Artistic Director Michael Lerman and Executive Director J. Andrew Greenblatt chatted about what to expect at the Philadelphia Film Festival.
To the average Joe moviegoer, all Philadelphia has offered to the medium is M. Night Shyamalan’s crash course of a career and Sylvester Stallone climbing some stairs. Anyone who’s gone to the Philadelphia Film Festival knows differently, though.
“This year is built around oddities,” said Mike Lerman, the artistic director of the 26th annual festival. He said, whereas previous years have included crowd-pleasers, this year will have something for everyone.
The festival will kick off with a screening of the Craig Gillespie-directed biopic I, Tonya, featuring Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding, a two-time Olympian who hired an assailant to attack a competitor.
Shyamalan, director of this year’s hit psychological thriller Split, will present actor Bruce Willis with the 2nd Annual Lumiere Award Oct. 23 at AKA Washington Square. The director-actor team collaborated on Philadelphia-set The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, and is rumored to be filming Glass, the latter film’s 2019 sequel, in South Philly.
If Lerman and Executive Director J. Andrew Greenblatt were to sum up their feelings about the festival in a word, it’d be “excited.” The two talked about the upcoming festival, which will screen films at Ritz East A, Ritz East B, Ritz Five and Prince Theater through Oct. 29. Here’s what they had to say:
What movies are you most excited to be shown at the festival?
Greenblatt: That’s a very hard question. It’s a tremendous program, and I’m really excited for people to see it. I tend to default to the opening and closing films. I love I, Tonya and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. There’s so much throughout this festival that I do love, so many great films, and it’s hard to settle on one.
Lerman: I feel that way, too. It’s funny; I said I was going to make a hit list of the best films, but it ended up being the whole program. It’s a tough question to answer.
This is the festival’s 26th go-around. What’s unique about this year?
Lerman: This year is built around oddities. Many festivals in the past have been built around audience crowd-pleasers, but this year it’s more about hidden gems. The whole lineup is hidden gems; it’s a little odd, a little offbeat, it mixes up the tones, a little bit of adventure. That’s the idea behind it.
How do you decide which films to showcase?
Lerman: It starts with traveling the world and looking at the submissions and finding stuff we love. Past that, we work on negotiations, and what makes sense for the films, and we keep fine tuning and fine tuning it until we find the right fit.
What can someone who’s never been to the PFF expect?
Greenblatt: They can expect to see a collection of films that represent anywhere from around the world. Many of these films could be award winners at the end of the year at the Academy Awards. There are great foreign language films, a stellar crop of documentaries, some adventurous oddities; everything is in this lineup. You can’t go wrong with what you see — if you see something on the lineup that interests you, go see it.
What are your favorite movies that take place in Philadelphia?
Greenblatt: If we avoid the most common ones, the common answer is to say Unbreakable (directed by M. Night Shyamalan, 2000). That’s my favorite movie of Shyamalan’s, and it was way ahead of his time. I also love Twelve Monkeys (Terry Gilliam, 1995), and I’m a diehard Philly sports fan, so it’s hard for me not to talk about Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell, 2012).
Lerman: I really like High School by Frederick Wiseman (1968). I really like Blow Out (Brian De Palma, 1981).
If you could describe your feelings about the festival in a sentence, what would it be?
Lerman: I’m incredibly excited and there’s such a diverse lineup. Thrilled.
Greenblatt: My sentence was just going to be “excited.” I feel the festival is adventurous, exemplary of the times and something that needs to be seen. ••
For a full lineup and schedule, visit filmadelphia.org/festival