Atlanta Film Festival marks 40th year with April 1 opening


IF YOU GO

Atlanta Film Festival. April 1-10 at multiple venues, offering 200 films, including shorts, features and documentaries. Prices for festival passes range from $350 for an all-access pass to $50 for the Movie Hopper Card. Tickets for individual screenings are $10 and will go on sale March 9. A Producer's Pass ($750) also is available for exclusive access to festival screenings, educational programming and parties. 470-296-0170, atlantafilmfestival.com.

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The Atlanta film industry and the Atlanta Film Festival have a lot in common.

An increasing number of films at the festival have an Atlanta connection, and many of this year's films, shot here, will reflect Atlanta landmarks. This year, the festival kicks off at the Plaza Theatre at 7 p.m. April 1, with the Paul Rudd-Selena Gomez vehicle "The Fundamentals of Caring," which was filmed in Atlanta last year.

Between opening night and 7:30 p.m. April 10, when the closing-night film, "Morris From America," shows at the Plaza, the festival will offer more than 30 movies with Atlanta connections, Executive Director Chris Escobar said.

For Escobar, that's part of making the festival as Atlanta-centric as possible. Other native flavors are also carefully curated. The 200 screenings are in locations with local character, such as the Ponce City Market rooftop and at the Center for Puppetry Arts, and the parties are at distinctive watering holes.

“We went away from having screenings at multiplexes and parties at hotel ballrooms because nobody cared,” Escobar said. “Everything should resonate with newcomers as distinctively ‘Atlanta,’ and a local should feel like a tourist in his own city,” seeing it with the fresh eyes of a visitor.

This 40th anniversary film fest should bring in more than 25,000 viewers to 150 events, including short films, features and documentaries. The movies will be screened at seven main venues, with parties and workshops happening at many more.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution received an exclusive preview of the marquee movies showing at the festival. They include:

• A "first-look" screening of the HBO film "Confirmation" (6 p.m. April 3, Rialto Center for the Arts) depicts the 1991 Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination hearings, when Thomas' assistant, Anita Hill, accused him of sexual harassment. It was filmed in Atlanta and stars Kerry Washington, Wendell Pierce, Greg Kinnear, Eric Stonestreet and Jennifer Hudson.

• "Miles Ahead" (2:45 p.m. April 10, Plaza Theatre), the Miles Davis biopic directed by Don Cheadle, also stars Cheadle as the fiery Dark Prince. Cheadle taught himself to play the horn so he could better embody the role. You can hear Cheadle playing here, and he's not only convincing, he's good.

• "Love & Friendship" (12:50 p.m. April 10, Plaza Theatre) has cult director Whit Stillman reconstructing an unfinished early Jane Austen novel in a period piece about an unprincipled, manipulative, charming widow, Lady Susan Vernon, and her plot to land a monied husband.

• An “exclusive sneak preview” of “Siren” (7:30 p.m. April 10, Plaza Theatre) brings good old scary movie chill-bumps. The action begins when groomsmen unleash a predator during a bachelor party for their friend. The movie is an adaptation of a short chapter from the horror anthology “V/H/S.”

• The Food on Film event pairs a food-themed movie with a tasty soiree. This year, that is the 1991 made-in-Georgia film "Fried Green Tomatoes" (noon April 3, Plaza Theatre), followed by an after party at Callanwolde, featuring Sweet Auburn BBQ.

The festival will bring numerous actors and filmmakers to Atlanta to discuss their work, including Oscar winner Rob Burnett, who will talk about directing “The Fundamentals of Caring” at the film’s screening.

Cast members Tyler Hoechlin, Ryan Guzman and Blake Jenner are also scheduled to appear (7 p.m. April 2, Plaza Theatre) at the screening of “Everybody Wants Some” from director Richard Linklater, writer-director of “Dazed and Confused.”

Selvi, subject of the documentary “Driving With Selvi” (7 p.m. April 8, Plaza Theatre) will attend the festival to discuss her experiences as South India’s first female taxi driver, and the abusive marriage into which she was forced at age 14. The filmmakers followed the young woman for 10 years while making the documentary.

Festival organizers make an effort to program artists on the rise. "We were playing Spike Lee's short films before he was Spike Lee," creative director Kristy Breneman joked. They believe Chad Hartigan, director of the festival's closing film, "Morris From America," fits that category this year.

The festival also will offer an extensive track of movies by female directors, and will present more than 30 workshops on such topics as lighting, casting, animation, budgeting, editing, pitching your story idea and many other moviemaking skills.