Review of 31st Philadelphia Film Festival
Fall is such a beautiful time in Philadelphia. The changing colors of the leaves, the crisp, cool air. It’s a perfect time to get out and see some movies at the Philadelphia Film Festival. For me, a center city resident, I love walking from one theater to the other. It puts me in different neighborhoods from 14th and Chestnut to Old City at 2nd and 4th streets.
It’s inspiring to see these independent, sometimes foreign films. Each one takes me to another place. I learn about other cultures and how people live.
This year I learned about people with disability, people with Youtube channels, people in arranged marriages, people losing their family farm to developers. My only frustration was that I can only see so many films! There’s no way in the 12 days that you can see all the movies they offer. There were 130 films from over 40 countries with appearances by over 40 special guests.
As it was, I saw about 10. The “must see” for me was Rittenhouse Square because I’ve lived there for many years. It’s a feature film, not a documentary like the one Robert Downey Sr made in 2005. He named his Rittenhouse Square first, and it had a few screenings as part of “From the Vault” section at this festival. But I saw that documentary when it first came out, and it’s now on Youtube for anyone to see.
The feature film Rittenhouse Square was very different from that doc. It’s scripted for one thing, and stars Nick Nolte, a big name movie star. His co-star is a new aspiring actor with only a few speaking roles under his belt before he was cast in this. His name is Dharon Jones.
The film made its world premiere at the Philadelphia Film Center on Sunday, October 23 and Nick Nolte showed up! After the screening, Nolte and director Brandon Eric Kamin (who grew up in Havertown) were on stage to field comments and questions.
Actor Nick Nolte with Director Brandon Eric Kamin of Rittenhouse Square
before the world premiere on the red carpet at Philadelphia Film Center
Photo by Cyndy Drue
This is Brandon’s second feature film. I reviewed his first one, The Nomads after the 2019 Philadelphia Film Festival. That won an audience award in the Filmadelphia category.
This film was shot in Rittenhouse Square, Logan Circle, and other parts of Philly. Nolte plays a homeless veteran who meets a teenager, KJ, (played by Dharon Jones) in the park who had run away from home. KJ longs to be a professional singer songwriter so they put together a concert, taking donations for him to enter some singing contests on TV.
Brandon not only directed it, he wrote it, too. It was very heartfelt, intense at times, and in the end, uplifting. I asked Brandon, since he’s a from here, if he was committed to making all of his movies here in Philadelphia the way M Night Shyamalon does. He said, “As long as the tax breaks continue here,” with a big smile.
Another film I enjoyed in the Filmadelphia category was Your Friend, Memphis. I interviewed the director, David Zucker who grew up in Bala Cynwyd. See that review here.
I was interested to see the film by Sam Katz, who at one time ran for Mayor against John Street, (and lost). He since has a successful production company called History Making Productions. He has been making historic documentaries for years. He was at the PFF to screen his latest film called Gradually, Then Suddenly: the Bankruptcy of Detroit.
“I was put here to do this” was what Sam Katz said to me when I asked him what his goals were with this film. He’s hoping to get it into grad schools, and other colleges to show the next generation. He also wants municipalities to watch it to prevent it from happening to them.
Empire of Light is a film you might see come up for awards. It was directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty, 1917 and so many more). Olivia Colman stars and it’s another acting tour de force on her part. She’s been gathering awards lately for everything she stars in. The film is about the staff of a movie theater in England in 1981. The manager never watched any movies but when she finally did, it was Being There – my favorite film of all time!
After viewing each film at the PFF, we vote using a paper ballot, giving it a 1 for lousy, and up to 5 which is excellent. Till won the coveted Audience Award in the Narrative category. Directed by Temple Alumni Chinonye Chukwu who also made a red-carpet appearance and hosted a Q&A at the Festival. This Audience Award winning film is now playing at the PFS Bourse Theater. It will no doubt be up for some awards this season.