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International Family Film Festival Highlights

 

 

 

The 16th annual IFFF launches with a press conference at 1 PM on Wednesday, March 16, 2011. This is the fifth year of presenting the fest at Raleigh Studios, adjacent to the Paramount Studio lot on Melrose Avenue in the heart of Hollywood. This year's film schedule is filled with highlights - each of them with enough back-story to more than fill the festival week.

 

First, the films

First Dog, a film written and directed by Bryan Michael Stoller has a rich back-story. This screenplay won the IFFF Screenwriting competition several years ago. The film got made and is entered into competition - it stars Eric Roberts. Both Eric and Bryan will be at the Q. & A. session immediately following the film, which screens on Friday, March 18 at 5:45 PM.

Bollywood Steps, a documentary produced by Rich Samuels, germinated from a trip to India with Freshi Films introducing students from New Delhi and Calcutta to digital filmmaking. When Rich returned to LA he met a recently transplanted Indian to the Hollywood community, a Bollywood dancer who was teaching a group of Indian-American students the techniques of this exuberant and positive dance form. He decided to explore the cross-cultural impact of this vibrant art form and how successfully the youth could balance both the Indian and American cultures in their household. Rich is a four-time Emmy award winning documentarian. This doc premieres on Saturday, March 19 at 2:15 PM.

 

Two films from the same production group are worth seeing: Voices of Sculpture and Tom Thumb. Both have little in common except for their excellent craftsmanship. Voices of Sculpture is a documentary that introduces the audience to perhaps one of the true hidden treasures in New Jersey, the sculpture garden in the community of Hamilton just outside of Princeton. This location is one of those rare gems that makes the United States truly a unique place on earth. It reminds one that passion and a vision can transform the earth -perhaps they are the only two things that can. This is a not-to-be-missed film! Tom Thumb...yes, it is the Tom Thumb of lore, but newly read by John Cleese, with music written and performed by Elvis Costello. This interpretation of a classic tale is not your ordinary telling! The film is a brilliant and beautifully rendered animatic that will captivate audiences of all ages. But most importantly, for those of us who were parents in the 80's and 90's- it is the re-launch of the wonderful radio drama series for children on NPR, Rabbit Ear Theater. How nice to have this witty and tasteful productions of children's classics back into the videography collection of this decade. Support both films- you'll be glad you did - Voices of Sculpture, Saturday, March 29, 2:15 PM and Tom Thumb, Sunday, March 30 at 20:15 AM.

 

Second the stories:

-The film festival has always brought together a unique and eclectic group of filmmakers who are passionate about telling stories. Usually their path to the completion of a film is a story in and of itself. This year, however, the stories are more numerous than ever and worthy of their own scripts.

Consider, Sulafa Hijazi, the first female animator to complete a feature animation in Syria or any other Middle Eastern country. Sulafa is coming to the festival to host the Q. & A. session following the screening of her films on Sunday, March 20. They are The Thread of Life at 10:30 AM and The Jasmine Birds at 12:15 PM. We are honored to see these films and hear the story of how this passionate young animator was supported by her country's cultural funds in the creation of this award-winning feature animation. Sulafa and her The Jasmine Birds is a true highlight of the festival.

Saturday, March 19th at 6 PM is a story right out of the Yukon titled 48 Below!. That's right, 48 Below! It's all about a thermometer and plunging temperatures. It is a story that can only be told in Alaska. This entire back-story, from the inspiration to make the film, to the hiring of cast and crew, to the production and post-production makes for a fabulous story in and of itself. Shot on the Kenai Peninsula, the crew innovated warming blankets for cameras and lenses and discovered the magic that can only be created when a community comes together for a cause bigger than its self. Don't miss the Q. & A. after this film or the young group of filmmakers representing the film - both on screen and in person, they will remind us all the value in persevering against all odds.

Another highlight of the fest is Christmas Angel, screening at 8 PM on Thursday, March 17. Of course the film is already filled with the spirit of everyone's favorite family holiday, but this film will certainly entertain and uplift the coldest of hearts. After all, we all know how important angels are and an Academy award-winning actor, Bruce Davidson, leads these angels, walking among us.

 

The World is Joining Hands

he 2011 IFFF is all about the world we live in. It is a global festival with films from Africa screening Friday evening starting at 5:30 PM, films from China featuring the first film made in the Mongolian language, Horizon, screening opening night, March 16 at 7 PM and again on March 19 at 12:30 PM, and films from Syria screening on Sunday, March 20 starting at 10 AM. The films from China are one of the rare opportunities to share what their filmmakers are producing for children and family audiences. These films are highlighted on the front page of the website, http://www.iffilmfest.org/, so be sure to take a look and catch as much as possible of this international film connection.

 

Finally, the Musicals and the Westerns:

A resurgence spurred by the likes of Glee and True Grit has brought back the musical film and the western to the 2011 IFFF. Hanna's Gold leads the festival with a western starring Luke Perry. It screens on Thursday, March 17 and is filled with enough story, action and western landscape to make you want to hit the trail or join a posse. The musicals begin Friday, March 18 at 3:15 with Chloe and the Great Fish. Bright Lights and Promises follows at 7:15 PM. This production group out of Virginia is bringing their cast singers (Jessica Cain and Sissel Bakken) to the festival to entertain live at the Awards Reception. This is a series of films and entertainers that will keep you humming a tune and movin' to the music all the way through the festival.

The 16th annual International Family Film Festival does have something for everyone. The films are new, vibrant and full of the passion and spirit that come from the hearts and minds of independent artists. This is a good weekend to pack up the family, whatever the ages, and come see some movies in Hollywood at the IFFF.

For tickets, visit the website at http://ifff.pmailus.com/pmailweb/ct?d=P6ozLgGiAAEAAAGcAATayA. Tickets may be purchased online or by calling 661-257-3131. All tickets purchased before the festival are held at Will Call in the Festival VIP Tent on the Raleigh Studios lot.

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Chatelin Bruno
(Filmfestivals.com)

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