The 26th Annual Florida Film Festival, produced by Enzian Theater and held throughout Central Florida each April, offers nearly 200 feature and short films from countries around the world, in addition to celebrity guests, special events, film forums, and parties. This year’s festival includes competing films in narrative features and documentary programs, plus special screenings of food films, international films, midnight movies, family programming, and Florida films. A small sampling of films appears below.
Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis star in this science fiction comedy in which the actions of a shallow party girl returning to her hometown after a breakup with her boyfriend are somehow connected to a giant monster attacking people in Seoul, South Korea. Gloria’s coincidental reconnection with a former elementary school friend (now a bar owner who hires her as a waitress) helps reveal the origin of this strange supernatural occurrence. At the center of the craziness, Gloria (Hathaway) and Oscar (Sudeikis) each project their own version of crazy: She has trouble with attachments; he has trouble with detachments. Together, they are the disasters at the heart of this disaster film. Blending comedy, drama, flashbacks, and sci-fi effects, this genre-mixing mash-up delivers an interesting story with poignant analogies about the potential monsters within each of us. Directed by Nacho Vigalondo. Also stars Austin Stowell, Tim Blake Nelson, Dan Stevens. Run time: 110 minutes. MPAA rating: R (for language). 3.5 / 5.
Honky Tonk Heaven: Legend of the Broken Spoke
This fun documentary about an Austin, Texas, honky tonk celebrating its 50th anniversary screens in the Music Sidebar program. The Broken Spoke, owned and operated by husband-and-wife team James and Annetta White, welcomes the biggest names in country music to perform on its modest stage for locals and tourists from all over the world. Performers are quick to point out that The Broken Spoke is not a classy dance hall where patrons get dressed up, nor a concert hall where people come just to listen. This is a honky tonk where musicians come to play music so people can dance for hours on end. Known for its authentic Texas ambience, long-standing tradition of exclusively country music bands, and chicken fried steak (using Annetta’s family recipe), this well-known establishment remains unchanged amid the rapidly developing neighborhood around it. The satisfying film examines the music, food, family, culture, and history behind The Broken Spoke. Directed by Sam Wainwright Douglas and Brenda Mitchell. Stars the White family and dozens of country music stars including Willie Nelson and Dale Watson. Run time: 75 minutes. 3 / 5.
Actor-director Lorenzo Pisoni looks back at his life growing up in his father’s traveling show, The Pickle Family Circus, in this touching documentary. Lorenzo’s career began at age two when he wandered into the ring during a performance. From there, he learned clowning from his father, Larry, and within a few years they were clowning partners performing a crowd-pleasing Pinocchio-inspired act where a father wants his puppet to become a real boy. The Pickle Family Circus, which included Lorenzo’s mother and step-sister, performed around the country during the 1970s and 1980s. Now a successful actor in film, television, and theater, Lorenzo examines his childhood and the events leading up to Larry’s departure from the circus and the breakup of the Pisoni family. Circus Kid is part behind-the-scenes show business and part personal essay. Using archival footage and current interviews with other former Pickle Family Circus performers to get the full story, this film offers some laughs and even a few tearful moments. Directed by Lorenzo Pisoni. Also stars Bill Irwin and Geoff Hoyle. Executive produced by Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm. Run time: 71 minutes. 4 / 5.
My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea
In its Southeast Premiere this animated narrative feature screens in the American Independent Competition. It comes with a warning for those with epilepsy that the colorful strobe-like effects can cause seizures. Best suited for audience members in their teens and 20’s, this original mixed-media creation by graphic novelist Dash Shaw quite literally depicts the drama surrounding an entire high school (built on a fault line and not up to code), sinking into the sea after an earthquake. Dash and his best friend Assaf round up an oddball assortment of survivors and attempt to get to the roof of the building so they can be rescued. Images of severed limbs and students swept to sea can be disturbing at times, but an abundance of humor keeps things from getting too heavy. School politics, first-love, and the bonds of friendship are among the topics briefly explored among the chaos in this unusual film (supported by outstanding vocal talents) where style earns a higher grade than substance. Directed by Dash Shaw. Stars the voice talents of Jason Schwartzman, Reggie Watts, Lena Dunham, Maya Ruldolph, Susan Sarandon, Alex Karovsky, John Cameron Mitchell. Run time: 75 minutes. MPAA rating: PG-13. 3 / 5.
Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World
This ambitious documentary traces Native American influence on rock and roll, blues, and folk music. Spanning decades in time and locations around the country (including some scenes in Toronto, Canada) and filled with interesting historical information, the film provides profiles of nearly a dozen musicians of Native American descent, beginning with Link Wray, whose notorious 1958 instrumental hit “Rumble” was banned from radio because of its perceived ability to incite violence. Using live interviews specifically for the film (Stevie Salas, Robbie Robertson, Tony Bennett, Iggy Pop, Slash, Steven Tyler, Buffy Saint Marie, Taj Mahal, Martin Scorsese, etc.), in addition to archival interviews and concert footage, the filmmakers provide a broad picture of the evolving music scene and how it relates to Indian history and culture. The exhaustive amount of research and obvious good intentions to bring little-known information to the general public, make this an important film for all music lovers. Directed by Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana. Run time: 103 minutes. 4 / 5.
For a complete list of films or to learn more about the Florida Film Festival, visit the official website.