By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Scottsdale International Film Festival founder Amy Ettinger listens to her guests.
When they told Ettinger they wanted more films over a longer time period, she couldn’t let them down. The festival’s 2018 rendition will double in length to 10 days, Friday, November 2, to Sunday, November 11.
“I took in all the feedback,” she says. “Now I’m getting emails from people saying, ‘Thank you so much for expanding across two weekends. It’s heaven.’ The festival had the financial wherewithal to pull it off. We had the staff to help do it. Up until just last season, it was a much more daunting thought. Now it’s not nearly as daunting.”
Ten films will have their Arizona debut as part of the 18th annual Scottsdale International Film Festival. The diverse slate of more than 50 films weave stories of love and laughter, war, religion and history. The Toronto Film Festival was an original partner and since then, the Scottsdale International Film Festival has presented more than 650 movies to over 100,000 attendees.
“The five-day (schedule) was so compressed,” Ettinger says. “We would cram films in. Now they have time to grab something to eat, which makes me happy for those few people who fell ill going from film to film and not eat. It’s not healthy. I want people to be ‘festive,’ which is buried within ‘festival.’”
Hosted by Emmy Award-winning TV personality Tara Hitchcock, the opening night festivities will be held at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and feature a screening of Roma from Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuaron. The film has piqued the interest of patrons at the Toronto, Venice and Telluride film festivals.
“For us to land a film (Roma) of that caliber stature in our 18th season, it feels like we’ve arrived,” Ettinger says.
Harkins Shea 14 Theatres will host the rest of the films, many of which were helmed by female directors such as Ondi Timoner or feature notable female leads, including Nicole Kidman, Elizabeth McGovern, Molly Shannon, Penelope Cruz and Mary Kay Place.
“Thirty percent of programming is women directors,” Ettinger says. “They all made it on their own merit.
“The stories told in the films we have selected beautifully address a number of cross-cultural issues facing men and women, including sexuality, religious conflict, cultural expectations, and a fair amount of comic relief,” Ettinger says. “We have always prided ourselves on our ability to offer audiences a wide-screen view of the world through the art of cinema, and this season’s slate is extraordinary.”
A Private War, one of the films making its Arizona debut, joins other highly anticipated titles including Boy Erased, The Chaperone, Diane, Everybody Knows, Cold War, Mapplethorpe, Peterloo and Studio 54. She recommends Amateurs, Good Manners, Rafiki, Woman at War and Zagros.
“If you look at the program, you’ll see a little statement,” Ettinger says. “I don’t stand on the mountaintop or proclaim things. I feel programming can entertain and educate.
“So many people are hungry for a different take. We touch on a lot of headlines and topics through the movies that may have been made in different countries, but it’s a universalizing notion that no matter where you go, there you are.”
A special, yet underreported, feature of the festival is a children’s animated shorts program on November 1, sponsored by Act 1. Students, primarily those from Title I schools, are gifted admission to the show.
“One child was so blown away she forgot to eat her popcorn and drink her soda,” Ettinger says. “Another boy had never been on a freeway.
“The festival to me celebrates humanity. I celebrate the people who attend this festival and the people who support independent and international film.”
Roma and the Scottsdale International Film Festival Opening Festivities, Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, 7380 E. Second Street, Scottsdale, scottsdalefilmfestival.com, 6:15 p.m. Friday, November 2, $28.
Scottsdale International Film Festival, Harkins Shea 14 Theatres, 7354 E. Shea Boulevard, Scottsdale, scottsdalefilmfestival.com, various times, Saturday, November 3, to Sunday, November 11, various pricing.