As three film festivals converge on Philadelphia this week, movie lovers should take precautions against indie-gestion.
Individually, the fests are: The 35th annual Philafilm (the Philadelphia International Film Festival & Market), which began Tuesday; the 5th annual Philadelphia Independent Film Festival (PIFF), which began Wednesday; and 4th Annual Urban Suburban Film Festival, which starts Friday.
Collectively, they are hosting free events at the Piazza at Schmidts and ticketed screenings variously at the African American Museum, the Crowne Plaza Hotel on City Avenue, the Franklin Institute, and the National Constitution Center.
At this cinematic buffet, movie omnivores can sample hundreds of off-Hollywood features, documentaries, and shorts, including a tango-flavored Macbeth, a triple-stranded crime caper, and an investigation of child-labor practices in the chocolate industry.
What accounts for such an embarrassment of movie riches all in the same week?
"School's out, it's the weekend before the city moves to the Shore for July 4 festivities, and everybody's looking for something exciting to do," says Benjamin Barnett, director of the Philadelphia Independent Film Festival. George Blackmon of the Urban Suburban Film Festival concurs.
Is it possible to "do" three festivals? Conceivably. Think of one movie per weekday and two on Saturday.
You might start Thursday with Philadelphia Independent Film Fest's Tango Macbeth, Nadine Patterson's film. In this version of the Scottish play, a documentary crew chronicling a dance troupe's rehearsal of a tango version of the Shakespeare tragedy gets lost in its stew of prophecy, murder, and power. Tango Macbeth screens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the IMAX theater at the Franklin Institute. Admission is $8 for all shows.
On Friday, the Urban Suburban festival will screen 14 films between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., among them Sean Jackson's Bubblegum & Broken Fingers. This tangled crime yarn is about an aluminum briefcase that brings misfortune to those who possess it. With obvious references to a certain Quentin Tarantino movie, the film's multiple plotlines variously involve a mob bagman, a hitchhiker, and a prison escapee. Bubblegum & Broken Fingers screens at 2:50 p.m. Friday at Theatre One, Crowne Plaza/Philadelphia West, City Avenue and Presidential Blvd. Admission is $10 for an entire day of movies and workshops.
On Saturday, Philafilm will show two "agro-docs" from U. Roberto Romano focused on the relationship between child labor and the food we eat. The Dark Side of Chocolate examines child trafficking in the Ivory Coast and its connection with the global chocolate industry, while The Harvest / La Cosecha chronicles the children of migrant fruit and vegetable workers in the United States. These youth who work in the fields alongside their parents have a high-school dropout rate four times the national average. The Dark Side of Chocolate screens at 3 p.m. Saturday and The Harvest / La Cosecha will be shown at 4:55 p.m. at the African American Museum in Philadelphia, 701 Arch St. Admission to the museum is $8 and admits ticket holders to an afternoon of films including these agro-docs.
After the documentaries break, it's time to go to Northern Liberties to catch the PIFF comedy Big Guns, set in Asbury Park, N.J. In the film written and directed by and starring Chris McDonnell, meet McDick, an ineffective cop who loses his job only to become an equally ineffective private eye. Big Guns will be shown at 7 p.m. at the Piazza, 2nd Street and Germantown Avenue. Admission is free.