's "Kiss Or Kill" and
Bruno Barreto's "Four Days In September". Some of the quality films
audiences were treated to included the aforementioned "Kiss Or Kill"
from Australia, featuring bravura performances from stars
Matt Day and Frances O'Connor; Will Geiger's LA Independent Film
Festival award winner,"Ocean Tribe" ; Atom Egoyan's "The Sweet Hereafter";
Mark Schiffer's "Strong Island Boys", and the world prewmiere of Simon
Moore's "Up On The Roof", which drew a standing ovation reaction at its US
premiere in Ft. Lauderdale, prompting fest organizers to add another
screening.


The FLIFF appears committed to its constituency -- the South Florida
viewing public -- with mini-fests in Hollywood, Boca Raton, Coral Gables
and Miami, and excellent attendance at both the screenings and the
parties. However, with almost 100 feature films, tributes (Ben Gazzara,
Federico Fellini, Jimmy Stewart), a children's mini-fest and a series of
Lifetime Achievement and other awards (director Arthur Hiller, composer
Leonard Rosenman, Fairuza Balk), the fest is huge, ambitious and like
most festivals this size, occasionally strains under its weight. Clearly
with a regional festival this large, there are bound to be a sizable number of
misses, and as such audiences and filmmakers might be better served with
a slate of fewer films and more showings of each -- a lesson that should be
heeded by more fests than this one, that's for sure. While the festival
employees and volunteers tried their best to be helpful, the festival was
so spread out (one party was over 10 miles from the theaters) that staffers
occasionally didn't know when or where events were taking place, and there
were times when no drivers were to be found to bring invited guests to events
or their hotels. Late night screenings were especially beset by this problem.


The screening facilities were above average (films screened in an AMC
multiplex for the non-opening night films), and started mostly on time.
The parties were mainly chances for the well-heeled locals to show their
support for the festival and rub shoulders with the likes of Nick Nolte
and Ben Gazzara. Well, festivals need well-heeled patrons (and celebs)
to stay alive and in the business of bringing small films to a
population that otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to see them. Was
the festival a perfect experience? No. Can it be improved? Yes. However,
overall, the FLIFF served its audience well and has settled in as a high
point of the regional film festival circuit in the U.S.

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