ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Ten days, three screens, 167 movies — one place where the stars will align and open a window to the world.
Central Florida is preparing to host the 31st annual Florida Film Festival, an Academy Award-accredited competition which announced its bigger-than-ever lineup last month.
The 10-day festival, spanning across Maitland and Winter Park from April 8-17, will screen feature short movies from 37 countries, host four filmmaking forums and hold special events almost every night during the film-packed frenzy.
“The biggest thing that I think about this year is that this is back to kind of a pre-pandemic festival ... And all of that is just very different than what we’ve gone through for the last two years and we’re very excited about that,” said Tim Anderson, Enzian Theater’s programming coordinator. “So it’s a return to form. But I mean, the content is always brand new.”
Among the slew of films that will be shown after the festival opener “Pre Fab!” — an as-of-now unfinished documentary peering into the world of The Beatles before they were The Beatles — are 145 that attained premiere status and 24 that are world premieres.
Anderson, alongside Matthew Curtis, Florida Film Festival’s programming director, is no stranger to the high energy, adrenaline-inducing world that promises to hone the careers of hundreds of up-and-coming filmmakers. Curtis has been with the festival since it started 31 years ago, and Anderson, not far behind, was inducted as one of the festival’s leaders back in 2016.
In 2021, fueled by Tums and a pure passion for cinema, the pair, along with the rest of the festival’s selection committee, whittled down the 2,520 submissions they received from mid-August to mid-December to the 167 that will be screened in April.
“We’re interested in filmmakers that are pushing the envelope forward,” Anderson said. “I think there’s a lot of festivals out there that play films that are safe. There’s nothing wrong with festivals that do that, but I think that our audience, who are very sort of attuned to what we’ve been doing for as long as we have, very sophisticated audience that comes to Enzian, is willing to go on that journey with us. But I think we’ve earned that trust over 31 years.”
Anderson says they want to put the best of the best on screen, but he also knows greatness takes work and he trusts the process and risks it takes to get there.
“The idea of programming is less about tastemaking and less about, like, just putting the stuff on the screen that I just think is super cool, as it is about championing these filmmakers (in) the very, very beginning of their careers and then being all excited about where they go,” Anderson said. “You tie yourself to their career in a way that’s really interesting, and that you feel like you were some tiny, little miniscule piece of that and it’s immensely gratifying.”
It’s something he’s seen when the filmmakers he shows go on to win Oscar awards and nominations, like Jay Rosenblatt, whose short film “When We Were Bullies” — featured at last year’s festival — is up for an Academy Award this year.
The films that made the festival
There’s a little bit of everything at this year’s festival, including documentaries about the Pulse massacre (”Surviving Pulse”) and saving the endangered Florida Panther (”Path of the Panther”), five Sundance award-winners (”892,” “The Territory,” “Warsha,” “The Headhunter’s Daughter” and “Stranger Than Rotterdam with Sara Driver”), films with the pandemic in the forefront and those featuring a quieter commentary on the world as we know it (”Fire”).
“A lot of these people made their films during their lockdowns, during their, like, recoveries. And so there’re movies all across that in the shorts programs, in the narrative features programs, that are reflective of the issues that happened during pandemic or are taking place during it and so you see people in masks,” Anderson said.
Additionally, Curtis said the lineup includes 84 women and eight non-binary filmmakers telling stories across the globe, everywhere from Uganda to French Guinea to Malta.
What to see
The choices this year are overwhelming but Anderson, who loved seeing the documentaries when he was a patron of the festival in years past, has a recommendation to help newcomers navigate the network of films:
“I always tell people if you don’t know what to see in this film festival, come to the competition shorts program. One, because you get seven or eight movies in every little bracket, and you know, you’re bound to love something that’s in there. And if there’s something you don’t like, it’ll be over in a couple minutes and you’ll be on to the next movie,” Anderson said. “But also, you’re getting to see so many filmmakers that are just starting out and their voices are so unique and they’re so diverse and a lot of that is just due to the nature of you can take a lot of risks.”
Here are the spotlight films featured this year:
“892″ – Directed by Abi Damaris Corbin, USA, 2022, 103 MIN, Florida Premiere
“Ali & Ava” – Directed by Clio Barnard, UK, 2021, 95 MIN, East Coast Premiere
“Calendar Girls” – Directed by Love Martinsen and Maria Loohufvud, Sweden, 2022, 84 MIN
“Dual” – Directed by Riley Stearns, USA/Finland, 2022, 95 MIN, Rated R, East Coast Premiere
“The Duke” – Directed by Roger Michell, UK, 2020, 96 MIN, Rated R
“Juniper” – Directed by Matthew J. Saville, New Zealand, 2021, 94 MIN, East Coast Premiere
“The Justice of Bunny King” – Directed by Gaysorn Thavatt, New Zealand, 2021, 101 MIN,
“Marvelous and the Black Hole” – Directed by Kate Tsang, USA, 2021, 81 MIN
“Path of the Panther” – Directed by Eric Bendick, USA, 2022, 90 MIN, World Premiere
“The Phantom of the Open” – Directed by Craig Roberts, UK, 2021, 102 MIN
“Resurrection” – Directed by Andrew Semans, USA, 2022, 103 MIN, East Coast Premiere
“River” – Directed by Jennifer Peedom and Joseph Nizeti, Australia, 2021, 75 MIN, Southeast
“Tales of Sunshine: ‘The Biologist’” – Directed by Vincent Marcucci, USA, 2022, 18 MIN, World
“The Territory” – Directed by Alex Pritz, Brazil/Denmark/USA, 2022, 83 MIN, In Portuguese and
Tupi with English subtitles, East Coast Premiere
“Tigre Gente” – Directed by Elizabeth Unger, USA, 2021, 93 MIN, In Cantonese, English, Mandarin,
and Spanish with English subtitles
All festival forums will take place at the Winter Park Public Library and are free and open to the public. These filmmaking discussions will be held Tuesday, April 12, through Friday, April 15, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
The events affiliated with the festival will be hosted across various Winter Park locations.
To find more information on the festival and its full lineup, or to purchase individual tickets and passes, visit their website.