Arizona Film is All Over the Phoenix Film Festival
Written by Hal C. Astell
There's always a good showing of Arizona films at the Phoenix Film Festival, which kicked off on Thursday, 26th March with an opening night feature at the Harkins Scottsdale 101. This year, there's more local film than you can shake a stick at.
For a start, there's even an Arizona Feature Films category for the first time I can recall and it's three films strong. As I'm more interested in fiction than non-fiction, I'm especially up for 'Seven Hours in Heaven', the feature debut of Kyle Gerkin, who wrote it with Colleen Hartnett, who also stars alongside recognisable local talent like Honda King, Aaron Ginn-Forsberg and Jing Song, now known as Aria.
It's a relationship drama, but the other two features in this category are documentaries. '1/10 of a Second', from former golf professional Kurt Kubicek, follows the 'rise, fall and redemption' of Johnny Rock Page, an enigma, AMA Superbike racer and, it seems, an obsessive fan of Paris Hilton, if a quick google search is remotely representative. 'Unsound', on the other hand, follows filmmaker Darious Britt on a two and a half year journey through the mental illness of his mother, as well as his own demons.
In the Showcase Feature Films slot, which hosts the premiere films of the festival, Arizona director Dean Mathew Ronalds (now based in LA) has a comedy called 'Going Bongo', which follows a new doctor who 'mistakenly' volunteers to work for a month in Africa. Shot in LA and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, it looks like a real trip.
The Phoenix Film Festival has always been strong on short films and there are a whole bunch of blocks reserved for them in 2015, quite a few of which are dedicated entirely to Arizona film.
The Arizona Shorts set includes the long anticipated long short, 'Blue Copper', from regular festival face, Diane Dresback, along with a half dozen others, including 'The Tent', which I saw at a local film premiere a year or two back and haven't forgotten yet because it carries that much of a punch. There are also the winners of each of the three IFP Phoenix film challenges from the last year: from Adolpho Navarro, who won the Phoenix Comicon Film Challenge last year; Sean Oliver, whose name is everywhere right now; and the double act of Josh Kasselman and Stephanie Lucas, last year's Arizona Filmmakers of the Year.
Another dedicated set is the Home Grown Shorts, which includes eight films from local filmmakers. I've seen half of these and adore all of them, even though they're completely different. 'Logan Must Make Star Wars' and 'Stolen Afternoon' are quirky comedies made for Almost Famous Film Festival (A3F) film challenges; 'Grace of a Stranger' is a touching drama, with Darious Britt of 'Unsound' in a small role; and 'The Class Analysis' is a hard hitting science fiction drama from Jim Politano.
Jim is also represented in the IFP Shorts set, which are the finals for the year's film challenges. The top three films from each challenge will screen again for a new set of judges, along with the one audience favourite film that wasn't already in that company. Those judges will determine the year's winners. Jim's film is 'Flight Fright', which I find I must highlight because if you don't blink, you'll see my left arm completely failing to steal any scenes from the likes of eighties legend Eddie Deezen. It's also a great homage to 'The Twilight Zone'.
I know there are other local films dotted around the other sets, but the only one that leaps out at me today is 'Liv', a short film from Gwyneth Christoffel from UAT, the University of Advancing Technology in Tempe. They're also represented by one of the Arizona Shorts films, a science fiction piece called 'Ouroboros', which I'm especially looking forward to, knowing what they've with sci-fi in the past.
Finally, there's a massive set of twenty short films in the Arizona Student Film Festival, something that has never been part of the Phoenix Film Festival before. Each short film was made by a grade school or high school student, with eleven schools represented. If there's a better place to see movies from the next generation of Arizona talent, I have no idea what it could be. This set runs 105 minutes and kicks off Saturday at the Phoenix Film Festival with a 9.00am start.
Come and support local Arizona filmmakers at the Phoenix Film Festival, whether they be high school kids, college students or award-winning professionals. The Arizona film community is an odd one, with Hollywood a constant tease only one road away, but it produces a lot of quality movies and this is one of the best places to see a bunch of them together.