Sunday, December 29, 2013

Looking back: Film Festivals 2013

This year we hit 31 film festivals and film series. This year we got a film out at Sundance, went international with Hot Docs, Toronto and Fantasia, found some new friends and visited with some old favorites. All the festivals gave us a ton of films we fell in love with.

There is no way to recount every festival, there were simply too many, with too many films and too many neat things happened. Since I can't recount it all I'll give you some highlights (in order of occurrence):

New York International Children's Film Festival every year the festival year gets going with the first jewel in my top five must attend film festivals. Why do I feel like I'm the only one who realizes how good this festival is? My god every year two or three of the best films of the year come from its screenings (Ernest and Celestine and Day of the Crows this year). and no one seems to notice until way after the fact.  It says Children in the title but the films are for everyone and just damn good. If the festival made any missteps its that its now so big its too scattered to get from the multiple locations. Still I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Tribeca We covered 80 features films this year. 80 features- plus lots of shorts. Its insane. However since I and the rest of Unseen Films are insane film nuts this festival is perfect for us. I think this may have become my favorite festival of the year. Its 6 weeks (Press screening start in March) and its lots of movies and lots of talk and lots of insanity. Hell, Mondocurry has us considering all going in on an apartment for this year. For me the best part is this is the one New York Festival where you get to see tons of movies without any preconceived notions since many of the films have never been shown anywhere before. This year I saw so many great films (The Rocket, Red Obsession, Frankenstein's Army, Before Midnight...) I can't wait for next year..

New York Asian Film Festival/Japan Cuts What can I say? JACKIE FREAKING CHAN . Thank you guys. Yea I know it was two weeks early but JACKIE FREAKING CHAN. I love this festival. I love the guys who run it. We hit almost every movie and we all had a blast. I know Japan Cuts isn't really part of NYAFF but they crisscross and I can't see them as anything other than one festival. My one fear about the fests is that Samuel has left the building and his ability to pick good Japanese films may be impacted, I know the influx of Asian film toward the mainstream has impacted their selecting process, but then again they found some winners like Bad Movie, The black films, Countdown, Juvenile Offender. I got to see Eric Kot prove he was the funniest man in the world and I saw this which made me cheer and proved Grady is no longer the greatest intro man going.

Fantasia was something we backed into. We had no intention of covering it, but the oppurtunity arose and I dove in with both feet. Wow Wow and wow. I had so much fun just seeing the movies I'm considering going to the festival in person next year. I loved the mind expanding nature of the choices, from Burning Buddha Man to Across The River to Thanatomorphose to Jack Attack and one of my favorite films of all time Decelerators. Yea there were some clunkers but even those were intriguing.

New York Film Festival is the longest running of the fests listed here and it's a great deal of fun. This year we had the joys of Captain Philips and The Immigrant and Costa De Morte. While this year was very up and down, it still was more up then down and the downs were better than most other festivals ups. My only real complaint with this grand old girl is more and more she's showing things that have screened elsewhere.  Still if you're not elsewhere its great to see the films.

Doc NYC latest addition of the big five of must see New York festivals is non-fiction manna from heaven. I love it. Its possibly the best programmed New York festival- I mean the bad films are only bad when compared to the best of the films screening. This is also a must ATTEND festival. you have to go. Most of the filmmakers are there so you get to listen to their thoughts and even talk with them. Truly a festival for and by film lovers. This year it gave me the chance to see my best film of 2014- Things Left Behind. You have to make time and attend next year.

Rocks Off Pro Wrestling- I went to one screening but this is old school. Its a film festival by fans for fans and it felt like home. I had such a good time that should it have the same vibe next year- where I'm planning on going to everything- I'll make the big 5 a big six. And oh yea- the Q&A that followed the film was one of the best I've ever attended.

The South Asian International Film Festival opened my eyes last year to South Asian film. I who knew nothing  last year I suddenly saw the wonderful things that was coming from the region. This year the collection of films impressed the hell out of me. There were some winners and even the not so much winners were really good. I can't wait for next year.

Lastly I have to say that I don't know what to make of  The New York Chinese Film Festival. Yes I got to meet Donnie Yen, but I'm not sure what to make of the festival. Its got great films, great guests but ran at an odd time (3 days midweek) and seemed to be badly managed (people were milling around waiting for Donnie Yen, did anyone really know this was happening? and the ticket screw up on opening night). This could and should be one of the best festivals of the year.  I'm hoping it gets better next year since this should be truly great.

Those are the highlights of this year. With 2014 only days away we're already working on next year with The New York Jewish Festival getting heavy coverage starting next weekend, and we're talking about covering a horror festival in Syracuse and another in Boise (no seriously). Who knows where we'll end up...

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