Phoenix Film Festival 2019 – Special Report: Part One (Of Two)

The 19th Annual Phoenix Film Festival is almost here. Continually breaking records since its inception, last year’s festival saw over 28,000 attendees. There are hopes that this year’s festival will attract even more film enthusiasts.

The PFF is Arizona’s largest film festival. During its eleven days, it hosts nearly 300 films, holds filmmaking seminars and parties, and has been named one of The 25 Coolest Film Festivals by MovieMaker Magazine.

The festival will take place at Harkins Scottsdale 101, 7000 E. Mayo Blvd. Phoenix between April 4 – 14. The festival ticket center and the Party Pavilion are all within steps of the theatres, making the festival-going experience as easy as possible.

Among the many new films, features, documentaries, and shorts that will be shown, this year the festival will also be screening a series of retro films. This will consist of four carefully chosen Oscar-winning features of the past, plus a series of nine special screenings in what the festival is calling its 9 Under 90 feature.

In this first of two special reports on the festival’s retro films, Valley Screen & Stage takes a closer look at the 9 Under 90 series.

There’s something to be said for telling a story in a short amount of time,” explained the festival’s Executive Director, Jason Carney. “Ninety minutes is a nice, sweet spot for me when watching festival films, and you’ll see it with a majority of indie films in our competition. I thought it would be great to create a diverse mix of films from history that have hit that under-90 minute sweet spot. I’m really pleased with the variety of films we’ve put together for this group.”

To explore the full Phoenix Film Festival Schedule go to


Duck Soup

Stars: The Four Marx Brothers

Year: 1933

Director: Leo McCarey

Rating: NR (not rated)

Genre: Classic Comedy

Length: 69 Minutes

Screening: Monday, April 8 at 2:05 pm

What It’s About:

A wealthy widow offers financial aid to the bankrupt country of Freedonia on condition that Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) be made the leader. On the other hand, it’s a Marx Brothers film. Does plot really matter?

Interesting Fact:

This is the final film where the Marx Brothers numbered four. After the film’s premiere, Zeppo Marx quit. He was said to be dissatisfied with movie acting and was weary of being the butt of jokes that regarded him as the ‘unfunny’ Marx brother. It’s also the film that Italian dictator Benito Mussolini banned in Italy because he thought it was making fun of him. The Marx Brothers were said to be ecstatic at the news.


Batkid Begins

Year: 2015

Director: Dana Nachman

Rating: PG

Genre: Documentary

Length: 87 minutes

Screening: Tuesday, April 9 at 10:20 am

What It’s About:

On November 15, 2013, one day, one city, the world came together to grant a 5-year-old leukemia patient his wish to be Batman for a day. This documentary looks at how an outpouring of spontaneous support for a child took place.

Interesting Fact:

25,000 people showed up to Make A Wish foundation’s Batkid Day. People wanting to help flew into San Francisco from all parts of the country. The police department worked overtime for free; they were only too happy to be a part of what occurred.


Cry Baby

Stars: Johnny Depp

Year: 1990

Director: John Waters

Rating: PG-13

Genre: Comedy/Musical

Length: 85 Minutes

Screening: Tuesday, April 9 at 9:15 pm

What It’s About:

The good girl has decided she wants to be bad and falls for the bad boy with a heart of gold. But the boyfriend sets out for revenge. It’s a musical spoof on the Elvis movies and the juvenile delinquency ‘scare’ films of the fifties.

Interesting Fact:

During filming, the FBI arrived on the set to search for co-star Traci Lords. She was being investigated due to her past in porn movies. Also, there is a 91-minute version of the film. It’s the director’s cut, but the 85-minute version is the one at the festival considering the director’s cut would be one minute too long to be a part of this 9 Under 90 showcase.


Before Sunset

Stars: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Year: 2004

Director: Richard Linklater

Rating: R

Genre: Drama/Romance

Length: 80 Minutes

Screening: Wednesday, April 10 at 10:20 am

What It’s About:

Nine years after Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) first met in 1995’s Before Sunrise, they encounter each other again on the French leg of Jesse’s book tour.

