By Andrew Kemp
The Atlanta Film Festival is back, growing this year into additional venues and an absolutely packed lineup of interesting and entertaining films. ATL Retro will be at the festival all week, logging reviews of films while subsisting on a strict diet of beer and Junior Mints, because journalism matters now more than ever.
If you’re looking for some tips on what to check out during the festival, please enjoy this day-by-day selection of films that we thought might interest the retro-inclined. Of course, any preview such as this can only barely scratch the surface of what the AFF has to offer, so for a more detailed preview be sure to visit the AFF’s official website.
Friday, March 24 — Opening Night
The festival kicks off with its traditional opening night ceremonies, including a screening of Bill Watterson’s DAVE MADE A MAZE, a high-concept comedy about a man whose quest to produce something great and wonderful (presumably on a budget) leads him to construct an elaborate, DIY labyrinth inside his own home. Of course, he promptly gets trapped in his own creation, leaving his loved ones wondering how to mount to rescue (Plaza Theatre, downstairs, @ 7:00pm).
After the show, all those with tickets, as well as badge-holders, are invited to the Opening Night Party taking place at Paris on Ponce until midnight, but be sure to get your butts back to the Plaza to see Lips Down on Dixie stage their show alongside THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW(1975), a longtime Plaza tradition that the AFF has happily embraced.
Saturday, March 25
Avondale’s Towne Cinema joins the festival this year as a venue, which is where you’ll want to be to check out TRENCHES OF ROCK, a documentary about the three-decade history of the Christian metal band Bloodgood (Towne Cinema @ 2:30pm).
Jill Campbell’sMR. CHIBBStakes a look at the post-NBA career of former all-star Kenny Anderson, dealing with the fleeting high of fame and celebrity, and the plight of athletes who are faced with spending the rest of their lives in the real world, away from the bright lights of the big time. The film screens with the short film GAME, a narrative short about a kid at the other end of this basketball lifestyle, high school tryouts (Plaza Theatre, downstairs, @ 4:30).
For fans of the Atlanta horror scene, certainly the most anticipated event of the day is the long-awaited debut of SAM & MATTIE PRESENT SPRING BREAK ZOMBIE MASSACRE, featuring members of the local horror community and hosted by the immortal Professor Morte and the Silver Scream Spook Show. Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt drew national attention last year with their Kickstarter campaign to fund the epic zombie movie of their dreams, and the result of that campaign is set for two screenings on Saturday, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see the gory results. (Towne Cinema @ 5:30 & 8:30)
Sunday, March 26
Sunday is likely to feature some of the most popular events of the festival week, what with the 25th Anniversary screening of the well-loved Marisa Tomei vehicle MY COUSIN VINNY hitting Plaza Theatre (12:00pm) as the movie half of the “Food on Film” program. Ticket- and badge-holders are invited to head over to the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center after the film for a celebration of grits in southern cooking, and other after-party shenanigans.
Once properly stuffed with southern cuisine, head on over to 7 Stages forMELE MURALS, a documentary about Hawaiian history and culture as seen (and expressed) through the street art of Hawaiians Estria and Prime (7 Stages @ 5:45pm).
The upstairs theatre at the Plaza suffered some damage recently, forcing a venue change for several films to the Druid Hills Presbyterian Church across the street. If you want to visit the venue, and perhaps thank them for helping the Plaza and the festival out in a tight spot, there’s a perfect opportunity when the film WOMAN ON FIRE screens on Sunday night. The film looks at the story of Brooke Guinan, New York’s first transgender firefighter (8:00pm).
But whatever you do, be sure to get back to the Plaza early enough to get a good seat for the perennially popular PUPPET SLAM, featuring local performers and riotous scenes of little felt people doing at least a few inappropriate things. Live puppetry performance combines with a few puppet-y short films for what usually works out to be one of the funnier times you can have in a theatre all week (Plaza Theatre, downstairs, @ 9:30pm).
