The eight-year-old Phoenix Film Festival always has placed a premium on grass-roots cinema. Unlike past festivals, much of the 2007 crop was harvested from local soil (selected films).
Of the 15 feature films to be screened at the festival, which runs Thursday, April 12, to Thursday, April 19 at the Harkins Scottsdale 101 — five were filmed in Arizona or have principal cast members with strong ties to the Valley of the Sun. That’s not even counting the dozens of short film entries.
“It was important for us to debut the movie at the Phoenix festival,” says Bob Dolan, screenwriter and star of the thriller “The Governor,” which was shot in Scottsdale. “We thought it would be a fantastic opportunity for families and friends of the cast and crew to see what we did.”
Dolan and director Ray Garcia de Leon first hatched the idea for “The Governor” while attending film classes at Scottsdale Community College, later recruiting former KTVK-TV (Channel 3) promotions specialist Leigh Ann Phillips to produce the movie.
“A Lobster Tale” producer Lincoln Stalmaster, who describes his film as a cross between “Waking Ned Devine” and “Cocoon,” fondly remembers his days as an undergrad at Arizona State University.
“I took some great film classes there,” Stalmaster says. “The kids were into it. The teacher was into it. I became cinema-conscious at ASU.”
Sibling filmmakers Dean and Brian Ronalds, both of Gilbert, are one of the festival’s great success stories. Encouraged by the success of a short vampire film they made two years ago, the duo (Dean directs, Brian acts and produces) expanded the story into a feature-length comedy, “Netherbeast Incorporated.” Starring former Brat Packer Judd Nelson and “Saturday Night Live” mainstay Darrell Hammond, the movie has made a modest splash on the festival circuit.
Even if the movie catapults the Ronalds brothers into the echelon of Hollywood’s great sibling filmmakers such as the Farrellys, the Coens, the Polish brothers, Brian hopes to continue making movies in the Valley of the Sun.
“Our wives are here, our children are here,” the filmmaker says. “And a lot of talented filmmakers are here. Hopefully, people will see that at the festival.”
>> The Phoenix Film Festival runs Thursday, April 12, to Thursday, April 19, at Harkins Scottsdale 101, Scottsdale Road and Loop 101. $10 individual screenings; $30 flex pass (four screenings); $40 opening night event; $150 festival pass; $425 VIP pass; student/senior discounts available. (602) 955-6444 or phxfilmfestival.com.
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Download: Printable schedule
Notable cast: Keri Russell, Cheryl Hines, Andy Griffin
Plot: “Home Fries”-style slice-of-life comedy about a pregnant waitress (one-time Mesa resident Russell) who finds true love with a handsome stranger (Jeremy Sisto).
Screening: 7:20 p.m. Wednesday, April 18
Notable cast: Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling, David Strathairn
Plot: Gosling (“The Notebook”) plays an outgoing assistant D.A. who is coaxed into a game of legal cat-and-mouse with a brilliant murderer (Anthony Hopkins). Due for wide release later this month.
Screening: 5 p.m. Thursday, April 12 (opening night event)
Notable cast: Jane Seymour, Stephen Tobolowsky
Plot: A sight-impaired bachelor (Chris Pine) is, ahem, blind to the cultural differences between himself and his new Indian girlfriend (Anjali Jay). Directed by actor-filmmaker James Keach (“The Long Riders”).
Screening: 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 13
Notable cast: Judd Nelson, Jason Mewes, Darrell Hammond
Plot: Corporate bloodsuckers and supernatural bloodsuckers collide in this comical, modern-day tale of vampires run amok. Shot in Arizona by local filmmakers Brian and Dean Ronalds.
Screenings: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 14; 3:45 p.m. Sunday, April 15
Notable cast: Robert Forster, Robert Loggia, Richard Roundtree
Plot: Free from prison, a career criminal (Forster) plots revenge against an eccentric rival (Loggia). Meanwhile, a bumbling trio of Arizona 20-somethings plan a bank heist. Schemes collide. Comedy ensues.
Screening: 7 p.m. Sunday, April 15
Back to selected films
Selected competition films
Notable cast: Bob Dolan, Rich Skidmore
Plot: A sex industry bodyguard (Dolan) develops a powerful emotional connection with a Phoenix escort. Shot in Eloy, Phoenix and Scottsdale. Former KTVK-TV (Channel 3) news personality Skidmore plays the villain.
Screenings: 8:10 p.m. Friday, April 13; 11:30 a.m. Saturday, April 14; 4:05 p.m. Sunday, April 15
‘A Lobster Tale’
Notable cast: Colm Meaney, Graham Greene
Plot: A down-and-out fisherman (former “Star Trek: Voyager” regular Meaney) enjoys a brief surge of small-town celebrity when his discovery of a miracle moss becomes all the rage. Written by the creator of “Old School.”
Screenings: 11:40 a.m. Friday, April 13; 8:15 p.m. Saturday, April 14; 9:50 a.m. Sunday, April 15
Notable cast: Julie Hagerty, Stephen Tobolowsky
Plot: Determined to arrange a meeting between his ailing mother (Hagerty) and the pope, a young man (Phillip Vaden) bides his time by playing drums in a heavy-metal band. Think “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” meets “Garden State.”
Screenings: 2:20 p.m. Friday, April 13; 5:20 p.m. Saturday, April 14; 9:45 a.m. Sunday, April 15
Notable cast: Lukas Haas, January Jones
Plot: A withdrawn car mechanic (Haas) is lured from his shell by a like-minded female loner (Jones). Nominated for best film at the Mannheim-Heidelberg Film Festival.
Screenings: 12:10 p.m. Friday, April 13; 4:30 p.m. Saturday, April 14; 3:50 p.m. Sunday, April 15
‘Ten Inch Hero’
Notable cast: Clea DuVall, Sean Patrick Flanery, Alice Krige
Plot: Lifestyle ensemble piece about a circle of friends who experience a tumult of romance and friendship while working in a funky sandwich shop in Santa Cruz, Calif.
Screenings: 8 p.m. Friday, April 13; 9:20 a.m. Saturday, April 14; 4 p.m. Sunday, April 15