Film festival season is starting to ramp up, with Philly’s own cinematic celebration flourishing in its 25th year of existence. Hosted by the Philadelphia Film Society, the people behind the Roxy and Prince theaters, the Philadelphia Film Festival is bringing 3,542 films to theaters all over the city from October 20–30. And to up the ante, filmmaking dignitaries like Todd Haynes and Robert Zemeckis and actors of the likes of Susan Sarandon, Kerry Washington and more will be in attendance.
An Opening Night Celebration at AKA Washington Square will kick off the shindig to raise money for PFS’ year–round education and community initiatives, culminating in the presentation of the inaugural Lumiere Award to M. Night Shyamalan.
The festival offerings span everything from movies from the vault like Krzysztof Kieślowski’s masterpiece Dekalog to culinary videos to pictures from talent in the Greater Philadelphia area. There’s "New French Films" for the Francophiles, "Graveyard Shift" films for the late nights and a "Sight and Soundtrack" category for the more musically inclined. In the way of more typical festival themes, PFF’s "Centerpieces," "Spotlights" and "Masters of Cinema" sections are bringing the talents with name recognition. And there are more than a few titles to keep an eye out for.
Friday, October 21 7:15 p.m. at Prince Theater
I don't quite understand why Americans love the Kennedys so much, but Pablo Larraín’s newest biopic is sure to satisfy this national unconscious fascination. Told through the eyes of Jackie Kennedy (played by Natalie Portman), the film uses an interview with her in LIFE Magazine as the backbone to examine her account of events on November 22 in Dealey Plaza. The end product is a portrait of her loss, weaving together her silent grief and the national mourning that it unfolded against with rare intimacy
Monday, October 24, 7:10 p.m. at Prince Theater
Moonlight follows a black man quasi–Boyhood style, covering three momentous periods in his life and identity formation. Set in Miami against the backdrop of the war on drugs, the film sees a young boy, Chiron, looking for a father figure to lend him guidance in the absence of a caring home life. The movie picks up again with an adolescent Chiron coming to terms with homosexuality and seeking connection and understanding. Concluding the triptych, Moonlight sends an adult Chiron back home for some soul–searching, in what has been described one of the rawest explorations of manhood in recent memory.
O.J.: Made in America
Sunday, October 23 12 p.m. at Ritz Five
Yes, ESPN’s already screened it into oblivion and your parents have the entirety of the five–part documentary saved to their DVRs. But if you haven’t seen it already in all of its 467– minute glory, the Philadelphia Film Festival is offering you the viewing experience of a lifetime. The masterpiece documentary will be screened in entirety for festival goers, with a 30–minute intermission between Parts 2 and 3 and a 60–minute break between Parts 4 and 5 to refresh your weary eyes. O.J. is a pan– optical view of the American football hero, covering his entire life from childhood to his second arrest. It offers a portrait of his combative relationship with blackness and jealousy issues, interviewing literally everyone that had a part in the trial. Especially for those of us brought up hearing our parent’s judgments of the case, this mammoth of a nonfictional film offers the opportunity to be brought up to breakneck speed on the watershed moment in American history
Friday, October 28, 8:00 p.m. at Prince Theater
Denis Villeneuve, the director of Incendies and Sicario, has submitted his newest film Arrival for consideration. Starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, the film follows an international struggle to communicate with 12 alien spaceships that landed all over the globe. While the film is framed in the science fiction tradition, expect more of a humanistic drama examining the struggles of cooperation in the face of the unknown. See if that neoliberal institutionalism you learned about in "Intro to International Relations" holds up in the face of extraterrestrials.
Thursday, October 27 6:40 p.m. at Ritz East A
Jim Jarmusch’s latest offering allows a portrait of small–town, blue collar America that seeks to neither patronize nor ridicule. Paterson follows the eponymous protagonist played by Adam Driver, a New Jersey bus driver inspired by the poetry of daily conversation. He’s in a loving relationship, has a stable home life and enjoys his life with genuity. The result is an exercise in restraint that relies on the mundane for drama that’s so uncommon nowadays.
With all–access student badges for the entirety of the seven–day festival going for $75 and individual film tickets averaging a cool $13, there’s no excuse to miss the festivities. Individual tickets are available on the PFS website.