Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival CEO Greg Von Hausch believes that festivals such as his should offer their audiences a few surprises. This year, it is Von Hausch himself who is surprised.
The 28th annual FLIFF will run Oct. 18 through Nov. 10 with themes familiar and new. Oscar winner Anna Paquin (left) is the marquee name attending FLIFF 2013. In the Beloved Former Sex Symbol category, Ann-Margret will play the part handled last year by Carol Baker. And in the role of Tough-Talking Icon, Ed Asner will step in for 2012’s James Caan. Other bold-faced names with films to celebrate are Tab Hunter, Finola Hughes (“General Hospital”), public TV environmentalist Jonathan Bird and local oceanographer and artist Guy Harvey.
The surprise will come opening night, typically a showcase for light, accessible fare at FLIFF. But this year, the festival will open with “Free Ride,” a taut tale of a hard-luck single mom ensnared in the South Florida drug culture in the 1970s. It was written by former South Floridian Shana Betz and stars Paquin, best known for her recent “True Blood” and “X-Men” roles and the Oscar she won at age 11 for “The Piano.” Both will attend the Oct. 18 screening.
“I usually open with a comedy, something fun, and I’m kind of surprised myself that I decided to go this way,” Von Hausch says. “But [‘Free Ride’] is terrific. You’ll be gripping your seat. … And Anna Paquin is just brilliant.”
Speaking with the ink not quite dry on the FLIFF 2013 lineup, Von Hausch offered other tidbits:
The other Hollywood: He is planning for screenings to take place in the under-construction site of Cinema Paradiso on Harrison Street in Hollywood. He described the project as “a little behind schedule.” Films also will screen in Sunrise, Pompano Beach, Fort Lauderdale and at Bailey Hall in Davie.
Thrills of a lifetime: Ann-Margret will receive a lifetime achievement award Nov. 9 with a splashy gala at the Westin Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood. Asner is tentatively scheduled to receive a similar award Oct. 23. Von Hausch is hoping to encourage Asner to perform his hit one-man show “FDR.” Tab Hunter will receive his award at an Oct. 29 reception and screening of “Damn Yankees.”
Street parties: How’s this for fun? On the opening Saturday, Oct. 19, Lea Thompson will attend a screening of her film “The Trouble With the Truth” at Cinema Paradiso in Fort Lauderdale, but will also introduce a free 7 p.m. outdoor showing of perhaps her most well-known film, “Back to the Future,” in the street out front. Afterward, a 9:15 p.m. screening of the 2000 franchise-starting “X-Men” will be attended by Paquin, who played Rogue.
Big films, big names: Von Hausch singled out several upcoming films for praise, including “Nebraska,” a recent Cannes hit from director Alexander Paine (“Sideways,” “The Descendants”) and starring Bruce Dern as an aging Midwest father on a journey with his son, played by Will Forte. Britain’s Telegraph review called “Nebraska” “a bittersweet elegy for the American extended family, shot in a crisp black-and-white that chimes neatly with the film’s concern for times long past…. This is a resounding return to form for Payne.” FLIFF also will offer the dark comedy “August: Osage County,” based on Tracy Letts’ hit play and produced by Harvey Weinstein, George Clooney and Jean Doumainian, among others. The profile of an estranged family's bumpy reunion stars Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Juliette Lewis and Sam Shepherd.
Three small films: Also recommended are "Salvo," an noirish Italian love story about a Sicilian Mafia hitman and the blind sister of one of his victims; “Salvo” recently won the Grand Prix during Cannes Critics' Week. The biopic “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” with Idris Elba (“The Office”) in the title role, has been generating Oscar buzz. The comedy “One Chance” is another Weinstein production, directed by David Frankel (“Marley & Me”), about an aspiring singer who becomes a reality TV sensation. Stars include Colm Meaney, Julie Walters and, yes, Simon Cowell.
FLIFF the musical: The festival is no stranger to music, and on Oct. 26, the Sunrise Civic Center will offer “Taking Charge: The Pauly Cohen Story,” a documentary by Bret Primack about the 90-year-old trumpeter who played with Count Basie, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett and continues to lead a Fort Lauderdale-based big band.
More info: 954-525-3456, FLIFF.com