2016 Phoenix Film Festival film announcements begin - Competition Features

My Favorite Phoenix Film Festival Discoveries by Michael Clawson

  by Michael Clawson of Terminal Volume


The best part about film, filmmaking or this grander idea that is the capital-C Cinema, is discovery. Finding something — be it a hidden joke buried in dialogue, your new favorite actor, or a whole bloody film buried in a hidden corner of the world — has always been part of the fun. Because when you discover something, you get to own it for a brief window of time before the rest of the world piles on.


I’ve had a number of moments of discovery at the Phoenix Film Festival over the years. Here are a couple that stood out for me:


Layout 1A Town Called Panic — I saw A Town Called Panic at what must have been a 10 or 11 p.m. showing at the 2010 festival. The theater was maybe half full, and I don’t think anyone was quite ready for this quirky stop-motion film about characters named Cowboy, Indian and Horse. The premise is zany: it’s Horse’s birthday, so his roommates go online to order 50 bricks, but due to a keyboard snafu they accidentally order 50 million bricks. The bricks start coming in a huge caravan of delivery trucks, which is only the beginning of this ridiculously fun French film. It’s after movies like this you realize how important film festival are, because without one how else would anyone have seen A Town Called Panic?


Dom Hemingway — Richard Shepard’s impishly vile Dom Hemingway exploded off the screen at last year’s festival. Nothing can really prepare you for it; it just smacks you in the face from the first scene onward. And Jude Law, as the bad-boy ex-con who attempts his imperial swagger outside of prison, is perfect. I named it one of my favorite films of last year, and yet when I mentioned it to people they shrugged their shoulders, “What’s that?” It opened wide later, but largely disappeared, which meant that everyone who saw it at the festival was in on a big, wonderful secret.

3514-The House That Jack Built-1

The House That Jack Built — Here’s another one from the 2014 festival that blew me away. Henry Barrial’s crime drama was pitch perfect with an exquisite cast, fantastic dialogue and a fully realized script. About a man who’s trying to control a criminal empire at the same time as his family, The House That Jack Built was an awesome find during a really strong year at the festival.


Terri and Cyrus — John C. Reilly is one of the greats, both in drama and comedy. In both of these films, both of which premiered at the Phoenix Film Festival, he toes a dangerous line between comedy and tragedy, playful humor and dark. In Terri, he befriends an outcast at a high school. And in Cyrus, he falls in love with a woman with a grown child who clings a little too close to home. Both pictures are magnificent, and awkward and weirdly serious.


The Movie HeroThe Movie Hero — In 2003, during one of my first festivals, I happened to catch The Movie Hero, Brad T. Gottfred’s meta-comedy about a man who is convinced he’s starring in his own movie. The man, and Movie Hero, is played by Clueless co-star Jeremy Sisto, who spends much of the movie dialoging with the audience. It’s all bonkers, with lots of citing of movie cliches and tropes, but it works and works well. It was a fun find.


The Joe Show — Every Arizonan has an opinion of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, which is what made Randy Murray’s eviscerating documentary so much fun. Audience members seemed to be nodding or shaking their heads as the film played out with Joe riling his pink-underwear-wearing prisoners, baiting the local and national media and singing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” It’s always fun to watch the Arizona-themed shows in Arizona because the audience always has a stake in what’s happening.

Son of Rambow

Son of Rambow — I still smile when talking about Son of Rambow, about a precocious kid who treks off into the woods to remake his own version of Rambo: First Blood. Movies about movie are always great, but so are movies about movies with kids.


Best Worst Movie — The documentary features are always worth checking out, because the subject matter goes to and fro, and you never know what you’ll end up with. In Best Worst Movie, director Michael Stephensen examines the awfulness and ultimate legacy of Troll 2, a film many people call the worst film ever made. I think there’s an art to bad movies, so the movie works on two levels: it’s a great movie about a bad one.

Your Favorite Movies - Thomas Beatty

What are Your Favorite Films?

For the 2015 Phoenix Film Festival we encourage you to Find Your New Favorite Movie! As we approach the festival we’ve started a new series on our site where we ask some Phoenix Film Festival filmmaker alumni about some of their favorite movies.  

rebecca_thomas-1Thomas Beatty, writer and co-director (along with Rebecca Fishman – who also happens to be his wife) took home a PFF 2014 Copper Wing Award for Best Ensemble for his film The Big Ask. Known as Teddy Bears at PFF, the Movie Guys tagged the film as: One of the most fun indie films I’ve watched in a long time. Drama, Comedy, Drama, Comedy, Drama, Boom, Boom, Boom.” This week Thomas shares some of his favorites with us, as your must-watch list grows!


What is your …

  • Favorite Comedy?

Trouble in Paradise by Ernst Lubitsch … oldie but a goodie!


  • Favorite Drama?

Pan's Labyrinth by Guillermo Del Toro. I think about this more than any other movie on an almost weekly basis.


  • Documentary?

Gotta go with The Thin Blue Line.  So great.  More recently, I loved A River Changes Course.


