Did you know that in the now 17-year history of the Savannah Film Festival, it has never rained? Autumn in Savannah is an incredible thing. Warm days, cool nights and although the live oaks don’t carry the same bright colors as the trees up north, this city is colorful enough. But the amazing fall feelings and beautiful weather are just a couple of reasons why we love attending this festival. A diverse and exceptional group of films is the main draw.
The usual Oscar players are in the mix this year, with films like “Foxcatcher,” “The Imitation Game” and “Whiplash” dotting the lineup. Foreign fare like “Two Days, One Night” and “Parisian” add some cultural flavor while the slate of indie features seems like it might make for SAVFF’s strongest competition lineups yet. Documentaries are plentiful, seeing as a ‘Docs to Watch’ series adds eight of the most highly buzzed non-fiction works of the year to an already healthy group of films. Georgia-based and produced documentary “Paradise Garden: Howard Finster’s Legacy” has played at various places across the state in recent months and is competing for a jury prize here.
It is refreshing to see lesser-known—but still promising—titles like “5 to 7” and “Escobar: Paradise Lost” in opening and closing night slots, rather than some of the bigger titles playing mid-week.
We’ve highlighted 22—yes, twenty-two—films for you to check out at this year’s festival. It’s going to be a great one. You’ve got eight days, so get started!
Aspiring writer Brian Bloom (Anton Yelchin) is at a professional low point when he bumps into a beautiful French woman, Arielle (Bérénice Marlohe). She agrees to see him, but only between 5 and 7 p.m. When he finds out “5 to 7” is a French turn-of-phrase meaning she’s married, his common sense tells him to stay away, but his heart pulls him closer as the two begin a dreamy love affair.
For Pablo Escobar (Benicio Del Toro), family is everything. When young surfer Nick (Josh Hutcherson) falls for Escobar’s niece, he finds his life on the line as he’s pulled into the dangerous world of the family business.
An army veteran struggles to assimilate back into a country he barely recognizes while trying to win the heart of an Iraqi immigrant who is teetering on the brink of deportation.
When a devastating event befalls the city of San Fransokyo and catapults Hiro into the midst of danger, he turns to Baymax and his close friends: adrenaline junkie Go Go Tomago (Jamie Chung), neatnik Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.), chemistry whiz Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez) and fanboy Fred (T.J. Miller). Determined to uncover the mystery, Hiro transforms his friends into a band of high-tech heroes called “Big Hero 6.”
Based on true events, “Foxcatcher” tells the dark and fascinating story of the unlikely and ultimately tragic relationship between an eccentric multi-millionaire and two champion wrestlers.
When three women living on the edge of the American frontier are driven mad by harsh pioneer life, the task of saving them falls to the pious, independent-minded Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank). Transporting the women by covered wagon to Iowa, she soon realizes just how daunting the journey will be, and employs a low-life drifter, George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones), to join her. The unlikely pair leads the three women east, where a waiting minister and his wife have offered to take in the women. But the group first must traverse the harsh Nebraska Territories, marked by stark beauty, psychological peril and constant threat.
An aged and addled actor has his world turned upside down after he embarks upon an affair with a lesbian in this harsh adaptation of the Philip Roth novel.
Based on the real-life story of legendary cryptanalyst Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), “The Imitation Game” portrays the nail-biting race against time by Turing and his brilliant team of code-breakers at Britain’s top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park during the darkest days of World War II.
“The Last Patrol” picks up where “Restrepo” left off, with the same men, the same valley and the same commanders, but a very different look at the experience of war. “The Last Patrol” explains how war works, what it feels like and what it does to the young men who fight it. As one soldier cheers when he kills an enemy fighter, another looks into the camera and asks if God will ever forgive him for all of the killing he has done. As one soldier grieves the loss of his friend in combat, another explains why he misses the war now that his deployment has ended and admits he would go back to the front line in a heartbeat. Every bit as intense and affecting as “Restrepo,” “The Last Patrol” goes a step further in bringing the war into people’s living rooms back home.
The Rev. Howard Finster, known as the grandfather of Southern folk art, showed that art can thrive outside of museums and galleries — namely in Paradise Garden, an art installation near Summerville, Georgia. The film charts the renovation of Paradise Garden, which fell into disrepair after Finster’s death, while examining how art is inspired, created, sold, collected, preserved and reborn through inspiration.
When published Japanese author Kyoko Murakai travels to Paris, France, in search of the perfect character to inspire her next novel, she encounters carefree Parisian women and an enigmatic Spaniard across the hall who force her to rethink her own life and marriage.
When the 6-year-old girl next door goes missing, Harold realizes that his secret audio recordings of the neighborhood may provide clues to the case. But when his overzealous new roommate Ally pushes him into a dangerous investigation, Harold’s world is turned upside down. “The Sound and the Shadow” examines the perceptions and stories we create from the sounds of our neighbors — and the secrets we hide behind our own walls.
Multiple Palme d’Or winners Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne continue to mine the lives of individuals faced with potentially tragic consequences. Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard excels as the fragile Sandra, who returns to work after a break to discover that her colleagues have chosen to take a bonus at the expense of her job. She has just one weekend to change their minds. “Two Days, One Night” is a profoundly poignant, social-realist drama, and arguably the Dardenne brothers’ greatest achievement to date.
Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is an ambitious young jazz drummer, single-minded in his pursuit to rise to the top of his elite East Coast music conservatory. Plagued by the failed writing career of his father, Andrew hungers day and night to become one of the greats. Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), an instructor equally known for his teaching talents and his terrifying methods, leads the school’s top jazz ensemble. Fletcher discovers Andrew and transfers the aspiring drummer into his band, forever changing the young man’s life. Andrew’s passion to achieve perfection quickly spirals into obsession, as his ruthless teacher continues to push him to the brink of both his ability and his sanity.
In addition to the documentaries in competition and various other docs in the lineup, this year marks the first year of a ‘Docs to Watch’ series, featuring eight of the year’s most highly anticipated non-fiction features. On Saturday, November 1st, a Documentary Roundtable Discussion with moderator and host Scott Feinberg will feature several of the filmmakers behind these potentially Oscar nominated features.
- “Finding Vivian Maier”
- “Keep On Keepin’ On”
- “Life Itself”
- “Merchants Of Doubt”
- “Red Army”
- “The Salt Of The Earth”
- “Supermensch: The Legend Of Shep Gordon”