Phoenix Film Festival

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The Phoenix Film Festival started in 2000 to highlight independent movies, and is now the state’s largest film festival. Hear more about the eight-day event from Chris Lamont, a co-founder of the Phoenix Film Festival.

Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of "Arizona Artbeat" looks at the Phoenix Film Festival, which is celebrating its 15th year of highlighting independent films, such as this year's showing of "Havana Curveball," the story of a young boy who tries to send baseballs to Cuba.

Video: Cuba saved my grandfather's life and I wanted to repay a sort of debt and what better way thought my 12-year-old self than to share with something that the Cuban people that I care about, that they care about?

Video I asked if anybody was willing to donate equipment to me, balls, mitts, hats. It's a country under sanction by the United States. We don't have open trade with them. You cannot send a package to Cuba. U.S. treasury sanction program.

Ted Simons: Here now with more on this year's Phoenix Film Festival is Chris Lamont, a co-founder of the event. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon."

Chris Lamont: Thank you so much.

Ted Simons: We talked about independent films. I know in the beginning, independent films were the focus. Still the focus?

Chris Lamont: There's two types of movies out there. There's huge blockbusters, and then there's everything else. The smaller, more character-devoted films and that's what independent film is all about. Lower budget definitely, but really when you've got films that are really talking about characters and people like the one from Havana, that's the kind of movie we like to program.

Ted Simons: There's an international horror sci-fi film fest going on at the same time?

Chris Lamont: We found that we wanted to make a festival that was for everybody. We wanted everyone who loves documentaries or animations or short films, we wanted to find a festival that answered everybody's wishes and so the horror sci-fi, there's a lot of people who love horror and sci-fi movies. Our late night programming is horror features, horror shorts, sci-fi features. There's no excuse really for you not to come to the festival. You can't say there's no movies I like. There's always a movie you can find.

Ted Simons: You've got filmmaking seminars and educational discussions, what are those about?

Chris Lamont: One of the most important things about independent film and what the film foundation does is that we want to educate. We want to inspire film makers and teach film makers how to make movies and we want audiences to come and see them and the whole idea really is that if we teach people how to make good movies, then they're going to make good movies that we can show at the festival so we do weekday seminars and weekend seminars. We have a huge party pavilion, and you learn how acting and screenplay writing and how to direct and making your first feature. It's really important to be able to learn and that's what's going to inspire people to be the next generation of filmmakers.

Ted Simons: And you have a kids day, as well.

Chris Lamont: Yes, and my kids love it. I'll tell you. You get to write scripts, do story boarding and then in costume, you act in front of a green screen and they put you on the moon.

Ted Simons: We'll wait to see those films at a later date. As far as the films we'll be seeing this year, who decides what films get shown?

Chris Lamont: There's two different types of. There's showcase films, like tomorrow night, we're going to have Mangle Horn come out, which is Al Pacino and Holly Hunter, it's a big film, romantic comedy, very character based, the kind of films we like to program. Then we have our competition films. We have almost 1,500 films that are submitted to us from all over the world and we go through that and out of that 1,500 we find the top 120 and those are the films that we show to everyone and so those are competition films. So the kind of films that you're going to see there, even these small movies are -- there's a jury of three or four people, every film is screened multiple times. You can't have one person say if the movie is good or not. Keep the whole thing completely open because we want people to be excited about this festival and we want to show good films.

Ted Simons: How difficult is it to get those good films?

Chris Lamont: Well, you know, it's interesting because as this festival has grown, the quality of the films continues to grow. And what we found is if you have a good festival and you especially have good audience members who respond to the movies, the good films will always come. We have small movies, a documentary about a man who saves people from jumping off of a bridge in China. As opposed to a movie called Bad Exorcist, about teenagers who unleash a demon. Unlike just going to the movies, when you come to the film festival, the filmmakers are there, directors and actors. They stick around. You can meet them at the parties we have every night.

Ted Simons: How does the film fest experience differ from just going to the movies?

Chris Lamont: That's the biggest thing. You're not just seeing the Avengers. You're seeing smaller films, you're supposed to think a little bit. We're asking people to think and feel a lot more than you would from the bigger films. What we really hope people will do, they're going to see these movies and they're going to just enjoy them, you know what I mean? And hopefully, they'll come back and see other films, as well. The film festival experience is about seeing the movies that you might not have ever heard of before and because the filmmakers are there, you really understand the art that it's about. It's not just going and buying your popcorn and sitting for an hour and a half.

Ted Simons: So is the film festival in one location? Does it spread out?

Chris Lamont: There's a lot of cities where festivals are all over the place. We're all at the Harkins Scottsdale 101 theaters, which is up at Scottsdale Road in the 101. We take over the entire west wing, six screens. We run them from 11:00 in the morning until 1:00 at night and basically, we have films constantly going. And we run the films multiple times. There's a lot of festivals that show 300 movies. We have the competition films, 10 competition films but we show them three times because we want the audience to hear about it from other audience members. It's a real community of people because everyone wants to talk and they love movies.

Ted Simons: All right, and as far as how long the festival lasts, what are we talking about?

Chris Lamont: Opening night is tonight and goes through next Thursday and if you want to go to the website, tickets and schedule, Phoenixfilmfestival.com.

Ted Simons: All right, good luck to you. Teenaged exorcists?

Chris Lamont: Bad exorcists.

Ted Simons: Save me a seat. Friday on "Arizona Horizon," it's the Journalists' Roundtable. We'll have the latest on efforts to approve a new driver's license that will allow Arizonans to board airlines. And a package of controversial election changes is back, one piece at a time. Those stories and more Friday on the Journalists' Roundtable. That's it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Chris Lamont:Phoenix Film Festival Co-founder

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