  • Favorite film you saw on the circuit?

Little Hope Was Arson!  What what!


  • What is a favorite film that you think most people have never seen, but should?

Trouble In Paradise ...


  • Do you have a favorite film poster?DirtyHarryPoster

Magnum Force.


Since PFF 2014, The Big Ask screened at some ten festivals, gathered a healthy handful of awards, was released by Tribeca Films, and is now available on Amazon Prime.


                                                – Laurie Smith

Another Western Film Series at Phoenix Art Museum

Dead Man PosterAnother Western at Phoenix Art Museum


Come deconstruct the Western genre, with four radical films that push against its conventions and boundaries.

November 9th1pm: Johnny Guitar (1953), dir. Nicholas Ray, starring Joan Crawford and Sterling Hayden.

November 16th1pm: Meek’s Cutoff (2010), dir. Kelly Reichardt, starring Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, and Paul Dano

December 7th1pm: Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), dir. Monte Hellman, starring Warren Oats, James Taylor, and Dennis Wilson

Deceember 14th1pm: Dead Man (1995), dir. Jim Jarmusch, starring Johnny Depp and Gary Farmer

Tickets: $5 Members/$10 Non-members

Click here for more details about the Phoenix Art Museum film events

Harkins Theatres celebrates Robin Williams

good morning vietnamHarkins Theatres celebrates the late Robin Williams with a week-long presentation of his best work at Harkins Valley Art, beginning this Friday, August 15, 2014.  

Fans can come together and enjoy their favorite Robin Williams movies on the big screen throughout the week. The line-up will feature some of Williams’ finest films and includes: The World According to Garp, Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, The Birdcage and Good Morning, Vietnam.


Dan Harkins will introduce Good Morning, Vietnam this Friday at 7:00pm. "I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet Robin Williams. We at Harkins Theatres are deeply saddened by the loss of a genuine person and comedic genius," said Dan Harkins, Owner and CEO of Harkins Theatres.


Harkins Theatres will honor Williams by donating all proceeds from the week-long festival to St. Jude dead poets societyChildren's Research Hospital. St. Jude is leading the way the world understands, treats and cures childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing and food —because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.


Tickets for each showing are $5 and are available at the box office or www.harkinstheatres.com. Harkins Valley Art is located at 509 S. Mill Ave., in Tempe.

PHX Film News for April 18, 2014

PHX Film News
April 18th, 2014 Thank you to everyone who came out to the 2014 Phoenix Film Festival. In the upcoming weeks, many of these films will be released in theatres and we'll keep you posted.This week we thought we would update you on some exciting news on some of our films from 2013.
The Retrieval : Opening April 25th at Harkins Shea After a successful run on the film festival circuit in 2013, The Retrieval is hitting theatres. Next Friday (04/25) the film will be opening exclusively at Harkins Shea 14.Taking place a year after the Emancipation Proclamation, The Retrieval follows Will (newcomer Ashton Sanders), a boy sent by a bounty hunter gang to retrieve a wanted freedman (Tishuan Scott) and bring him back to the South. The film is Independent Spirit Award winner Chris Eska’s second feature and has garnered over a dozen awards at more than forty festivals worldwide, including Best Director, Best Acting Ensemble, and the Audience Award at last year’s Phoenix Film Festival.Find out more at the Harkins website
Favor: iTunes and On Demand on April 22nd Favor was the winner of Best Screenplay at the 2013 Phoenix Film Festival and it will be available on home video starting on April 22nd. That includes iTunes, Cox On Demand and along with another dozen services.Here's a refresher on the synopsis: Kip Desmond has gotten everything he's ever wanted: a thriving career, beautiful wife and an affluent lifestyle, all of which is put in jeopardy when Abby, the waitress with whom he's having a casual fling, is accidentally killed. Desperate, he ends up on the doorstep of childhood friend Marvin Croat and asks him for a huge favor: help get rid of the body. This gruesome circumstance begins a series of events which unravels Kip and Marvin’s lifelong friendship, leading both men to murderous acts neither had ever suspected themselves capable of. Click here to get it on iTunes
Putzel: Available nowOur 2013 Best Picture winner, Putzel is available now for purchase through Amazon as well as various home viewing options.Synopsis: For Walter Himmelstein, a young man endearingly known as Putzel, life literally doesn't go beyond his family's fish store on the upper west side of Manhattan. In this heartwarming romantic comedy about sex, love and smoked fish, Walter's aspirations of taking over his uncle's fish emporium are disrupted by the arrival of Sally, who becomes romantically involved with his about-to-retire and very-married uncle. While Walter tries to thwart their romance in order to ensure his taking over the business, he finds his circumscribed life thrown off kilter, and, after years of being undermined by his family and friends, finally starts to realize that he's more than a Putzel.