Monday March 27
It’s doing a disservice to mention only one film happening on Monday, but in the interest of brevity in this preview, we simply had to point out that Dad’s Garage is getting in on the screening action this year, putting on a screening of SYLVIO, a typical movie full of the usual cliches: a gorilla living in a human world wants to share his favorite hand puppet with the world. You know, that old story. SYLVIO was another Kickstarter success story, and doesn’t seem like the kind of movie that’s easily missed (Dad’s Garage @ 8:00pm).
Tuesday, March 28
Fans of retro cinema will want to check out THE HERO, featuring legend Sam Elliott as an aging hero of the silver screen whose sudden illness drives him to reconnect with his estranged family. The film also stars Nick Offerman, Laura Prepon, and Krysten Ritter (Plaza Theatre, downstairs, @ 7:00pm).
Then, if you want to end your evening on an up note, swing over to 7 Stages for LEAGUE OF EXOTIQUE DANCERS, which takes viewers to Las Vegas to spend time with the aging ladies who were there for the classic era of burlesque (7 Stages @ 9:30pm).
Wednesday March 29
OK, it’s mid-week. You’ve been at this for a while. You are have part Junior Mint. Persevere! There’s so much more to see, such as THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE, the new film from Niki Caro starring Jessica Chastain as a Polish zookeeper in 1939 who must put her own life at risk to save the people at risk from the Nazis after the Germans invade (Plaza Theatre, downstairs, @ 7:00pm).
After the show, skip dinner and get thee over to 7 Stages forCHERRY POP, a narrative film about the performers at a drag club having a wildly unexpected night. If that doesn’t energize you for the festival’s second half, then there may be no hope left for you (7 Stages, @ 9:15pm).
Thursday, March 30
Acclaimed director James Gray has delivered another provocative film with THE LOST CITY OF Z, the true story of the British explorer Percy Fawcett, who entered the Brazilian jungles with his eldest son in 1925 in search of “Z,” a rumored city believed to have a link to the mythical El Dorado (Plaza Theatre, downstairs, @ 7:00pm).
Friday, March 31
You’ve made it to the weekend! As a reward, enjoy a second screening of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW at midnight, but before you do, be sure to attend the screening for WAITING FOR B., a documentary about the lengths Brazilian fans of Beyonce are willing to go for a chance to inch closer to the stage (Plaza Theatre, downstairs, @ 9:30pm).
Saturday, April 1 — Closing Night
It’s April Fool’s Day, and so despite the existence of a slate of films on Sunday, tonight is considered the official Closing Night. You’ve put the time in, you’ve seen an unbelieveable number of great films, and so don’t even think about missing this year’s closing film, Joshua Z. Weinstein’s MENASHE. The film is set in New York’s Hasidic Jewish community, and follows the struggles of the title character as he looks for a way to raise his son as a single parent in the wake of his wife’s death, in spite of religious traditions. The screening will be attended by the film’s Executive Producer, Danelle Eliav (Plaza Theatre, downstairs, @ 7:30pm).
Sunday, April 2
The festival may be over, but you aren’t. No, you’re still craving the sweet sensation of new and exciting films, and Sunday has you covered. For starters, check out NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER, starring retro cinema icon Richard Gere as a lonely New Yorker looking to get ahead, who suddenly finds himself in the orbit of the new Israeli Prime Minister. The film is presented in partnership with the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival (Location TBD, but likely the Druid Hills Presbyterian Church — see website for updates, @2:45pm).
And, finally, there’s THE PROMISE, featuring current Hollywood it-guy Oscar Isaac as a medical student in 1914 Constantinople who lands in the middle of a torrid romance and the political turmoil of war. Also starring Christian Bale (Plaza Theatre, downstairs, @ 7:00pm).
And that’s just one possible path you could take through the Atlanta Film Festival’s epic schedule. Of course, your preferences may vary, so check out the website to be sure you find the events that are right for you. From short film blocks to special presentations, there’s no shortage. Drop us a line here at ATL Retro and let us know what films you saw, and what you thought! We’ll see you there!
Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game designer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He can be seen around town wherever there are movies, cheap beer and little else.