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Aruba International Film Festival
The inaugural edition of the fest has already scored a major celebrity coup: Richard Gere will be on hand to accept a humanitarian award and kick off its “In Conversation With” series.
“Festivals tend to take awhile to catch on, and then major talent shows up,” says Jonathan Vieira, a local filmmaker/musician who’s organizing the fest with Italian film producer Giuseppe Cioccarelli. “It was extremely surprising that so many people are trying to iron out their schedules so they can attend.” It doesn’t hurt that the event is held on an idyllic tropical island in the South Caribbean. “You can spend the day on the beach and then the night watching movies,” Vieira points out.
Backed by main sponsors Tiara Air and Aruba Airport Authority, the AIFF will be based at the Paseo Herencia Entertainment Center in the Palm Beach area of the island. Artistic director Claudio Masenza is planning a program of 20-30 movies, mixing big-budget major studio releases with smaller independent features.
Edinburgh International Film Festival
Since Hannah McGill took over as artistic director of EIFF in 2006, she has been focused on establishing the 63-year-old event as a noted festival of discovery.
“We prioritize new talent and we’re trying to build our number of world premieres,” she says. “That distinguishes us from festivals that are more celebrity-focused or more of a ‘best of’ other big festivals.”
The main venue for new talent is EIFF’s four-year-old Trailblazers section, showcasing the works of emerging U.K. actors, directors and writers. The program already boasts one high-profile success, cinematographer Eduard Grau. In 2007 he met producer Chiemi Karasawa at EIFF and she subsequently hired him to shoot the Oscar-nominated “A Single Man.”
Another highlight of EIFF is its Story Works program, in which a handful of screenwriters who have only one produced feature are teamed with high-level filmmakers for mentoring sessions and intimate master classes. The participants for this year’s edition are being assembled by Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey, producers of “An Education.”
McGill is aware of the need to include “a bit of Hollywoody glamour” in the form of big name celebs and high-profile films, but “we’re pushing as much as possible the new and the edgy,” she says, “and we have an audience that appreciates that.”
Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
Last year, KVIFF demonstrated its viability as a discovery festival when Sundance programmers saw a work-in-progress screening of writer-director Jacek Boruch’s “All That I Love” and selected it for their own World Dramatic Competition, where it subsequently grabbed the Grand Jury Prize. This year, the 64-year-old fest hopes to further a mutually beneficial cultural exchange.
“We’re trying to attract people from overseas to witness our specialty, which is Central and Eastern European films,” festival programmer Karel Och says. “At the same time, we are organizing panels with executives, agents and attorneys from Hollywood to advise young filmmakers from Europe how to succeed in the U.S.”
One of KVIFF’s newer traditions is devoting a special section to films from a different geographic region. This year, the honor will go to Belgium, which will be feted with a program of seven to eight films in French and Flemish.
For lovers of classic cinema, the July fest will have a tribute to the writing, producing and directing team of Michael Powell (1905-90) and Emeric Pressburger (1902-88). For cineastes with trashier tastes, there will be a section dedicated to Australian genre films from the ’70s and ’80s titled “Midnight Screenings: Ozploitation!”
Galway Film Fleadh
This intimate festival on the West Coast of Ireland showcases a wide variety of features, shorts and documentaries from around the world, but its focus is on promoting new pictures by Irish filmmakers.
“I suppose we’re a springboard,” GFF managing director Miriam Allen says. “We have the world premieres of a lot of films, like ‘Once,’ which programmer John Nein saw and brought to Sundance.” (It won the Audience Award in 2007.)
It was at GFF that the live-action short “The Door” and the animated short “Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty” premiered. Both were Oscar nominees this year.
GFF will again hold master classes in screenwriting, directing and acting taught by a selection of industry heavyweights, including Oscar-winning scribe Ronald Harwood (“The Pianist”). Other returning programs include the Film Fair, a forum for filmmakers with projects in development to meet with leading financiers, and the Pitching Award, in which five pre-selected finalists present prospective projects to a panel of industry judges.
“I’m thrilled to say that our winning pitch from four years ago, ‘My Brother,’ is having its world premiere at Tribeca in April,” Allen notes. “Then it will come to the Fleadh in July.”
Locarno Film Festival
New artistic director Olivier Pere has made it clear that he will be putting a strong imprint on the 63rd edition of the festival.
Immediately after assuming the position in September, he announced that he was reducing the number of films, eliminating the documentary section Ici Ailleurs and confining the competitive portion of the fest to two programs of 18 films each: the International Competition for established filmmakers, and Filmmakers of Tomorrow, for first- and second-time directors. Both will include narrative and nonfiction films.
“I’ve concentrated my interests in two competitions with a very clear definition, to make the festival more relevant and also more useful for the filmmakers and more exciting for the audience, the press and the industry,” says Pere, who spent the previous 10 years running Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes.
Pere has also announced a tribute to German-born director Ernst Lubitsch (1892-1947), known for such sophisticated comedies as “Ninotchka” (1939) and “To Be or Not to Be” (1942).
For the general public, the centerpiece remains the more mainstream films shown in the Piazza Grande, an enormous Renaissance-era square that can accommodate up to 8,000 viewers. This year, Pere plans to add midnight screenings to accommodate “more extreme genre films.”
As for the specific programming, “It’s a work in progress,” Pere says. “I want to open it to any kind of genre, to be entertaining and surprising.”
Venice Film Festival
The oldest film festival in the world is giving its program a nip and tuck for its 67th edition. Orizzonti, a competitive section created in 2004 to showcase new trends in world cinema, is opening its lineup to “extra format” films, defined as running less than an hour or more than two. It will also absorb the Corto-Cortissimo and Special Events sections, effectively turning it into a catch-all category.
The other major sections remain unchanged, including Venezia 67, the international competition that awards the Golden Lion and other official prizes; Out of Competition, for significant new films by important filmmakers; and Controcampo Italiano, dedicated to new trends in Italian cinema.
The Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement will be awarded to director-producer John Woo. Festival director Marco Muller will announce VFF’s complete official lineup at a news conference in Rome at the end of July.
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