As it celebrates its 30th anniversary, the Philadelphia Film Festival will be screening films from around the world.
By Denise Clay-Murray
On Wednesday night, the 30th Annual Philadelphia Film Festival returned with a slate of programming ranging from coming-of-age films, talk backs and interviews, and the story of the man behind one of the best tennis players to pick up a racket.
This year’s 12-day festival features more than 140 films from 50 countries. Of those films, three will be making their North American debuts, 10 will be having their American premieres and five of them will be showing on the East Coast for the first time.
Opening with Sir Kenneth Branagh’s semi-biographical coming-of-age film “Belfast” starring Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan and Dame Judy Dench, this year’s festival includes documentaries like “Soul Kids,” the story of Memphis’s Stax Music Academy, Philadelphia-centric films like “Our American Family,” the story of a Philadelphia family trying to rebuild itself while dealing with addiction and “Catch The Fair One,” a film starring former boxing champion Kali Reis as a woman trying to rescue her sister from human traffickers.
But the film that will probably make audiences in Philadelphia pay the most attention is “King Richard.” This film stars Will Smith as Richard Williams, the man whose daughters Venus and Serena changed women’s tennis forever.
While last year’s festival was mostly virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year marks a return to the society’s theaters, which now include a revamped theater at the Bourse that the film society purchased during the pandemic and the society’s drive-in theater at the Navy Yard.
Masks and proof of COVID-19 vaccination are required to attend this year’s festival, the seats in the theaters allow for social distancing, and a new air filtration system has been installed in all the theaters, said J. Andrew Goldblatt, CEO and executive director of the Film Society.
“We want you to be here for the long haul,” he said. “And with the re-opened Bourse and the films at the Navy Yard, we’re stronger than ever.”
Top filmmakers, including Philadelphia Film Society board member M. Night Shyamalan, Kevin Smith, and Academy Award-winning director Guillermo del Toro will be bringing their cinematic perspectives to audiences in a series of talkbacks.
Smith will be joined by Malcolm Ingram, who will be bringing his documentary “Clerk,” named for one of Smith’s best-known films, to the Film Festival on Saturday at 7:15 pm and 10:45pm.
Shyamalan and del Toro will be discussing the art of filmmaking and the films “Antlers,” which del Toro produced and will be screened at the festival prior to its nationwide opening on Oct. 29, and “Nightmare Alley,” del Toro’s latest film, which debuts on Dec. 17, during a talkback on Oct. 26 at 7 at the Film Society.
In addition to these films, the festival will also be handing out awards for Narrative Feature, Documentary Feature, Student Choice, Short Films, and the Sharon Pinkenson Award for Best Local Feature. Pinkenson is the longtime executive director of the Philadelphia Film Office.
This year’s festival marks simultaneous milestones as the Film Society also celebrates its 20th anniversary.
Screenings for the Philadelphia Film Festival will be held at the Philadelphia Film Center, 1412 Chestnut St., the PFS Bourse Theater, 400 Ranstead St., and at the PFS Drive-In At the Navy Yard, Admiral Peary Way and League Island Blvd.
For a complete schedule of films and more information, go to: www.Filmadelphia.org.
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