Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Film feature: Two festivals cover the ground from indie to Andy

Paul Giamatti and Alex Shaffer in Win Win.

By Hap Erstein

Palm Beach County used to be film-festival challenged,‭ ‬but now we have a glut of options for moviegoers who want to get away from a steady diet of studio fare and perhaps rub shoulders with some of the filmmakers.‭ ‬It is,‭ ‬after all,‭ ‬not a hard sell to get directors and actors to come to Palm Beach in the final,‭ ‬frozen days of winter.‭

Tonight kicks off the‭ ‬16th annual Palm Beach International Film Festival,‭ ‬which each year lately threatens to be its last as corporate sponsorships get tighter in this economy and the festival no longer has the political muscle it once enjoyed.‭

Still,‭ ‬it opens with a solid winner,‭ ‬Tom McCarthy’s‭ ‬Win Win,‭ ‬the assured saga of a hapless New Jersey lawyer‭ (‬the great Paul Giamatti‭) ‬who pulls an unethical move on an aging,‭ ‬growing senile client‭ (‬Burt Young‭) ‬and risks losing his practice.‭ ‬Nevertheless,‭ ‬his luck improves as the client’s grandson from Ohio comes to visit and he happens to be a wrestling whiz,‭ ‬who joins the high school squad that Giamatti coaches and breaks them out of their losing streak.‭ ‬Factor in terrific support from Amy Ryan,‭ ‬and you have a smart film with complex characters worth rooting for.

Young will be present at the screening tonight at the Muvico at CityPlace and if you miss‭ ‬Win Win tonight,‭ ‬it will likely be repeated in the final days of the nine-day fest,‭ ‬when the most popular entries are rerun.

Festival organizers are justifiably proud that they have amassed‭ ‬11‭ ‬world premieres,‭ ‬3‭ ‬U.S.‭ ‬premieres and‭ ‬14‭ ‬Florida premieres,‭ ‬with films from such countries as the Netherlands,‭ ‬Italy,‭ ‬France,‭ ‬England,‭ ‬Russia,‭ ‬Israel,‭ ‬Australia,‭ ‬Liberia,‭ ‬the Czech Republic,‭ ‬Canada and Greece.‭

Attendance over the years has been erratic,‭ ‬but if independent and foreign films are your passion,‭ ‬this is probably your best local chance to see a wde variety of them on the big screen.‭ ‬For the schedule,‭ ‬go to


The cast of the Amos and Andy Show.

A decidedly more offbeat and smaller event is the African-American Film Festival,‭ ‬a series of three movies focusing on the history of black cinema,‭ ‬showing at the Kravis Center for the sixth straight year.‭

Producer James Drayton usually emphasizes films of social and cultural significance,‭ ‬but this year’s‭ ‬attention-getting theme is‭ “‬Movies We Might Rather Forget.‭”

For three Tuesday evenings,‭ ‬beginning March‭ ‬29,‭ ‬attendees can see three incredibly politically incorrect selections from the days of unabashed racial stereotyping.‭ ‬The festival kicks off with an evening of episodes from the notorious‭ ‬Amos and Andy Show,‭ ‬which is so rarely shown these days.‭ ‬Similarly,‭ ‬it will be followed by‭ ‬1945‭’‬s‭ ‬Open the Door,‭ ‬Richard,‭ ‬a starring vehicle for Stepin Fetchit,‭ ‬the comic actor whose very stage name is synonymous with‭ “‬slowness and laziness and stupidity,‭” ‬notes Drayton.

The third show of the festival is also from‭ ‬1945,‭ ‬Brewster’s Millions,‭ ‬the fable of a guy who can inherit a large fortune if he can spend a small fortune in a limited amount of time.‭ ‬If that sounds familiar,‭ ‬it is probably because of the‭ ‬1985‭ ‬remake starring Richard Pryor.‭ ‬But the one in the African-American Film Festival features Eddie‭ “‬Rochester‭” ‬Anderson,‭ ‬not in the leading role,‭ ‬but as the wealthy spendthrift’s servant sidekick.

‭“‬These are all films that have a cloud over them,‭” ‬says Drayton,‭ ‬a former area bookstore owner.‭ “‬I think this is a marvelous opportunity to really look at this and learn something.‭”

Perhaps.‭ ‬Expect a lively,‭ ‬heated discussion following each screening,‭ ‬hosted by AnEta‭ ‬Sewell,‭ ‬Emmy Award-winning former area newscaster,‭ ‬currently seen on the CW/My TV Network weekly public affairs program‭ ‬Around Our Town.‭

For more information and for tickets,‭ ‬go to‭ ‬‭

Next:‭ ‬The first ever Palm Beach Women’s International Film Festival.

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