Fest Case Scenario

Venue up in the air for Saguaro Film Festival

The word "International" has been added to its title, but this year's edition of the Saguaro Film Festival has become the fest without a country.

After debuting at Harkins Camelview 5 seven years ago, Arizona Film Society's shindig for indies has knocked around the Valley, landing, in one year or another, everywhere from AMC 'plexes like Town & Country and Arizona Center to Tempe's currently dark Valley Art Theatre. Society president Durrie Parks decided that the 2000 fest, scheduled for Friday, May 5, through Sunday, May 7, should return to the heart of Valley cinema culture, such as it is -- Harkins Camelview 5 in Scottsdale -- and this was duly announced as the location. But at this writing, it appears that Camelview will not be the venue after all.

"I got a call from [Harkins] saying that if we weren't paid in full by the close of business today [Friday, April 28], we wouldn't have our auditoriums," Parks says. Not only would it be difficult for her to pay up front, says Parks, "I wouldn't." She offers the following as her explanation: "We're a grassroots organization. We've never pretended to be anything else. We just want to have a film festival and have some fun."

Parks says that although AFS did indeed have a contract with Harkins, she doesn't think the chain supported the festival. "They've been unavailable to do technical walk-throughs of the facility. And they agreed to send out a press release welcoming us to Harkins, that sort of thing. It never happened. I've been calling and faxing for months, without a response. I'm not saying that it's all their fault; I'm willing to take responsibility for not holding up my end of the deal. But I don't think they held up their end, either, and after all that, to get this message making it clear that it's all about money, it just isn't nice. It may be good business, but it isn't nice."

Harkins representative Kelly Maloney says she is unaware of Parks' decision to relocate, though Maloney allows that she "had to leave a message that was strong, you know, 'Durrie, what's going on? Where's the down payment?'"

But Maloney says she finds Parks' remarks puzzling. "I don't know what's going on," says Maloney. "We've been working on this with her for months, since January. Up until Wednesday [when they started working on this weekend's Arrowhead Luxury 18 grand opening], our availability has been total."

Maloney notes her attempt to set up a walk-through for the afternoons of Friday, April 28, and Saturday, April 29, both of which Parks says were too late for her needs: "The whole point of having a technical walk-through is to have the technical people there," says Parks. "And they aren't available at that time and on such short notice."

"We love bringing in festivals and different fun stuff," says Maloney. "As of now, we have an auditorium locked down for her, but if she's having trouble with her finances, we'll null and void the contract in a minute. We wouldn't try to hold somebody to a contract if they can't pay.

"People don't think of theaters as having accounting departments, but we do, and they yell at us when we sell product and don't get paid for it. I'm not a collection agent."

Still, says Maloney, "From the heart, we thought everything would work out. I have to say, I feel hurt, not only to find this out, but to find out about it through a third party."


Anyway, with a schedule encompassing dozens of films, and filmmakers coming from all over the U.S. and from as far away as France -- it's now International, remember -- how does Parks propose to hold a film festival without auditoriums? "We'll throw up a sheet somewhere," she says, and she's not really kidding.

"We're taking a look around for a venue, " she says, "but we may just black out a room at the Days Inn [at 4710 North Scottsdale Road, across the street from Scottsdale Fashion Square], where most of the filmmakers are staying. We can use that during the day; it's a meeting room, and it's pretty small, but I'm not going to make myself crazy about it. We have no problem showing 16mm and video there. At night we may just go outside. There's a nice grassy area near the volleyball courts. We still don't have a way to show 35mm -- I have hopes we may be able to get a projector, but have to show the 35mm films on video. We're working on it. I don't want to give you the impression that any of this is a bad thing. I think it's probably a good thing. It'll just be a different sort of event.

"These things always produce more pleasure than pain."


Here, and obviously subject to change, is the screening schedule for the Saguaro International Film Festival. For the latest information on venue, call the Arizona Film Society at 480-970-8711, or check online at www.extracheese.com/afs

Friday, May 5:

7 p.m. Rendezvous in Samarkand --Director Tim Bridwell, who lives in Paris and New York, is scheduled to be present to discuss the film, which received this year's "best of fest" award. It is a story of an American rich kid and his French girlfriend who are smuggling a 4x4 vehicle across the Sahara Desert while trying to keep the nature of their trip secret from two Japanese hitchhikers they pick up.

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