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Film Reviews
Film, Foodies And Fun At The 28th Annual Florida Film Festival
| Friday, 04.12.2019, 07:01 AM |   (20529 views)

In just a few days Central Florida film-goers will be up to their eyeballs in new, undiscovered moving pictures.  Yes, it's time for the Florida Film Festival, now in its 28th year at the Enzian theater. This year, the Oscar-accredited festival includes special guests Richard Dreyfuss, whose 'Evening With' features his film The Goodbye Girl, and the 20th anniversary of the groundbreaking Blair Witch which opened the 1999 FFF. Cast and crew from that film will be in attendance as well.

So those are the big names that the Enzian is hoping will create a big buzz around the fest. Many well-known stars have roles in a multitude of the FFF offerings, and it's always a treat to find an unexpected gem.

As for me, I most enjoy speaking with the blossoming filmmakers, those who may be enjoying their first-or-second time displaying their wares at the Enzian. From my experience, speaking with them about their digital children is always rewarding.

This may be the first time they've shown their film on a big screen, to a live audience not made up by family members or fellow students. Their excitement is always palpable, and they're always eager to share their insight and answer questions about their current and upcoming projects.

That being said, though I have not yet had the opportunity to speak with the majority of the filmmakers whose projects I will now review, I hope that they keep in mind what they say about opinions. I can't say I loved them all, but I do appreciate the effort it takes to bring their ideas to life.

The Biggest Little Farm
The Biggest Little Farm, a Spotlight film in the Doc category, takes you inside a family farm about an hour outside of Los Angeles. Molly and John Chester made a promise to their adopted dog, Todd.  That promise – that they would always remain a family, is tested beyond what they ever expected. When Todd's barking within the city limits of LA proves too much for their neighbors, the Chesters pack up the plantation and head off into the hills, to build the farm they've dreamed about. Neither Molly nor John have any idea what to expect, and this film takes you through 8 years of their successes as well as their hardships. Drought, fires, predators and loads and loads of poop. Through the direction of a 'farm guru', Alan York, they make it work, as does this beautifully shot film. Bringing the birth and beauty of Apricot Lane Farms to the screen was definitely aided by eye of Chester, an Emmy-award winning director. Biggest Little Farm is tasty and fulfilling.

Yomeddine, an International feature, comes to Central Florida by way of Egypt. As a child, Beshay was abandoned at a leper colony outside Cairo. Now I'm sure you're thinking, a movie about lepers? Well, not really, It's actually a moving 'road' film about the adventures of Beshay and Obama, his young orphan travel-buddy, and Beshay's donkey, Harby. After the death of his wife, Beshay decides it's time to find what may be left of his birth family. Though he works in the refuse piles of Cairo, pawing through the discarded trash of others, Beshay never fails to look for the silver lining. As he enters the leper colony, he shouts out “Greetings sick people!” Unusually accepting of his lot in life, Beshay loses much through the course of Yomeddine, but keeps on keeping on. The heartwarming feature is a study about those living on the fringes of society, who form families out of the detritus that the rest of society deems useless.

Kado (A Gift)
Kado (A Gift) is the Narrative Short that precedes Yomeddine. And it's a bit of confusing commentary on sexual identity in teenage boys in a Muslim community. The center of the film, Isfi, is a male with the boys, but a female with everyone else. The problem I had with this film was not the content, but with the locations. Without establishing shots, it was very unclear to me where Isfi was at different points in this short film. This made his reactions as confusing to the viewer as his actions were to himself.

Amazing Grace
Amazing Grace, starring the incomparable Aretha Franklin, is shot over the course of two days in 1972. A live performance in which Ms. Franklin explores and embraces the music of her Baptist roots, the film showcases her otherworldly vocal talent. There are truly moments of elation as she belts out song after song. But it's the small moments, such as when her father, the Reverend C.L. Franklin, walks up to the podium and wipes the sweat from his daughter's face, or when Sidney Pollack, the Director of the event and film, whips out his Instamatic camera to take snapshots of Aretha and her joyful coterie, while the flash cube whips around, that I found most satisfying. Of his daughter, the Reverend proudly tells one and all, “Aretha is a stone singer.” And she is also one of the listed producers on this film. But even with all that talent, I found something missing from Amazing Grace. This Spotlight Doc never reveals who Aretha is when she's not belting the blues to the adoring audience. Perhaps I wanted more of Aretha than an extended music video, and I hoped that Spike Lee's production company would unearth a bit of her actual soul. But you can't watch what wasn't shot. And that may be the downfall of Amazing Grace.

Stay tuned for more sights and sounds, as the 28th Annual FFF rolls out over the next 10 days.

Lisa Blanck is the Associate Editor for In Focus Magazine.  She's a News Editor at WESH2 in Orlando, an NBC Affiliate Station. She was formerly with WKMG6 for 14 years as a News Editor. She spent nine years in advertising, marketing, promotions and live special events at Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite and MTV Networks. She also worked as an on-air host for local cable access programs. Lisa has covered the Florida Film Festival for the past 26 years as well as the World Peace Festival. She was a columnist for Lady Freethinker, a featured columnist for and for the now-defunct  She has been a columnist for the Focus In Newspaper and now for In Focus Magazine. 

Lisa Blanck can be reached at: [email protected]

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