Click here to get your copy

Down and Dangerous : Available now in iTunes Down and Dangerous is one of the films we get asked about the most from last year's festival. And we have great news, it's also available on iTunes.Here's the synopsis: Always one step ahead of the Feds, Paul Boxer is the most inventive and principled smuggler in the trade, and has never needed to carry a gun. When violent mid-level traffickers coerce him into designing a foolproof plan to bring ten kilos of cocaine across the México border, he maneuvers to rid himself of their hold over him once and for all. However, when a sharp and beautiful woman from his past enlists his help to escape this rival outfit, Paul must confront the man that is hunting him down, and choose between his livelihood as a drug runner and his integrity as a man.Click here to check it out on iTunes

WE WANT YOU! (to volunteer for the Phoenix Film Festival)

Tiffany 2We sat down with 2012's Volunteer of the Year Copper Wing Award winner Tiffany Hutson, our Volunteer Director, and chat about some neat opportunities to participate in the festival this year.

PFF: Great to see you again, Tiffany! Let's start out with who you are and how you got involved with the festival.

Tiffany: Thanks! It feels good to be back. I actually started out as an intern for the Phoenix Film Festival back in 2010. I am an actress and I was in the school at the time for Special Events Management, and when I went to find an internship I thought the Phoenix Film Festival would be way out of my league. But, I pretty much bugged them until they said yes. I worked solely with the Volunteer Department that year for the 10 Year Anniversary and enjoyed every second of it. I guess they liked me too, because when the Volunteer Director position opened up for the festival the next year they asked me to step in.


PFF: Well, your Volunteer of the Year Award must have shown that they more than like you.


Tiffany: Haha, I guess that's true! I don't think they realized it meant they would be stuck with me forever!


PFF: I'm sure they don't have any objections to that! Now, what does it mean to be the Volunteer Director? What is it that you do for the festival?


Tiffany: Tons of emails. Thankfully, this year I have two interns from ASU helping me out with emailing and other administrative tasks. Basically, before the festival starts I communicate with each department regarding how many volunteers they need during which times of day and I create the schedule accordingly. We have some wonderful volunteers that work with us every year, along with lots of new faces.


PFF: How many volunteers would you say the festival needs every year?


Tiffany: Last year I think the number was around 275.


PFF: What?! That's crazy!


Tiffany: I know! Every single person that works for the festival is a volunteer. It's such a unique festival because we have no paid staff members. Well...except for the Executive Director, Jason. But, he started as a volunteer, so he counts too.


PFF: Why do you think so many people volunteer for this festival?


Tiffany: It's worth it! Majority of our volunteers are local to the Phoenix area and have watched this festival grow throughout the years. The film community in Arizona is a close-knit group of people and the Phoenix Film Festival/International Horror Sci-Fi Film Festival is the biggest celebration of film anywhere in the state. If you love film and you're in Arizona, this is the place to be.


PFF: But why volunteer? Why not just attend the festival?Tiffany 3


Tiffany: Well, I don't want to discourage people from straight up purchasing tickets and attending the festival. But, volunteering allows for the unique experience of interacting directly with filmmakers, guests, VIPs, and fellow film-lovers. Although, I will also say that we have several volunteers who aren't involved in the film community at all. They simply enjoy volunteering with us because we're nice, we're fun, the work isn't incredibly difficult, and it's a great environment to just spend time in.


PFF: So, what is your favorite volunteer position at the festival?


Tiffany: Oh that's not fair! They're all so much fun! Each department has a different personality that fits different kinds of people. But I will say that the only event I make sure I'm 100% available to help out with is Kids' Day. We have an amazing Educational Outreach program and Kids' Day is such a unique, fun experience to be able to help kids discover the art of filmmaking, sometimes for the very first time. Kids' Day is also the only event we accept one-time volunteers for.


PFF: One-time volunteers...meaning?


Tiffany: Every volunteer is required to spend 24 hours volunteering at the festival. The only exception to this is for people who want to volunteer only for the seven hour Kids' Day shift on Saturday, April 6th. It's a great option if you want to volunteer but just don't have the 24 hours available. For volunteering, you'll receive a cool Kids' Day t-shirt along with a pass to see a couple movies at the festival. Our regular volunteers get a festival t-shirt and a pass to the festival that allows them a ticket into any and every screening throughout the whole festival.


PFF: Those are some pretty sweet deals.


Tiffany: I sure think so!


PFF: So, I guess my next question would be who can volunteer?


Tiffany: Anyone! We do ask that you have reliable transportation in order to get to your shifts on time and we prefer that you be at least 18 years old. But we do have a handful of high school students that volunteer with us with their parent's permission every year.


PFF: How would someone who is interested in volunteering get more information?


Tiffany: I would encourage you to visit the Volunteer website - http://www.phoenixfilmfestival.com/volunteers/ - and check out the volunteer information. If you still have questions after reading through everything, then shoot an e-mail to volunteer@phxfilm.com and we'll get back with you.

We actually have our New Volunteer Orientation coming up this Saturday, March 1st at 1:00pm and Saturday, March 22nd at 2:00pm in the Festival Ticket Center next to the Harkins Theater at Scottsdale Rd. and the 101.

We hope to see you there!