Interesting Fact:

Look for the man and the woman who speak with Celine in the courtyard of her apartment. They’re played by Julie Delpy’s real parents, actors Albert Delpy and Marie Pillet. Shooting the film took only a total of 15 days.



Stars: Dane DeHaan, Michael B. Jordan

Year: 2012

Director: Josh Trank

Rating: PG-13

Genre: Sci-Fi/Thriller

Length: 83 Minutes

Screening: Thursday, April 11 at 12:40 pm

What It’s About:

Three high school friends gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery underground.

Interesting Fact:

The original cut was meant to be a hard R or NC-17 rated film, but there were studio concerns it would lose its audience. A scene where a body is torn apart was removed. This made way for a PG-13 cut. Please Note: This film is part of the ‘Found-Footage’ genre, shot with a jerky hand-held. Don’t sit too close to the screen.


Stand By Me

Stars: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix

Year: 1986

Director: Rob Reiner

Rating: R

Genre: Drama/Adventure

Length: 87 Minutes

Screening: Friday, April 12 at 11:10 am

What It’s About:

After the death of a friend, a writer recounts a boyhood journey where he and 3 friends in the summer of 1959 found the body of a missing boy.

Interesting Fact:

People tend to forget that Stand By Me is based on a story by horror writer Stephen King. Look for the scene with the leeches; it actually happened to King when he was a boy. After the film was screened for the writer, director Rob Reiner noticed that King was visibly shaking at the film’s conclusion and was unable to speak. The famous author got up, left the room, then later returned. He wanted to tell the director that it was the best adaptation of his work he had ever seen.


An American Tail

Stars: (Voice talents) Christopher Plummer, Dom De Luise

Year: 1986

Director: Don Bluth

Rating: G

Genre: Animated Family Adventure

Length: 80 Minutes

Screening: Saturday, April 13 at 9:05 am

What It’s About:

While emigrating to the United States, a young Russian mouse is separated from his family. With the help of some new found friends in the New World, he tries to relocate his loved ones.

Interesting Fact:

Instead of a new style of animation, director Don Bluth decided to return to the earlier style of Disney animation where he used to work as an animator. It gave the characters a more soft and cuddly style. And for the record, Mr. Bluth is a Phoenix valley resident. His Don Bluth Front Row Theatre where you can see live theatre productions is situated on Shea Blvd in Scottsdale.


Fantastic Mr. Fox

Stars: (Voice talents) George Clooney, Meryl Streep

Year: 2009

Director: Wes Anderson

Rating: PG

Genre: Animated Puppets/Drama/Adventure

Length: 87 Minutes

Screening: Sunday, April 14 at 9:50 am

What It’s About:

An urbane fox cannot resist returning to his farm-raiding ways, but it causes a problem. He has to help his community survive the farmer’s retaliation.

Interesting Fact:

Director Wes Anderson wanted to use real animal hair for all the animal puppets, even though it meant that the hair would appear to ripple unnaturally in the film due to the puppeteers handling the models between frames. The rippling you see is evidently intentional.


The Invisible Man

Stars: Claude Rains

Year: 1933

Director: James Whale

Rating: NR (not rated)

Genre: Classic Horror/Fantasy

Length: 72 Minutes

Screening: Sunday, April 14 at 12:00 pm

What It’s About:

A scientist finds a way of becoming invisible, but due to a drug he used, his mind becomes warped, making him aggressive, dangerous, and murderously insane.

Interesting Fact:

Gloria Stuart who plays Flora Cranley did not enjoy working with the film’s leading player, Claude Rains. During filming when they had scenes together, Stuart complained that her leading man kept backing her into the scenery and hampered her chances to perform. Director Whale kept the peace by reminding Rains that he had to share scenes with his leading lady, whether he liked her or not.


Look for Part Two of our special reports on the 2019 Phoenix Film Festival next week

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