Film and TV

The Scottsdale International Film Festival Isn't Worried About Netflix

Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story will kick off the Scottsdale International Film Festival
Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story will kick off the Scottsdale International Film Festival Netflix/Wilson Webb
Phileas Fogg famously claimed he could travel around the world in 80 days. Attendees to the Scottsdale International Film Festival can do the same in one-eighth of the time while relaxing in a theater. The event returns to the Valley beginning on Friday, November 1, through Sunday, November 10.

“We specialize in films from around the globe but not to the exclusion of films from around the country,” says Amy Ettinger, the festival's founder and executive director. (Full disclosure: The writer programmed three films for the event in 2010.)

This year the festival features over 50 films from 26 countries, 11 of which are Scottsdale premieres. Countries represented include France and Italy, but also Mongolia, Greenland, and Morocco.

“Other countries are more invested in supporting their artists.” says Ettinger, “They really want to fund filmmakers.”

The festival kicks off with a screening of Marriage Story at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, November 1. It's one of several high profile titles being released by Netflix and will be available on the streaming platform after a brief theatrical run. This shifting model has had the industry wringing its hands.

“Right now, we fit into their release model. They understand there is merit in theatrical,” says Ettinger. “People want bragging rights and say they were among the first to see a film. If they couldn’t get to Telluride or Toronto, they can come here and be the first to see it. They like to say, ‘I saw it at Scottsdale.'”

Ticket presales bear out this idea. “This year we are so far ahead of ticket sales than any other year," says Ettinger. "People love this festival and they are coming in droves.”

But being preoccupied with Netlfix and Amazon misses the big picture, says Ettinger. Disney’s recent acquisition of 20th Century Fox may have lasting effects that go beyond simple box-office receipts.

“They’ve got Fox Searchlight now and they were one of the best distributors out there," she explains. "They’ve cannibalized all these specialty distributors and that troubles me more than Netflix or Amazon.”

Will Fox Searchlight be allowed to continue releasing films under their banner, unfettered by Disney? Only time will tell, but Ettinger is hopeful when she points out that there are still small distributors putting out interesting and challenging films. “

The festival closes with a screening of Ford v Ferrari. Attendees may very well see some of their favorite films of the year at the festival, but Ettinger balked when asked to suggest some of her favorites.

“My advice to people that have never attended the festival is to pick one film, see something with subtitles, and challenge yourself. You’ll have your mind blown and the next thing you’ll be a VIP pass holder,” she says. “It happens every year. You just have to give these films a try and then you’ll always come back.”

The Scottsdale International Film Festival is scheduled between Friday, November 1, through Sunday, November 10. For tickets and the complete lineup, visit their website.
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