An exclusive showing of Michael Moore's so-called "secret" film project and a documentary about South Florida jazz icon Jaco Pastorius will open the 30th annual Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival Nov. 6 with the first-ever FLIFF screenings at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood.
Distinguished not only by an extra long list of celebrity guests and special events, FLIFF's celebration of its first three decades requires a third opening-night film, the world premiere of Christopher Lloyd's "The Boat Builder," about a former Merchant Marine captain at twilight, screening at Cinema Paradiso in Fort Lauderdale.
FLIFF's anniversary season kicks off Wednesday night with a party that includes the unveiling of the festival poster and a talk about the upcoming films with FLIFF president Gregory von Hausch, now in his 27th season with the nonprofit organization. The party is open to the public, with proceeds from the $15 admission supporting FLIFF.
It was the last-minute submission of "Jaco," the recently completed film about the internationally revered bassist who grew up in Oakland Park, that gave FLIFF's opening night an extra layer of frenzy. On first seeing it two weeks ago, Von Hausch thought it so remarkable that he tore up his just-completed schedule of 175 features and short films to make room for it.
"Jaco" was directed by Paul Marchand and Stephen Kijak, and produced by Robert Trujillo, longtime bassist for the rock band Metallica, and Passion Pictures, which released the Oscar-winning documentary "Searching for Sugar Man." Tracing the musician's life from its beginning to its tragic end in 1987 outside a Wilton Manors bar, "Jaco" includes exclusive material from the Pastorius family archive along with memories from such luminaries as Joni Mitchell, Sting, Flea, Herbie Hancock, Geddy Lee, Bootsy Collins, Carlos Santana, Wayne Shorter and Jimmy Page.
Von Hausch says the musical journey in "Jaco" is intertwined with historical footage of the Fort Lauderdale area that local audiences should find fascinating.
"Seeing the footage of him going to Havana with Stephen Stills, and seeing Herbie Hancock and Billy Joel, and all these people that you've known from other aspects, and seeing his influence and how he impacted them was just great," von Hausch says. "I'm hoping that we get a new audience for that."
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Trujillo recalled his first time seeing the charismatic Pastorius perform, in concert with Weather Report near Los Angeles in 1979, when Trujillo was 14.
"It really changed my world," he said. "Jaco was the hippest guy up there. His stage presence was really powerful. It was almost his show. All kinds of people showed up to see him; people I knew from Venice Beach, a lot of my skateboarder friends, surfers, jazz people, heavy metallers — even John Belushi was there."
Trujillo said he has spent five years and hundreds of thousands of dollars making "Jaco."
"This is not an instructional video," he said. "This is deeper. This is a story."
Trujillo and Marchand will join members of the Pastorius family for the red-carpet screening of "Jaco," which will be shown back-to-back with Moore's new documentary at Hard Rock Live in the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino complex. The 5,500-seat concert hall will be reconfigured to accommodate about 1,000 people.
No stranger to FLIFF, Moore will attend the screening of the film he compiled in silence, allowing only its title to be known: "Where To Invade Next." Red meat for critics of such films as "Bowling for Columbine," "Sicko," "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "Capitalism: A Love Story," the title turned out to be the filmmaker's wink at his own reputation.
Instead of a condemnation of war and American foreign policy, "Where To Invade Next" is an optimistic travelogue to countries that in Moore's estimation could teach the United States a few things on such issues as public education (Finland), humane incarceration policies (Norway) and gender equality (Iceland).
"Where To Invade Next" premiered at the Toronto Film Festival three weeks ago to a standing ovation, where reporters at Moore's post-film Q and A said he called it "Mike's Happy Movie."
The FLIFF screening on Nov. 6 will be just the third for "Where To Invade Next," following its showing this weekend at the New York Film Festival. After the buzz generated in Toronto, Moore signed a distribution deal that typically limits where and how often a film is shown. Von Hausch says the filmmaker included a stipulation in the contract that would ensure his agreement with FLIFF would be honored.
"Because of who he is, he was able to do that," says von Hausch, who has known Moore since 1989, when FLIFF was among the first festivals to take a chance on "Roger & Me." "This will be his fifth time with us, and he says he feels very close to Fort Lauderdale."
Other special appearances during the 30th anniversary of FLIFF include Lloyd's red-carpet walk at the Hard Rock Nov. 6, Oscar winner Estelle Parsons at a Nov. 14 showing of "Bonnie and Clyde" and Ed Harris at a Nov. 20 screening of "The Adderall Diaries." Harris also will attend a Nov. 21 tribute to Florida filmmaker Victor Nunez ("Ulee's Gold") and the awards gala that night, where he and his wife, Oscar nominee Amy Madigan, will receive lifetime achievement awards.
Also attending will be Candy Clark at a Nov. 14 tribute screening of "American Graffiti" and Loretta Swit, with a Veterans Day showing of "Never the Same," which recounts the memories of WWII POWs, narrated by Swit and stars including Ed Asner, Alec Baldwin, Jamie Farr, Mike Farrell, Robert Forster, Kathleen Turner, Robert Wagner and Sam Waterston. The film will be followed by a "M*A*S*H"-themed party attended by Swit.
The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival poster party is 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 30, at the Riverside Hotel, 620 E. Las Olas Blvd., in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $15, members $10, and include one free drink. Call 954-525-3456 or visit FLIFF.com