Fest Forward!

Once again, February is proving to be film-festival season here in the Valley -- contained in this shortest month in the calendar are six, count 'em, six, highly diverse cinema smorgasbords. Last weekend was New Times' very own Flashback Filmfest, year two, and this week marks the inaugural of an ambitious new downtown movie shindig: the simply titled Phoenix Film Festival, slated from Friday, February 9, through Sunday, February 11, at AMC Arizona Center 24 theater downtown.

A presentation of the newly formed Phoenix Film Foundation and City AZ, the Phoenix Film Festival showcases independent films. With the exception of some tribute and "Midnight Independent Classics" series screenings, all the features have budgets of a million dollars or less. A generous selection of shorts, documentaries and animated works is included in the mix, and there will also be seminars, chats and parties. Here are some highlights; for a full schedule, ticket and pass prices and other details, go to www.phnxfilm.com or call 602-495-0992:

Friday, February 9: After an opening bash at 6 p.m. at the Arizona Center Grotto, the screenings start at 8 p.m. with a "tribute" showing of the appropriately titled Coen Brothers classic Raising Arizona. Other 8 p.m. screenings include Genevieve Jolliffe's Urban Ghost Story, with Heather Ann Foster and Jason Connery; Valley filmmaker Karl T. Hirsch's slacker comedy Green; and a program of short films. Screenings at 10 p.m. include another local production, Joey Michitsch's Drag Racing, a documentary chronicle of three female impersonators from Phoenix in competition for the Miss Gay Arizona title in Tucson, as well as Corey Schmidt's Love, Lust & Joy and Carlo Gustaff's Boys From Madrid. At midnight, three faves of the indie set are screened: Clerks, El Mariachi and Pulp Fiction.

Saturday, February 10: The day kicks off with a "Patron Brunch" at 9 a.m. at the San Carlos Hotel, 202 North Central. The movies get rolling again at 10 a.m. with Nicholas Kendall's film Mr. Rice's Secret, which features David Bowie; a double bill of Riding the Tiger and Return of Paul Jarrett; and the shorts program. At noon, Drag Racing will be shown again, as will Standing on Fishes, with Jason Priestley and Kelsey Grammer. At 1 p.m., the fest will pay tribute to filmmaker Allison Anders, director of Gas Food Lodging and Mi Vida Loca, and she is scheduled to be present at the event. Screenings of various features will continue every two hours on the even hours throughout the day, through yet another midnight blowout featuring Clerks, El Mariachi and Pulp Fiction.

Sunday, February 11: The final day of the fest starts with 10 a.m. screenings of Broke Even, David Feldman's tale of a woman coming between three friends, starring Kevin Corrigan and Elizabeth Berridge; a second program of shorts; and The Age of Elegance, Cooper Layne's documentary about the Ms. Senior America Pageant held in Las Vegas. On the bill with that film is Walk This Way, Chris Sheridan's award-winning short from Scottsdale Community College. Screenings of various films will continue starting at noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., and there will also be two seminars, both at Arizona Center Plaza: "Digital Filmmaking and the Internet" at 2 p.m., and "How SAG Actors Can Be in Low-Budget Films" at 4 p.m. The fest then wraps up with an awards ceremony at 7 p.m. and closing-night festivities at 8 p.m. at the Merc Bar, 2501 East Camelback.

Also continuing at AMC Arizona Center 24, in honor of Black History Month, is a Black Film Festival, Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. through February 27. Admission is free; the screenings are followed by discussions with ASU professor Gus Edwards. The selections are: Love Jones, in honor of Valentine's Day, on February 13; Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust on February 20; and on February 27, a double feature -- A Patch of Blue and Jungle Fever. Tickets may be picked up at the Black Chamber of Commerce; for details call 602-307-5200.

Fest Number Four, Spike and Mike's Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation, the venerable annual tribute to scatology and sacrilege, begins on Friday, February 9, at Harkins Valley Art Theatre in Tempe.

Fest Five is the Fifth Annual Out Far! Phoenix International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, scheduled from Thursday, February 15, through Sunday, February 18, at the same venue as the Phoenix Film Festival: AMC Arizona Center 24, 565 North Third Street. Fest Six is the Phoenix Jewish Film Festival, scheduled from Sunday, February 25, through Thursday, March 1, at Harkins Camelview 5. More about all of the above in upcoming issues.


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