10th Annual Fort Myers Beach Film Festival Debuts
Robert Redford, Rena Sofer, Cloris Leachman, Kim Basinger, Tino & Alex Wallenda, Barbara Hershey, Susan Blakely, Melissa Gilbert, Timothy Busfield, John Heard, and perhaps a future star who will one day dwarf them all, bring their cinematic magic – whether in celluloid or physical form – to the 10th Fort Myers Beach Film Festival. Screenings are at The Beach Theater at 6425 Estero Boulevard from Wednesday, April 20, through Sunday, April 24. Films begin each afternoon at 3 p.m. and continue throughout the evening.
“The Fort Myers Beach Film Festival offers something for everyone,” gushes chairperson Carla Mandel. “There are features and documentaries, serious dramas to hilarious comedies, and local, student, and even children’s films. If you are a film buff, this is for you!”
Opening ceremonies are Wednesday, April 20, at 2 p.m., with a special guest highlighting the Festival’s 1st film of “Immunity” at 3 p.m. Set in 1942 in an interrogation room in Auschwitz, a Jewish teacher and one of her former students, now an SS doctor, play out a deadly game over her life or her soul. Star Achievement Award-winner Rena Sofer is the teacher, and will appear in person to lead a question & answer session following the movie. Sofer is well known to audiences everywhere, including starring turns in The Bold & The Beautiful, 24 and NCIS.
An integral aspect are local films that Carla describes as “always good, and the Fort Myers Beach Film Festival has a reputation for cultivating homegrown talent.” Among the 2016 entrants are “The Bright Side” by director Eric Alexander; “Happy Family” from producer Mark Schulman; “The Hanging Millstone” from director Curtis Collins; and “Ring” by Karen Whitaker. Judy Copeland stars in “The Bright Side” as well as “Happy Family.” Local Films will be shown Wednesday April 20th at 7:30 p.m.
Student projects, crucial to the future of the arts, take center-stage Friday April 22nd at 6:30 p.m. These include “The Frontman” from Matthew Gentile; David Bertran’s “Coming to Terms,” and Kevin Moody’s “Distracted.” A highlight are films made by the Beach Elementary School children at a free session on Sunday April 24th at 3 p.m. “There is nothing as exciting as when the kids see their own movies on the big screen,” says Carla.
What would a day at the movies be without Hollywood glamor! Robert Redford, Kim Basinger, and Barbara Hershey, stars of the classic baseball movie, “The Natural,” naturally star in a documentary about it entitled, “The Natural: The Best There Ever Was.” “Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?” is a small town Texas battle of the sexes where women band together to boycott sex to rid their town of guns, starring Cloris Leachman and John Heard. Melissa Gilbert and Timothy Busfield headline the family comedy “One Smart Fellow,” with Susan Blakely in “Hungry Hearts” about a young chef who caters a party for four women who have a surprise for him.
Carla feels one highlight will be the documentary “The Show Must Go On: An Intimate Portrait of The Flying Wallendas” on Thursday April 21st at 6 p.m. “It chronicles the famous high wire family, in what most think is a glamorous and wealthy lifestyle, but this film beautifully shows their struggles with anxiety performance issues, diminishing audiences, and a vanishing way of life. It is gripping, and our honor to host Tino and Alex Wallenda at the screening.”
As this is the 10th Fort Myers Beach Film Festival, Carla calls it is the perfect time to reshow some of its previous most-influential films, describing it as “a celebration of our past, present, and future.” Among these are “The Descending,” Kyle Thompson’s psychological thriller from 2012, and 2014’s “Tough Ain’t Enough: Conversations with Albert S. Ruddy” about the legendary producer’s struggles to make some of our most iconic television shows and movies.
“The fan favorite every year is the free family movie on Friday evening on the beach in front of The Outrigger,” Carla says. “This year is Disney’s award-winning 3D computer animated comedy-drama adventure ‘Inside Out’ that begins at sunset at roughly 7:45 p.m. Please do not park at The Outrigger, but at the nearby bank lot and make the short walk to the beach.”
A Film Review Board juries the Festival. “They are local volunteers from varied backgrounds,” Carla explains. “While their decisions are always difficult, their jobs are easier now than when we first started out due to digital advances. In the beginning they literally passed back & forth film cans!” The Awards Presentation is Sunday at 2 p.m., with screenings of the Best Feature Film and People’s Choice Award-winners following at 5 p.m.
The Festival hosts Friday and Saturday workshops. “The Friday forum covers how to develop your own independent films,” Carla offers. “Saturday’s program has two parts: how to turn a short into a feature, kind of like how you expand a poem into a novel, and a retrospective on the Festival’s 1st decade, including ‘where are they now’.” Friday’s workshop is $30-per-person, with Saturday at $40, and each includes lunch.
Admission is $7 per screening. “Don’t worry that some movies are brief while others are feature-length,” Carla says. “We package three or four of the shorts together so that everything balances. No matter which session you select, you get your money’s worth.” There is a $150 VIP Pass that includes all activities and events as well as Friday’s workshop.
Organizers still need volunteers and donated items for the “Swag Bags. Carla describes these as gifts for each filmmaker so that “they leave Fort Myers Beach with items from Fort Myers Beach. This is a benefit of living in a small community – everyone works together to support the arts.” To view the screening schedule, purchase tickets or VIP Passes, volunteer, donate to the “Swag Bags,” or for any other information go to fmbfilmfest.com.
“The Fort Myers Beach Film Festival attracts fans and filmmakers from all across the nation, to share their compelling and interesting creations” concludes Carla. “The best part is the unknown you see today will be the international superstar 10 years from now. In a sense, we help these artists to find and hone their better selves, and that is exciting. See you at the movies!”