Enzian Theater hosts 30th annual Florida Film Festival April 9-22, 2021

click to enlarge Ashley Jones and John Amos star in "Because of Charley," this year's opening film. - image courtesy Florida Film Festival
image courtesy Florida Film Festival
Ashley Jones and John Amos star in "Because of Charley," this year's opening film.
Just eight months after the Florida Film Festival became the first major movie fest to be held in the Southeast United States during the COVID pandemic, the event is returning to its traditional April timeslot.

The festival will again be held at just one location, Maitland’s Enzian Theater, because its pre-COVID partner, Regal Winter Park Village, is still closed. This means that, like last year’s event, movies will be shown on just one screen. So to accommodate the 164 films, the 30th annual fest will again last 14 days (April 9-22), instead of its pre-COVID format of 10.

The festival will again be a hybrid event, with all films screening in-person and most also being offered online for Florida residents. And to guard against coronavirus, Enzian will institute the same safety protocols it has been using for the last 10 months: mask requirements (when not eating and drinking), spaced-out seating, reduced capacity and temperature checks. As one might expect, parties and social gatherings will be scaled back, as they were last year, but Enzian still plans three parties and two Sunday brunches, in addition to live music at Eden Bar.

Though no in-person celebrity events are planned, because of the pandemic, Karen Allen will participate in a Zoom Q&A session following a screening of John Carpenter’s Starman, and Isabella Rossellini will do the same following a showing of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet.

click to enlarge 'Blue Velvet' - photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival
photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival
'Blue Velvet'

The opening-night offering will be Because of Charley, a movie produced, filmed and set in Central Florida. Directed by local filmmaker Jon Binkowski and starring a cast of locally well-known actors, the movie tells the tale of two stepfamilies holed up together during Hurricane Charley in 2004. The film also features veteran actor John Amos (Good Times, Roots, Die Hard 2), who plans to attend the screening.

The festival lineup comprises 36 features and 128 shorts representing 31 countries, with 151 films having premiere status (world, United States, Southeast or Florida).

“We are incredibly proud to have the opportunity to present these artists’ extraordinary work on both the big screen at Enzian and virtually,” said Matthew Curtis, programming director, in a pre-prepared statement. “The highest percentage of films ever (over 92 percent) will be making their Florida debut at the festival, and we could not be more thrilled about introducing these talented filmmakers and presenting such an entertaining and diverse group of films to our audience. This year’s lineup includes 90 women or non-binary filmmakers – the most in our 30-year history and 55 percent of our total programming – and their voices will be represented throughout every part of the festival. In addition, we have added a third live-action shorts program to the International Showcase for the first time ever.”

Spotlight films are always a highlight. These high-profile movies – which usually already have distribution agreements and screen out of competition – give attendees a chance to see high-profile films before they receive a wider release. This year’s offerings are Mandibles, directed by Quentin Dupieux; Mogul Mowgli, directed by Bassam Tariq; Squish (a short), directed by Xavier Seron; Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street, directed by Marilyn Agrelo; and Together Together, directed by Nikole Beckwit.

Other highlights, according to Curtis, are Sundance Film Festival award winners Cryptozoo (a feature directed by Dash Shaw) and Wiggle Room (a short directed by Sam Guest and Julia Baylis), in addition to international features Summer of 85 and Riders of Justice.

As usual, films themed to food, music and Florida will play a large part. In addition, midnight films (three features and 15 shorts) and “Sunspots: New Visions of the Avant-Garde” (11 shorts) will satiate the more adventurous — or transgressive — cinephile.

For the complete schedule and prices for in-person and online viewing, visit FloridaFilmFestival.com. And don’t miss our reviews of all the films we were able to screen in advance.

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