What to See at the 2015 Savannah Film Festival

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The Savannah Film Festival has a special place in my heart because it was my coverage of the 2011 Savannah Film Festival that really launched Reel Georgia back four years ago. This will be my fifth time attending, and I’m happy that Lucy and Jessica will also be in Georgia’s first city with me to cover the 18th annual event.

Opening night selection “Suffragette” and closing night selection “I Saw the Light” prove that Savannah has become a significant stop on the fall festival run. “Brooklyn,” “Room,” “Spotlight,” “Truth” and “Youth” are just a few of the Oscar-bait titles screening at this years festival. A host of lesser profile prestige films, foreign titles and true indies dot the lineup. This really promises to be a great year.

We’ve highlighted over 30 films for you to check out at this year’s festival. I know, that’s an outrageous number of films to see in just eight days, but don’t blame me—blame Savannah for upping their game!

Opening Night: Suffragette

This drama tracks the foot soldiers of the early feminist movement, women who were forced underground to pursue a dangerous game of cat and mouse with an increasingly brutal state. These were not genteel educated, but were working women who had seen peaceful protest achieve nothing. Radicalized and turning to violence as the only route to change, they were willing to lose everything in their fight for equality.

Closing Night: I Saw the Light

“I Saw the Light” is the story of the legendary country-western singer Hank Williams, who in his brief life created one of the greatest bodies of work in American music. The film chronicles his meteoric rise to fame and its ultimately tragic effect on his health and personal life. Based on the book “Hank Williams: The Biography” by Colin Escott.

Must See: Anomalisa

Michael Stone, an author of books on the subject of customer service, struggles with his inability to connect to people. While on a routine business trip he meets a stranger who changes his world view. “Anomalisa” is a stop-motion animated drama directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson, based on a play written by Kaufman.

Must See: Brooklyn

“Brooklyn” tells the story of Eilis Lacey, a young Irish immigrant navigating her way through 1950s Brooklyn. Lured by the promise of America, she departs Ireland and the comfort of her mother’s home for New York City. The initial shackles of homesickness quickly diminish as a fresh romance sweeps Eilis into the intoxicating charm of love. But soon, her new vivacity is disrupted by her past, and she must make difficult choices.

Must See: Frame by Frame

“Frame by Frame” follows Afghan photojournalists navigating a new and dangerous media landscape to tell true stories of their country. Pitted against powerful warlords, uncertainty as foreign troops and media withdraw and the looming threat of civil war, four local photographers must overcome these obstacles—and their own flaws—to use photography as voice, identity and hope.

Must See: Krisha

Following a prolonged battle with addiction and self-destruction, Krisha, the black sheep of the family she abandoned, returns for a holiday celebration. But what begins as a moving testament to the family’s capacity to forgive soon spirals into a deluge of emotional bloodletting, as old wounds are torn open and resentments are laid bare.

Must See: Room

“Room” tells the story of Jack, a spirited 5-year-old who is looked after by his loving and devoted Ma. Ma dedicates herself to keeping Jack happy and safe, nurturing him and doing typical things such as playing games and telling stories. Their life, however, is anything but typical — they are trapped, confined to a windowless, 10-by-10-foot space, which Ma has named Room. Ma’s resilience reaches its breaking point, and they enact a risky plan to escape, bringing them face-to-face with what may turn out to be the scariest thing yet: the real world.

Must See: Son of Saul

Saul Ausländer is a Hungarian member of the Sonderkommando, a group of Jewish prisoners forced to assist the Nazis in the machinery of large-scale extermination.While working in one of the crematoriums, Saul discovers the body of a boy he takes for his son. As the Sonderkommando plans a rebellion, Saul decides to save the child’s body from the flames, find a rabbi to recite the mourner’s Kaddish and offer the boy a proper burial.

Must See: Spotlight

“Spotlight” tells the riveting true story of the Boston Globe investigation that rocked the city and caused a crisis in one of the world’s oldest and most trusted institutions. When the newspaper’s tenacious Spotlight reporters delve into allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church, their investigation uncovers a decades-long cover-up at the highest levels of Boston’s religious, legal and government establishment, touching off a wave of revelations around the world.

Must See: Truth

“Truth” is the true story of Mary Mapes (played by Cate Blanchett), an award-winning CBS News journalist and Dan Rather’s producer, who broke the Abu Ghraib prison abuse story, among others. The story Mapes and Rather uncovered—that a sitting U.S. president may have been AWOL from the National Guard for more than a year during the Vietnam War—blew up in their faces, the ensuing scandal ruined Rather’s career, nearly changed a U.S. presidential election and almost took down all of CBS News.

Must See: Youth

“Youth” is about two longtime friends vacationing in the Swiss Alps. Michael Caine plays Fred, an acclaimed composer and conductor, and Harvey Keitel plays Mick, a renowned filmmaker. While Mick scrambles to finish the screenplay for what he imagines will be his last important film, Fred has no intention of resuming his music career. The two men reflect on their past, each finding that some of the most important experiences can come later in life.

“Ithaca”

Gala Screenings

The Savannah Film Festival is offering more gala screenings than ever before, and they aren’t just your typical fall prestige releases. Indie titles like “Coming Through the Rye” and “Dixieland” feature up-and-coming talent, while “Ithaca” is Meg Ryan’s directorial debut and co-stars Tom Hanks (she will be in attendance). Tom Hardy plays twin gangsters in “Legend.” Olivia Wilde will be in attendance for “Meadowland.” Catherine Hardwicke will drop by for a conversation following her film “Miss You Already,” starring Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette.

  • “Coming Through the Rye”
  • “Dixieland”
  • “Ithaca”
  • “Legend”
  • “Meadowland”
  • “Miss You Already”
“45 Years”

Signature Screenings

While these films might not pack the same marquee names or hot-button topics as the flashier gala films, you might find their subject matter to be more refined. “Mia Madre” comes from Italian auteur Nanni Moretti. “The Prophet” is the only animated feature in this year’s lineup. “The Lady in the Van” and “45 Years” see some of our saintliest film stars front and center.  Kristin Davis will stop by for the screening of “Gardeners of Eden.”

  • “45 Years”
  • “Gardeners of Eden”
  • “The Lady in the Van”
  • “Mia Madre”
  • “The Prophet”

“Amy”
Docs to Watch

After a tremendously successful debut showing, Savannah’s Docs to Watch series returns with some of the year’s most high profile documentaries. The first three days of the fest are jam-packed with potential Oscar nominees, and filmmakers from all nine films will gather for the Documentary Roundtable Discussion hosted by Scott Feinberg.

  • “Amy”
  • “Best of Enemies”
  • “Call Me Lucky”
  • “Cartel Land” (Review)
  • “The Hunting Ground”
  • “Meet the Patels”
  • “What Happened, Miss Simone?”
  • “Winter on Fire”
  • “The Wolfpack”

See more and get tickets at savannahfilmfest.com.
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