The Philadelphia Film Festival opened Oct. 17 at the Philadelphia Film Center and will continue through Oct. 27, showing over 120 movies ranging from locally–produced films to bona fide Oscar contenders.
The Festival is in its 28th year of showings, and its films will play at a variety of theaters and hotels around the downtown Philadelphia area. Standard ticket prices range from $7 for students with valid ID during rush ticketing—which occurs directly prior to each showing and operates on a first–come–first–serve basis—to $175 for a full weekend pass. Special events include the Festival Lounge, open to all 21+ ticket holders, and the closing awards ceremony and party on Oct. 25, from 6:45 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
Andrew Greenblatt, the director of the Festival, began his career as an independent film producer for Film 101 Productions before becoming the CEO and Executive Director of the Philadelphia Film Society, which puts on the annual festival.
Greenblatt, a Philadelphia native, left Film 101 in 2008 to return to his home city. His move back was motivated, in part, by a desire to find out: “What does film in Philadelphia look like? Do I want to be an independent producer? Or, do I want to look for a job?" Soon enough, he found something. "[The Executive Director] position was open," he said, "and it struck me that producing a festival isn’t that different from producing a film.”
In the process of curating films and organizing the Festival, Greenblatt has tried to be as inclusive as possible to the Philadelphia population. The festival has a free ticketing program called PFS On Us, he explained, that “lets anyone claim tickets to two different categories: the nonfiction documentary category and the ‘Made in USA’ category. So we take down the whole barrier to entry, so that the people can really come in and see what it’s all about.” In addition, they focus on Philadelphia specific films. “We also have a Film–adelphia category, which are all films that are either made in Philadelphia or made by Philadelphia filmmakers, so it’s really our way of focusing on the industry that’s in Philadelphia and that’s coming out of Philadelphia,” he explained.
The red carpet opening event took place between two of the most anticipated screenings of the festival—Bong Joon–Ho’s Parasite and Destin Daniel Cretton’s Just Mercy—and featured some of the cast members of Just Mercy, along with Bryan Stevenson, whose work the movie is based upon. Stevenson is the director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit whose mission is “ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, challenging racial and economic injustice, and protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.” The movie is slated for public release on Dec. 25, 2019.
Besides Parasite and Just Mercy, though, Greenblatt recommends that potential moviegoers read the program to find which other movies might be worthwhile. “115 [out of 120] are Philadelphia premieres. Never seen before in this city. And they span a wide gamut. It’s a really diverse program. And, you know, there’s something for everyone, and I think reading the program and finding what speaks to you is always the best way to experience it," Greenblatt said. "I mean, we’ve got some of the most anticipated films of the year...Just Mercy, or Parasite...or Marriage Story, or The Irishman, but then we’ve got all these little gems from around the world, that are absolutely worth seeing, especially now, because this may be the only opportunity to see them in a theater.”
This advice is particularly relevant given the international diversity of the festival. There are categories specifically titled “Cinema De France” and “Visions of China,” highlighting films from those two regions. “We do France every year...there’s a huge fan base for French films in Philadelphia...Visions of China is new this year. We’ve wanted to look at doing that for a few years...we think it’s giving some really incredible insight into what’s going on in China,” Greenblatt explained.
For those interested in seeing any of these films—and many more—tickets are on sale online and in person.