2nd Phoenix Film Festival: AMC Arizona Center, April 5th-7th, 2002

It’s spring, and a young man’s thoughts inevitably turn to…spending all day in the dark. Yep, it’s film fest time again, with Arizona’s own Phoenix Film Festival, back for its second year. For some reason, they invited us back too. Guess we’re not trying hard enough. 🙂

Things were slightly different from last year; fewer films, I think, but more chances to see them, which works fine for us harried acolytes who are making (inevitably futile) attempts to see everything. The staggered start times were a bit of a mixed blessing – while it does reduce the crush to get in when you don’t have three films beginning simultaneously, it occasionally led to perilous rushing between screens. Still, some things were the same as last year. The venue for one, though the Arizona Center seemed a good deal more…well, vacant than last year, exemplified by a food court where two-thirds of the units are unoccupied.

Not much better luck in the cinema, where the concession stands seemed wildly unprepared for people actually wanting snacks at 11am in the morning. We felt particularly bad about forcing the director of Jane White is Sick and Twisted to chase after us, waving a press-pack, as we sprinted off in search of something edible. Hopefully, he’ll understand that man cannot live by popcorn alone.

Sarah Graham Hayes from Dead Dogs Lie
Pic by Dennis Yeandle

Was delighted to see the punctuality of the festival remained as eccentric as ever – this is not an event for the fastidious clock-watcher, shall we say. Some of this was self-inflicted by the organisers: if you schedule a 100 minute film for noon, it’s a bit optimistic to have the next begin at 1:30pm! As a result, events started anywhere up to 45 minutes late, but the great thing is…no-one minded – all the more time to chat. And, as last year, without exception, people were more than happy to hang round and talk, a delightful change from bigger events where guests get bussed in, and escorted out. Mind you, could have done without the house lights coming up four separate times in the middle of one poor movie – it’s not like we were having sex or anything.

We crammed in seven films in a day and a half. It would have been eight, but an accident on Highway 51 delayed our arrival – just one of several oddities that weekend, including my receipt of a summons for jury service (dammit, you have to be a U.S. citizen, so no Twelve Angry Men role for me). Also caught the high-school short film program, which was a wide mix between the unexpected – Taken Away featured martial arts choreography worthy of a Hong Kong movie – and the…well, let’s just say a couple of the makers probably took time out from writing bad poetry in their bedrooms.

The regular features were, almost without exception, impressive. It’s immensely sad to realise the hard part is no longer making a movie, it’s giving anyone else the chance to see it. I have no doubt at all that if films like Drop Dead Roses or Dead Dogs Lie got to open in 3,000 screens across the continent, they would royally kick the arse of Van Wilder. That they get no such opportunity is unutterably sad – check out last year’s report, and see how few of 2001’s movies got any distribution. The organisers did get one foreign language film into this year’s festival, something I’d like to see more of – if chances to see low-budget English-language movies are thin on the ground, for overseas ones they’re effectively zero.

Maybe next year they’ll even expand it out beyond a weekend – with 300 submissions this year, there’s clearly a demand for a festival like this, and personally, I’m perhaps better equipped for stamina than a sprint (I always seem to end up wanting to lie down in a well-lit room for a while, having had quite enough of darkened ones). This is probably just me being greedy though; why have a weekend of fun when you can get a whole week?

[Thanks once again to Golan and everyone else at the PFF for their help and assistance, the film-makers for unfailing friendliness, even in the face of…er, us, and co-editor Chris Fata for dealing with ACT tests, suffering through another bout of shaky-cam nausea, and being everything one could want. And she’s all mine, hahaha!]

Phoenix 2003? Hell, yeah! Can’t wait!
Visit the Phoenix Film Festival website.

Festival Reviews

TC Awards

  • Best Film: Dead Dogs Lie and Jane White is Sick and Twisted – tie
  • Best Actor: Eddie McGee, Drop Dead Roses
  • Best Actress: Kris Carr, Five Years
  • Best Ensemble: Tommy Flanagan, Gary Stretch, Sarah Graham Hayes, Dead Dogs Lie
  • Best Director: David Michael Latt, Jane White is Sick and Twisted
  • Best Supporting Actor: Chris Hardwick, Jane White is Sick and Twisted
  • Best Supporting Actress: Barbi Castelvi, Drop Dead Roses
  • Best Script: David Warfield, Ocean Park