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#SAVFF: Programmer's Guide 

The inside skinny on the Savannah Film Festival

PUTTING TOGETHER a great film festival lineup is a year-long endeavor. And it's very much worth it to see SCAD students, the future leaders of film, lining up with cinema enthusiasts and industry experts to take part.

This year, on top of a great competition lineup including fantastic SCAD student work, as well as highly anticipated studio prereleases, the Savannah Film Festival has added new and exciting programming.

click to enlarge Supermensch
  • Supermensch

Docs To Watch:

Sponsored by The Hollywood Reporter and screening almost entirely at the SCAD Museum of Art theater, the “Docs to Watch” series showcases eight captivating and informative documentary films that are frontrunners for Oscar consideration. The series culminates in a riveting roundtable discussion hosted by Scott Fienberg from The Hollywood Reporter with several of the directors from the films.

Not to be missed is Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon, followed by a Q&A session with director Mike Myers and Shep Gordon himself. That event is Friday, Oct. 31, at 3:30 p.m. at the Lucas Theatre.

Also highly recommended and very moving is Life Itself, about famed late movie critic Roger Ebert, set for Saturday, Nov. 1 at 11 a.m. at the SCAD Museum of Art. Other noted films in the series include Red Army, Finding Vivian Maier, and The Salt of the Earth.

After Dark:

New and exciting, but not for the faint of heart, is the After Dark series, with screenings starting at 8:30 or 9 p.m. at the Lucas Theatre. The series kicks off with the Australian horror film that premiered at Sundance this year The Babadook, along with the short Good Samaritan.

click to enlarge Babadook
  • Babadook

Up next is the newest shorts block, Supernatural Stories, which redefines what form fear can take. In the latest thriller from writer Joe Hill, everyone’s favorite boy wizard Daniel Radcliffe takes on a radically different role in Horns.

The SXSW low budget indie Creep, featuring Mark Duplass, expertly demonstrates why everyone should be very leery of people who advertise on craigslist.

Meanwhile, the ultimate Halloween experience, free for everyone, will be a screening of the great silent German horror classic Nosferatu, featuring live orchestration from the Silent Orchestra at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 31. Not to be missed!

LGBT Interest:

The festival features excellent LGBT films on Sunday, Oct. 26, starting with the documentary Limited Partnership (with the touching short Till Then) about the first legal gay marriage in the United States, followed later by the HBO feature The Normal Heart with Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts, Jim Parsons and Matt Bomer.

Bomer will be in attendance with Len Amato, the President of HBO, for a Q&A session immediately following the film at the Trustees Theater at 2 p.m. Bomer will also be answering questions after the screening of Hunted: The War Against Gays in Russia, the disturbing film about the violent effects of homophobia in Russia.

That evening concludes with a 7 p.m. gala screening of the fascinating and dark Foxcatcher, which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival and nabbed a Best Director award for Bennett Miller, best known for Capote. Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo have all received glowing accolades for their performances.

click to enlarge Limited Partnership
  • Limited Partnership

Great Performances:

It’s a year for amazing and astounding performances. Marion Cotillard, in the hands of the Dardenne brothers, brings to the screen what Variety calls “beautifully observed verisimilitude” in Two Days, One Night, a film about the struggles of the working class.

Tuesday night at the Trustees Theater, the film will screen with the newest animated short from animation legend Glen Keane, the man behind beloved Disney films like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, and Tangled.

The Savannah Film Festival’s beloved friend Miles Teller delivers an intense star turn in Whiplash, opposite an equally intense and frankly frightening J.K. Simmons. Expect to hear both their names mentioned when the Academy rolls out nominations early next year.

In a more nuanced, yet equally award worthy role, everyone’s favorite Sherlock delivers another notable performance as slightly askew genius WWII code breaker Alan Turing in The Imitation Game.

Speaking of slightly askew, make room for Al Pacino as he hilariously delivers an art imitating life, or vice versa, performance in Barry Levinson’s adaptation of Philip Roth’s 2009 novel The Humbling. Greta Gerwig is equally funny and Variety is spot on in calling Pacino’s performance brave, yet “not entirely lacking in its own vanity.”

Rounding out the award-worthy performances, Benicio del Toro plays Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, drawing comparisons to Brando in The Godfather. The Hollywood Reporter notes “he is completely convincing as the extravagantly generous family man, crowd-loving public figure and supremely manipulate and treacherous criminal.”

Erin Go Bragh!

In one of the most exciting additions to the festival, we pay tribute to Savannah’s Irish heritage with another new shorts block called World Shorts: Ireland.

The festival hopes to showcase a different country or region’s short films every year and felt that Ireland was the perfect place to start. With the help of Network Ireland Television, we are very excited to bring six distinct shorts that showcase the depth and breadth of Ireland, featuring noted Irish talents like Dylan Moran and Martin McCann.

But you will definitely not want to miss the Irish short Boogaloo and Graham, featuring two adorable young lads and their chickens, the only Irish short to screen at Toronto (and this programmer’s absolute favorite film of the entire festival lineup).

We are also thrilled to be sharing the insightful and hilarious documentary The Irish Pub in competition. It screens with an equally hilarious short, The Gunfighter, narrated by Nick Offerman of Parks and Rec fame.

You’ll want to head down to Kevin Barry’s on River Street for a pint of Guinness afterward, for sure! The filmmakers will most certainly be there to share more stories.

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