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Palm Beach FF Film Debuts

With nearly 2000 film festivals around the world, the competition to snag World and International the competition in the world of film festivals for World and International Premieres is fierce. This is especially true fo regional film festivals that cannot claim a strong industry component (they are cultural events, mainly for the local community). This weekend alone, there are 4 film festivals in the United States, stretching from California (San Francisco) to New York (Tribeca) to Florida (Miami Gay + Lesbian, Palm Beach). That does not even include film events happening on the other continents of the world, so the competition for both films and media attention is intense.

That said, the Palm Beach International Film Festival, which is in full swing in its base of southern Florida, can lay claim to a good number of World and International Premieres, giving their audiences a peak at some of the newest films entering the film festival circuit and giving filmmakers a chance to showcase their work for a community that loves cinema.

In the Narrative Features section of the Festival, the genre of these premiere films runs from comedies to romance to intense dramas. FORGET ME NOT, a British romantic comedy, is having its World Premiere debut at the Festival. Co-directed by the team of Alexander Holt and Lance Roehrig, the film features a smart script, intoxicating London locations and a bevy of rising-star acting talents with charisma to burn.

Another European film having its World Premiere here in Palm Beach is MEANT TO BE, a Belgian feel-good comedy directed by Paul Breuls. An attractive cast populates the story of a guardian angle and hhis very human quest for true love. In the American indie film RAGE, also making its first Festival bow here, director Christopher Witherspoon creates a withering atmosphere of tension in the story of a man who unknowingly provokes the wrath of a mysterious motorcyclist that starts an intense game of cat and mouse with all the prerequisite twists and turns. Making its International Premiere in the Narrative Film section is JOZI, an intriguing drama by South African director Craig Friemond. Rising star Carl Beukes gives a knockout performance as a comedy writer who loses his sense of humor and embarks on a road trip through his native country to regain his ability to love and laugh again.

In the Documentary Features section of the Festival, there are also some thought provoking non-fiction world and international debuts. In ALEMANIA, the subject is the cultural clash that befalls a Spanish crew covering the 2006 World Cup soccer competition in Germany. A group of New Orleans-based artists talk about how their art and their lives have been permanently changed by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath in CONVERSATIONS WITH ARTISTS. The focus is local in the controversial film FILTHY RICH, with local director Mark Crupi dissecting the striking dichotomy between the ultra rich of Palm Beach and the poor residents of West Palm Beach, less than 2 miles away. A local story with national implications, HER NAME WAS STEVEN offers an intimate portrait of local Florida politician Susan (nee Steven) Stanton, who sacrificed career and family when he announced his lifelong desire to make a sexual change to become a woman.

Other documentaries making their world and international premieres this weekend include MOONSHINE TO THE FINISH LINE, a look at the phenomenal success story of NASCAR auto racing, which has become a sports sensation with fans in the US and overseas; ROSA’S JOURNEY, an Australian film that examines the political and cultural turmoil of East Timor, an island nation in the South Pacific that has been fighting for independence from Indonesia; THESPIANS, a sharp look at high school theater competitions that tells the true story of the kind of youngsters portrayed so winningly in the hit series GLEE; and GYPSY CHILD THIEVES, a powerful look at the closed world of Romanian gypsies, the poorest and most marginalized community in Europe.

The fate of these films (will they be available for general distribution or even on dvd) is always an uncertainty, but for this weekend, in this place, the spotlight is on them as something new and exciting. For more information on these and other films at the 15th Palm Beach International Film Festival, visit:

Sandy Mandelberger, Festival Dailies Editor


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