The SCAD Savannah Film Festival wrapped in October but some of the films that screened there are out now in theatres or streaming. Some of the films that received rave reviews at the film festival here have been receiving acclaim on the award circuit so far as the road to the Oscars is underway. Many of the movie stars and creators spoke with Connect while in Savannah for the film festival.
Belfast was one of the movies that was a part of the signature screenings at the film festival and is a strong contender for a Best Picture Oscar nomination. It received six Golden Globe nominations including Drama Motion Picture and a Best Director of Motion Picture nomination for the film’s director Kenneth Branagh.
Branagh has been nominated for five Academy Awards in five different categories and five Golden Globes. Belfast is about a nine-year-old boy who must chart a path toward adulthood through a world that has suddenly turned upside down. His stable and loving community and everything he thought he understood about life is changed forever, but joy, laughter, music, and the formative magic of the movies remain. Branagh was the writer and director for this film that is based in parts on his own life.
“It was a very emotional experience writing it. I chose to do it at this time because we were living through this period of uncertainty and being unsettled in the way the pandemic had its effect on everybody. The story of the film is about a period of deep uncertainty with my family. When something happened when I was nine years old, when our world was turned entirely upside down in the north of Ireland, what was a peaceful environment? A very happy environment turned into a very, very dangerous one,” said Branagh.
Branagh was presented with the Lifetime Achievement in Acting and Directing Award at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival.
Another film getting a lot of buzz that was a part of the signature screenings at the festival is King Richard, a film that looks at how tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams became who they are after the coaching from their father Richard Williams. Williams, an undeterred father, is instrumental in raising two of the most extraordinarily gifted athletes of all time.
Will Smith delivers a strong performance as Richard Williams. Richard uses unconventional methods to take Venus and Serena Williams from the streets of Compton to the global stage as legendary icons, changing tennis forever. Even more than the sports the film is about family and family bonds.
The film also stars Aunjanue Ellis who plays Venus and Serena Williams’ mother Oracene Price. The movie shows just how influential Price was in her daughters lives and the impact that has had on their success.
“Venus and Serena are heroes of mine and I wanted to be a part of something that honored them and gave them their flowers,” said Ellis. “Love was their weapon. The love that they had in their house was rich. What we wanted to do with this film was honor the Williams family and all of the sisters. We also wanted to honor their mother and give her a voice.”
Venus and Serena also served as executive producers on the film and their other sisters were involved in aspects of the film as well making it a true family affair. Will Smith is nominated for a Best Actor in a Motion Picture Golden Globe and Aunjanue Ellis is nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Golden Globe. Ellis was presented with the Outstanding Achievement in Cinema Award at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival.
Streaming on Netflix is the movie Passing starring Tessa Thompson, Academy Award nominee Ruth Negga, and André Holland. Adapted from the 1929 novel by Nella Larsen, Passing tells the story of two Black women who can “pass” as white but choose to live on opposite sides of the color line during the height of the Harlem Renaissance.
After a chance encounter reunites the former childhood friends, Irene (played by Thompson) reluctantly allows Clare (played by Negga) into her home, where Clare ingratiates herself into Irene’s family and larger social circle. As their lives become more deeply intertwined, Irene finds her once-steady existence upended by Clare.
“I found it really liberating playing Claire because I felt that the constraints that society had placed upon her as a woman of color, she acknowledged but refused to live by and live within and that was pure pleasure and freedom,” said Negga.
“I hope I managed to capture the feeling of being unsafe that was permeating the lives of people of color, especially black women and that is very present in our film.
Negga was presented with the Spotlight Award at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival. She is currently nominated for a Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture Golden Globe.
Dune, directed by Denis Villeneuve, was screened at the festival and is now streaming on different platforms. The film tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people.
“It’s a character driven movie. It’s also an action driven movie, and I think sound in particular, can be one of those things that really distracts people if it’s too flashy and gaudy and outlandish. So, it’s all about trying to keep a sense of realism,” said Theo Green, sound designer and supervising sound editor for the movie.
Dune picked up three Golden Globe nominations including Best Motion Picture - Drama.
C’mon C’mon was one of the gala screenings at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival. The movie is a 2021 American black-and-white drama film starring Joaquin Phoenix, about an artist (Phoenix) left to take care of his precocious young nephew as they forge an unexpected bond over a cross-country trip. Director Mike Mills was presented with the Auteur Award at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival. Though the film didn’t snag any Golden Globe nominations it still is on a few Oscar prediction lists.
Streaming on Hulu is the documentary Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised). The film is directed and executive produced by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson the unmistakable heartbeat of The Roots, Philadelphia’s most influential hip-hop group and house band for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
“I immersed myself in this material. The hardest part was what to keep and what to take out. There were so many great music and comic performances to choose from. I gotten so many DM’s where people have told me that after watching this film it that they saw themselves on screen when they were a teenager or saw a relative they knew who attended,” said Thompson
The documentary is part music film and part historical record created around an epic event that celebrated Black history, culture and fashion. Over the course of six weeks in the summer of 1969, the Harlem Cultural Festival was filmed in Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park) just 100 miles south of Woodstock. The footage, which includes never-before-seen concert performances by Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly and the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, The 5th Dimension, and more was never seen and largely forgotten until now.
Spencer which tells the story of the marriage of Princess Diana and Prince Charles which had grown cold. Though rumors of affairs and a divorce abound, peace is ordained for the Christmas festivities at the Queen’s Sandringham Estate. There’s eating and drinking and shooting and hunting. Diana knows the game, but this year, things were profoundly different. Spencer is an imagining of what might have happened during those few fateful days.
Kristen Stewert gives a strong and intimate portrayal of Diana and it has earned her a Golden Globe Nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama and she is a front runner for a Best Actress Oscar nomination.
Academy Award-nominated actor and 2018 SCAD Savannah Film Festival Outstanding Achievement in Acting and Producing Award honoree Maggie Gyllenhaal branched out into directing. She makes her directorial debut with The Lost Daughter. She also wrote the film. The movie is based on a book and is about Leda who is alone on a seaside vacation when she becomes consumed with a young mother and daughter as she watches them on the beach. Unnerved by their compelling relationship, Leda is overwhelmed by her own memories of the terror, confusion, and intensity of early motherhood.
“I felt like the book was saying things I had never heard said out loud before about the experience of being a woman in the world, being a mother, being a lover, being a thinker, being an artist. I thought it would be really kind of radical to articulate those things in a communal way on film,” said Gyllenhaal about why she wrote and directed this movie.
At the 2021 Savannah SCAD Film Festival Gyllenhaal was presented with the Rising Star Director Award. The movie is nominated for 2 Golden Globes including Best Director - Motion Picture for Gyllenhaal. The Lost Daughter, which stars Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley and Dakota Johnson is now streaming on Netflix.
Check online where you can view these films. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released the Oscar 2022 Shortlists in 10 categories and some of these films made this list in a few categories. Nominations for the 94th Academy Awards will be announced on Tues., Feb. 8, 2022. The SCAD Savannah Film Festival returns Oct. 22-29, 2022. Passes for the 2022 festival are now on sale at filmfest.scad.edu