The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival returns this weekend with its seasonal cornucopia of drama, comedies, actor Q&As and street parties, as more than 175 films roll out Friday through Nov. 11 on screens in downtown Fort Lauderdale, Sunrise, Pompano Beach, Davie and, in its newest location, Cinema Paradiso in Hollywood. Here are some films, people and events to put near the top of your to-do list for FLIFF 2013.
“Free Ride”: Stephen Moyer, star of HBO’s “True Blood,” will be on the FLIFF red carpet on Friday, but even he would tell you this is not the most interesting thing about opening night. In “Free Ride,” Moyer’s wife and fellow “True Blood” star, Anna Paquin, plays Christina, a young mother of two daughters who turns to drug running to support the family in late-1970s Fort Lauderdale. The story is written and directed by the youngest daughter, Shana Betz. Paquin and Moyer are among the producers of “Free Ride,” and Moyer will attend Friday’s 7 p.m. opening-night screening. But Betz will be there, too, on her 41st birthday, when she’ll enjoy a rare reunion with her mother and sister. It will be Christina’s first return to the scene of her drug-running past since the early 1980s, Betz says. “So I get to sit there and watch her life story with my mother and my sister for the first time, on my birthday. I couldn’t write something that stupid,” she says, laughing. “But I’m so excited.” "Free Ride" also will be shown at 6 p.m. Saturday at Muvico Pompano 18 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Cinema Paradiso Hollywood, with Betz in attendance at both screenings. Get the story behind "Free Ride" here.
Lea Thompson: The veteran actress will be joined by co-star John Shea for a 7:15 p.m. Saturday screening of her chatty meditation on divorce, “The Trouble With the Truth,” at Cinema Paradiso Fort Lauderdale. she’ll also introduce a free 7 p.m. outdoor showing of perhaps her best-known film, the Michael J. Fox comedy-adventure “Back to the Future,” in the street out front.
Cinema Paradiso Hollywood: Years in the dreaming and planning, the new 82-seat theater at 2008 Hollywood Blvd., will make its debut with a FLIFF screening of the Italian bachelor-trouble comedy “Buongiorno Papa!” at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. At 3:30 p.m. Saturday Thompson will attend a showing of “The Trouble With the Truth,” and at 7:30 p.m. Shana Betz will be at the theater for “Free Ride.”
“CinemAbility”: Highland Beach-based actor Danny Murphy, a quadriplegic since a 1974 diving accident at age 19, got his break in the business after he shamed an old filmmaker friend about the lack of representation of the disabled in his movies. The friend, who was with Murphy when his accident occurred, is Peter Farrelly, and Murphy has now appeared in every Farrelly Brothers film since “Kingpin.” “CinemAbility,” a star-studded look at the treatment of the disabled in Hollywood, has FLIFF screenings 5:15 p.m. Saturday at Sunrise Civic Center, 7:45 p.m. Saturday at the Muvico Pompano, and 1 p.m. Nov. 2 at Cinema Paradiso Fort Lauderdale, with Murphy expected at each.
“August: Osage County”: Based on Tracy Letts’ hit play and produced by Harvey Weinstein, George Clooney and Jean Doumanian, among others, this dark comic profile of an estranged family's turbulent reunion has generated no shortage of Oscar buzz. Understandable with such stars as Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Juliette Lewis and Sam Shepard. It screens 8 p.m. Tuesday at Muvico Pompano.
Ed Asner: A performance of excerpts from his one-man show “FDR” will be the poignant and topical centerpiece of a retrospective of the 83-year-old Asner’s career at Cinema Paradiso Fort Lauderdale on Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. Asner also will receive a FLIFF lifetime achievement award.
Pauly Cohen: The 91-year-old jazz trumpeter will attend a 4:30 p.m. Oct. 26 Sunrise Civic Center screening of “Taking Charge: The Pauly Cohen Story,” a documentary by Bret Primack about the South Florida resident who played with Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Dizzy Gillespie and a Dorsey Brothers-era Frank Sinatra. Cohen, who can remember what Billie Holiday had in her glass the last time they shared a drink, continues to lead a Fort Lauderdale-based big band.
Tab Hunter: One of Hollywood’s iconic leading men, who also had a 1956 Billboard hit with “Young Love,” will talk about Hollywood stars, prejudices and his soul-baring memoir, “Tab Hunter Confidential,” at a 6:45 p.m. Oct. 29 Q&A and retrospective of his career at Cinema Paradiso Fort Lauderdale. Afterward, there will be a screening of the John Waters cult classic “Polyester,” featuring Hunter and Divine.
“Nebraska”: From director Alexander Payne (“Sideways,” “The Descendants”), “Nebraska” stars Bruce Dern as an aging Midwest father on a journey with his son, played by Will Forte. Screening 7 p.m. Nov. 8 at Cinema Paradiso Fort Lauderdale, this moody comedy is, according to the Los Angeles Times, “highly irresistible, and though the comedy and sense of place are very specific, it comes with a kind of familial truthfulness that will resonate widely.”
FLIFF Chairman’s Awards Gala: This inaugural event at the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood 6 p.m. Nov. 9 marks a return to black-tie glamour for FLIFF after a few years off. Iconic silver-screen sex symbol Ann-Margret will receive a lifetime achievement award, and crooner Michael Bolton will perform with a seven-piece band.
IF YOU GO
When: The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival will screen more than 175 films Friday-Nov. 11
Where: Cinema Paradiso Fort Lauderdale (503 SE Sixth St.), Cinema Paradiso Hollywood (2008 Hollywood Blvd.), Muvico Pompano 18 (2315 N. Federal Highway), Sunrise Civic Center Theater (10610 W. Oakland Park Blvd.) and Bailey Hall, Broward College Campus (3501 Davie Road, Davie)
Cost: $10, $8 students/seniors, $6 members; special screenings $10-$25; Fast Pass entry to all films Oct. 21-Nov. 11 $450, $395 members
Contact: 954-525-3456 or FLIFF.com