Enough already with sound-alike film-festival names; the distinctions aren't clicking with the public. In the case of the third annual Orlando Film Festival, why not add another four-letter "F" word to the end — "free" — and make the distinction of this cultural affair clear?
Yes, free. OFF executive director Anna Robinson explains, "All of our screenings are free, due to the generosity and massive support of our sponsors … especially in these times, we are proud to still be able to provide that service."
But there is a catch: No advance tickets are available. And the screenings are held at limited venues — the second floor of CityArts Factory (29 S. Orange Ave.; 240 seats) and the second floor of the Gallery at Avalon (39 S. Magnolia Ave; 65 seats). Thirty minutes before show time, tickets are handed out on a first-come, first-serve basis. There is a way around those limitations: Buy a $125 "A-List Pass," which guarantees a seat at all screenings (and leaving fewer to be sold at the door).
Robinson says that they do expect sellouts at the big-buzz events, like the screenings of two world premieres, Courting Condi and This Man's Life, but there are scores of other films to investigate, she assures. Networking events and parties top each night at area bars and bistros. The festival is juried by the Orlando Film Festival board, which will hand out the awards in an armful of categories. There's an extra-special sidebar event to OFF this year, the Orlando Puppet Film Festival, coinciding with the Orlando Puppet Festival.
The best strategy for attending the Orlando Film Festival is to study up online so you know what you want to see (www.orlandofilmfest.com), make your way downtown, find street parking or pay at the Orlando Public Library garage, and then step in line. Good things are likely to happen, but don't be surprised if they don't. Watching a handful of advance screeners offered a clue as to what's ahead.
Courting Condi (world premiere)
A strange mashup by many measures, director Sebastian Doggart's "docu-tragi-comedy" offers a biography of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, from pigtails to political tale's end. Interviews with sincere family and friends are wrapped in scenes of cynical stalking by a Condi-lovesick music geek, played by Devin Ratray, who sells himself as hormonally insane.
This Man's Life (world premiere) It was a thrill to see the polished-wood benches at the Orlando Amtrak station used as the backdrop for the opening scene of this 30-minute short, before the action moved onto the train. The "man confronts his past before it's too late" plot still works for actors Michael Rooker (a burnt-out physician) and Bill Cobbs (a mystic in a mechanic's jumpsuit), directed by Todd Thompson.
Dear Zachary Oh, so sad. Filmmaker Kurt Kuenne lost a dear friend, and so much more, to an act of senseless violence. His documentary allows us to get to know the deceased individual, through the words and memories of his family and friends. But then there's a twist, which plunges a knife into the pain.
Time Crimes (Spanish, with subtitles) A creepy thriller of the psychological variety. A room full of technical gizmos in an isolated, dark and lonely location turns out to be a sophisticated machine that can screw around with the concept of time, if someone's not very careful. The elaborate and atmospheric boo-boo that ensues keeps you guessing to the firstname.lastname@example.org
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