Over the last decade, the Scottsdale International Film Festival (SIFF) has grown impressively, starting in 2001 with just 11 films. When the 12th annual event kicks off on October 5th, SIFF will have 38 films and 69 screenings, with special guests such as director Josh Dragotta and actress Angel Walker (in town to present their film Satan’s Angel: Queen of the Fire Tassels). In short, the festival’s expansion over the last 11 years proves that it’s one of the go-to spots for diverse films from all over the globe, from highly anticipated Oscar contenders to little-seen foreign films.
The 12th annual festival opens on the night of Friday, October 5th with The Eye of the Storm, an Australian drama starring Judy Davis, Geoffrey Rush, and Charlotte Rampling, and directed by Fred Schepisi, who will attend the event to present the film and take part in a question-and-answer session with audience members afterwards. The Eye of the Storm, from Variance Films and Sycamore Entertainment, centers on the dying matriarch of an upper-crust Sydney family (Rampling) and her children (Davis and Rush), who are trying to figure out how to care for her in her autumn years. The closing film, which will premiere on the evening of Tuesday, October 9th, is Fox Searchlight’s The Sessions, starring John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, and William H. Macy. Based on a true story, The Sessions focuses on Mark O’Brien (Hawkes), a journalist and poet who’s confined to an iron lung and, thus, has never had sex in his life. He decides to embark on a journey to no longer be a virgin, with the help of a sex surrogate (Hunt); Hawkes’ performance, especially, will get some serious Oscar buzz, as it’s a transformative and emotionally powerful turn.
Some other major screenings at this year’s SIFF, dubbed Centerpieces, include Quartet, which marks Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut and stars Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly, and Michael Gambon; Shadow Dancer, a drama set against the struggles in Belfast regarding the IRA, starring Clive Owen and Gillian Anderson; and Struck by Lightning, a supernatural teenage drama starring (and written by) Glee’s Chris Colfer, Alison Janney, Rebel Wilson, Christina Hendricks, and Dermot Mulroney. Each Centerpiece screening will take the spotlight on Saturday evening through Monday evening, the 6th through the 8th.
According to the SIFF program guide, festival director Amy Ettinger says, “Even the most casual look at this year’s line-up reveals a blend of films to satisfy a broad range of interests and tastes.” Among the more notable films that connect to SIFF’S new mission—as stated in the program guide, to be a “…catalyst for connecting diverse filmmakers from around the world with film lovers…”—are Baikonur, a love story from Kazakhstan, about a Kazakh ham radio operator who falls for a French space tourist who lands in his village; Grey Matter, a Rwandan film about a filmmaker whose efforts to make a movie about his country’s genocide manifests in his own life; and Policeman, a crime drama from Israel focusing on anti-terrorist police and wealthy anarchists, and how their activities intertwine, a la real-life events.
With such a wide-ranging slate of films, and guests such as Mr. Schepisi as well as Julio Barcenas, producer of The Last Christeros, and Korinna Sehringer, director of Shouting Secrets, the 12th annual Scottsdale International Film Festival continues to establish its credentials as a destination event in the Southwest for all cinephiles. SIFF will ring in its 12th annual fest from October 5th through October 9th, at the Harkins Shea 14 in Scottsdale, Arizona. You can access all the details to get single-day or multi-day passes, as well as more information on each of the films showing at the festival by going to the SIFF website, http://www.scottsdalefilmfestival.com.