Writer Fadi Sitto

Photography Courtesy of Phoenix Film Festival, DeFire, Craven Angel Photography and Jennifer Mullins 

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e’ve all been to the movies and seen our share of big production blockbuster pictures, but how often can you say you’ve seen a film?

Though the terms are often used interchangeably, the word on the street is that there is distinct difference. The term “film” is commonly used to describe motion pictures of a highly artistic nature, and is not typically expected to have much commercial appeal. A movie is usually more commercialized in nature and directed at a broad viewing audience. 

For the true film buff it’s time to geek-out and experience the difference first-hand at the Phoenix Film Festival.

The 19th Annual Phoenix Film Festival takes place at Harkins Scottsdale 101 Theatres and celebrates a variety of independent, avant-garde feature films and their creators. The festival is a showcase for full-length and short films from all over the world, as well as a platform for Arizona filmmakers. 

Named one of the 25 Coolest Film Festivals by Movie Maker magazine and the most filmmaker-friendly festival out there today, this festival creates an eclectically rich 11-day pop-up community for filmgoers and filmmakers alike.

“There’s such a shared love of film during this celebration where friendships and bonds are created. It’s a really cool experience when you’re immersed with peers and creators with this great art of film,” says Phoenix Film Festival director Jason Carney.

A program of the non-profit Phoenix Film Foundation, this Valley festival has come a long way from its modest beginnings back in 2001 when it was only a three-day event. Today, this now 11-day affair showcases nearly 300 films, holds filmmaking workshop-seminars and hosts over 28,000 ticketed attendees.

Over the years, the festival’s programming has expanded to include studio films, world cinema films, short films and an entire section dedicated to diverse filmmakers. The selection of films showcased during the Phoenix Film Festival is staggering.    

The festival has hosted many notable members of the film industry such as Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Laurence Fishburne and Danny Trejo, as well as filmmakers Don Roos and Ken Kwapis. 

“The 2019 version of the Phoenix Film Festival gives audiences in the Phoenix area an opportunity to see films that they might otherwise not have access to. Additionally, the festival gives our filmgoers a chance to see theatrical releases sometimes months in advance,” Carney explains.

This year’s festival will present films starring Kenneth Branaugh, Ralph Fiennes, Judi Dench, Greg Kinnear, Tessa Thompson and others. 

One film that is will surely generate buzz, and that everyone seems to be excited about is “Teen Spirit.” It stars Elle Fanning and premiered with acclaim at the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s a fun film and a must-see.

A great example of the fan-friendly aspect of this year’s film fest is that it takes place in one convenient location. Most festivals of this size take place among multiple venues, which isn’t always ideal.

The Phoenix Film Festival takes over seven massive screens at the state-of-the-art Scottsdale Harkins location, and all special events, parties and workshops are held in the Party Pavilion just outside the theatre. Everything is within steps away, making the whole experience as accessible, easy and organized as possible.

You may arrive to the Phoenix Film Festival for the films, but you’ll stay for the curated events and happenings. The cool thing about the Phoenix Film Festival is that you can spend an entire day doing something other than watching and dissecting the meaning of a film. Simply head over to the Phoenix Film Festival’s free Party Pavilion. From themed workshops, DJs and vendor booths, there is plenty to keep you busy. 

Opening night kicks off Thursday, April 4, when you’ll find some of Phoenix’s best restaurants cooking up a wide array of different foodie specialties for your film fest appetite. 

Along with some of the best local food and drink around, you’ll get the chance to bid on exclusive silent auction items. Auction items from previous years ranged from vacation getaways to unique film and television memorabilia and collectibles, along with fun items from Valley businesses. 

When you’ve filled up on local cuisine and bid on that vintage noir film poster from that 1950s film that no one’s heard of, head over to the main theater for the opening night film.

The Phoenix Film Festival is meant for all ages. Saturday, April 6 is Kids’ Day, when children get the chance to learn about the art of film at no cost. Younger festival-goers can grab a movie poster to color, or attend a crafts and story time event. These age-appropriate stations allow kids to discover the filmmaking process from beginning to end, and every part in between.

Time to dust off that old screenplay you wrote while sitting for hours at that one Starbucks a lifetime ago. April 6 is also industry night, when you’ll find a plethora of actors, directors, producers and agents working in the Arizona film industry. Why not rub elbows with the who’s who and pitch your script?

Director of the festival since 2004, Carney describes the overall vibe of the film festival to be inclusive, entertaining and inspiring. 

“The opportunity to give filmmakers a stage for their film is extremely gratifying. There’s a tremendous amount of excitement from filmmakers when they have their film screen for a packed crowd,” he says.

The Phoenix Film Festival has organically earned the reputation for being the festival that filmgoers and filmmakers love. It’s a world-class festival in our backyard—and we have an opportunity to a part of it.



Phoenix Film Festival

April 4–14 | Harkins Scottsdale 101 | 7000 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix | See website for schedule and pricing | 480-513-3195  | phoenixfilmfestival.com