Last year, Phoenix Film Festival knocked our socks off with great independent films made by both local and national talent, earning it a Best of Phoenix award. This year, we're preparing to dig into more shorts, documentaries, features, and Q&As at the fest, but making the call on what to see and what to skip can be tough. With nearly 200 features and shorts screening this year, we have a list of 10 that you won't want to miss.
If you're as in love with comedian Jenny Slate as we are, you won't want to miss Obvious Child this year. Slate plays an aspiring comedian named Donna Stern with a pretty wicked sense of humor. However, it's not all laughs for Donna, who has to go through a series of tough breaks that force her to face adulthood, even if she doesn't want to.
Showing: 7:45 p.m. Saturday, April 5
Little Hope Was Arson
This intense documentary from Theo Love chronicles a series of church burnings that plagued East Texas in 2010. While the film offers suspense and drama from the chase to find the perpetrators and the raw emotion in the film, the stunning, haunting shots of churches ablaze are enough reason to watch.
Showing: 9:05 a.m. Friday, April 4; 3:10 p.m.Saturday, April 5; and 2:20 p.m. Sunday, April 6
King of Herrings
This character-driven drama pretty much screams independent film with its black and white cinematography and thought-provoking quips. That it's billed as a blend of Tom Waits and Woody Allen should pretty much be all the reason you need to go see it.
Showing: 3:30 p.m. Friday, April 4; 7:15 p.m. Saturday, April 5; and 12:15 p.m. Sunday, April 6
For No Good Reason
Fans of Johnny Depp, Hunter S. Thompson, and, more importantly, Ralph Steadman won't want to miss For No Good Reason. The documentary offers insight into Steadman's iconic work as a Gonzo-era illustrator and his relationships with both Depp and Thompson.
Showing: 4:25 p.m. Sunday, April 6
We're all pretty used to Jude Law playing a charming, handsome leading man, but he takes a break from all of that in Dom Hemingway. His off-beat, erratic performance as a newly out of prison safe-cracker will definitely be one to catch. You can also check out up-and-coming it girl Daenerys Targaryen herself, Emlia Clarke, as Law's daughter.
Showing: 7 p.m. Sunday, April 6
What kind of film fest would it be without a Brit-accented period piece based on a true story? Well, Belle serves the role for this year with beautiful costuming and a story about a black illegitimate daughter taken into high noble society in England. Matthew Goode and Gugu Mbatha-Raw's performances look particularly good.
Showing: 7:20 p.m. Tuesday, April 8
Phoenix Film Festival is starting this year off right with Locke as its opening night film. With Tom Hardy starring and Stephen Knight (Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises) directing, it's sure to be a powerful thriller that'll keep you guessing -- especially judging by the enigmatic trailer.
Showing: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 3
This Kickstarter-funded comedy comes from local filmmaker Kieran Thompson. As one of the few features directed and shot in Phoenix, it's a must-see for local film buffs and lovers of goofy comedies. Plus, the soundtrack from ex-Format band member Sam Means is sure to be great.
Showing: 7:10 p.m. Tuesday, April 8
Thomas Beatty stars in and directs this odd comedy about a man whose mother has just died. His supportive friends have to decide just how far their commitment to making him feel better will go when he proposes an orgy to help him heal.
Showing: 5:15 p.m. Friday, April 4; 11:15 a.m. Saturday, April 5; and 2:15 p.m. Sunday, April 6
The Joe Show
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It doesn't get more Phoenix than a documentary about our most controversial politician, Sheriff Joe Arpaio. While we have a feeling we know which way the film will skew, the Q&A sessions at the end of the screenings will likely be a show on their own, considering the very divided and heated views on Arpaio in this state.
Showing: 3:10 p.m. Friday, April 4; 5:40 p.m. Saturday, April 5; and 10 a.m. Sunday, April 6
The Phoenix Film Festival will bring all of these films and more to Harkins Scottsdale 101 from Thursday, April 3, through Thursday, April 10. For tickets and more information, visit the Phoenix Film Festival website.