Call it "the Valley of the Sundance." Hardly known as a hotbed of indie or international film, the Valley -- thanks to the Scottsdale International Film Festival -- is finally making some cinematic strides. According to festival director and founder Amy Ettinger, the big shots at the Toronto International Film Festival praised the Scottsdale event as being "akin to Sundance." Hefty praise for such a young festival -- starting this Friday, October 31, it hits the screen for just the third time.
Even more impressive: The Toronto Fest -- in Ettinger's estimation, "the most influential film festival in North America" -- is on board as the event's artistic sponsor and mentor. Things certainly are coming into focus for Ettinger's labor of love -- and it's laborious indeed. Though there is a submission process, "Most of the stuff I go track down on my own," she explains. "I've read Variety voraciously -- and all of the programming that's been done at other festivals -- and tracked down films that didn't know about us."
Showcasing 18 films from 16 countries on six continents, this year's installment gets rolling with an opening-night double feature -- Israel's Giraffes and Hungary's Hukkle -- with a catered intermission. Over the following four days, a variety of VIPs will pop in for post-screening discussions, and indecisive theatergoers can look to the well-informed for guidance, as a jury of local critics named the best of the fest.
The fairest fare? Best Film: Giraffes, which interweaves the lives of three women in Tel Aviv. Best Ensemble Acting: Marion Bridge, a Canadian drama about three sisters tending to their dying mother. Best Screenplay and Best Director: Gloomy Sunday, a German love story that morphs into a tale of Nazi terror. Perhaps not the feel-good movies of the year, but that's not Ettinger's objective. "I don't book things that I necessary like," she says. "I book things that are done in some sort of outstanding fashion."