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It's film festival season in Arizona, and there are hundreds of offerings to see

By Tom Maxedon
Published: Friday, February 23, 2024 - 4:55am
Updated: Tuesday, February 27, 2024 - 11:12am

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Cathedral Rock Trailhead Sedona Arizona
Deborah Lee Soltesz/U.S. Forest Service
The Cathedral Rock trailhead in Sedona.

No matter what types of movies you enjoy, over the next several weeks, Arizona has hundreds of offerings, whether that’s in the Phoenix metro region or Sedona.

Here's some of the highlights from three film festivals in Arizona, as well as a bonus take in this director’s cut.

Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival: Through March 3

Hear Tricia Beran's interview with Tom Maxedon

This festival launched its 28th season on Feb. 18. There are numerous offerings which reflect Jewish life of the past, present and future.

One of those is the 2023 Israeli comedy-drama “Seven Blessings,” co-written by Eleanor Sela.

“It’s actually about an unusual Jewish custom that involves family having dinner together after a wedding for the following seven nights. That’s not the unusual custom. The unusual custom comes out in the film. There’s some humor and you feel like you’re sitting at the table,” said Tricia Beran, co-executive director of the festival.

Beran said Sela will be in the Valley the weekend of Feb. 23 to speak about the film, and also her upcoming project related to the Oct. 7, 2023, attack on Israel by Hamas.

All films are screened in a theater setting this year, after experimenting with hybrid, in-home offerings during the pandemic.  

Sedona International Film Festival: Feb. 24-March 3

Hear Pat Schweiss' interview with Tom Maxedon

Now in its 30th year, this festival opens Feb. 24. There’s a comedic irony to its longevity.  

“We’re not silly enough to not think our landscape and our beautiful Sedona isn’t a draw for people. You come to Sedona, it’s just magical, beautiful and stunning. And, what do we do? We put you in a dark theater,” said Pat Schweiss, director of the festival for the last 20 years.

A few documentaries by Arizona-based filmmakers made the screening schedule, including “Tad’s Emerging World: Glen Canyon Exposed.”

The bread and butter of the festival, though, is a smörgåsbord of fictional features, including “For When You Get Lost.”

It’s a film that centers on lead character June Stevenson, who “drags her estranged sisters on a road trip up the Pacific Coast in order to make amends with their difficult father before he dies,” according to a YouTube synopsis.  

June is played by Jennifer Sorenson, who wrote the film and will appear at the festival. According to her, it’s a “dramedy” with roots in her own life story.  

“Even when my father did die in real life, I saw all the comedy that was going around, at the same time being devastated that my father was dying. My favorite thing to say is that the coroner who came in to take my dad’s body away, which is very morbid, his name was Dick Fakkema. And, as much as you can prepare yourself for death, you can’t prepare yourself for Dick Fakkema coming in the room,” she laughed.

Hear Jennifer Sorenson's interview with Tom Maxedon

2024 Worldwide Women’s Film Festival: March 8-10

Hear Kim Huenecke's interview with Tom Maxedon

In March, the 2024 Worldwide Women’s Film Festival opens in the Valley.  

“Women have a very different point of view than men. Let’s be honest. We want to showcase that and give women recognition for what they contribute to the film industry,” said Kim Huenecke, president of the festival. 

She said films submitted for inclusion need two things.

"One is a woman behind the film in a principal role, director, cinematographer, producer, or screenwriter. We also need a woman-driven story.”  

Like other festivals, there’s a broad offering of genres and styles, as well as some standouts Huenecke is endeared to.  

One is ‘The Weight of a Feather.’ It’s a short documentary about Native Americans and birds,” she said.

New on streaming from Valley filmmaker

Robert Conway
Scottsdale-based indie screenwriter and filmmaker Robert Conway.

Hear Robert Conway's interview with Tom Maxedon

If you can’t make it to one of the upcoming festivals, there’s plenty of content from local talent available to stream at home.  

“Hellhounds” is a new release by Valley-based filmmaker Robert Conway.

“It was a really fun script to write. A ‘popcorn movie’ is what I call it. It’s going be fun. It’s biker werewolves,” he said.

“There’s some pretty disturbing imagery, pretty hardcore, dramatic stuff going on within a premise that is kind of easy to laugh off, which is almost intended, because despite that heavy subject matter my goal was to make biker werewolves. How much more Saturday night, mindless entertainment can you get?”  

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