Penn takes top billing at the Philly Film Festival

Even if you’re not a film buff, a stargazer or a hipster, Penn’s neighborhood will definitely be the place to be from April 8 to 21. That’s because this year’s Philadelphia Film Festival is using West Philadelphia as its hub, bringing screenings to neighborhood theaters, visitors to the Inn at Penn and, hopefully, increased foot traffic to the campus.

Two screens at The Bridge: Cinema de Lux and one at International House will show selections from the Festival’s wide array of foreign, horror, documentary and American independent films—247 in all, from 43 countries. The 12 Lounge, the bar located in The Bridge, has been pegged the official lounge of the festival, making it the place to meet filmmakers, producers and fans. And cineastes looking to engage in a casual conversation about a Festival film or movie culture in general can attend one of the Bookstore’s cine-cafés, held April 12 through 15 at the Bookstore, or listen to filmmakers, critics and Penn faculty speak in panel discussions at 12 Lounge on April 10 and 17.

“ The University has taken a very conscious and active position,” said Cinema Studies Program Chairman and Professor of English Tim Corrigan. Bringing the Festival to the neighborhood not only highlights the newly expanded Cinema Studies Program, he said, but the two-year-old Bridge theater provides the perfect venue for screenings and film-related events. Corrigan added. “The festival is obviously a big event in Philadelphia.”

And this big event provides a useful springboard for some of the topics covered in Cinema Studies classes. For example, Corrigan plans to show the 1986 documentary “Sherman’s March” to his students and then bring in filmmaker Ross McElwee to speak to his classes. Corrigan will then tie this in with The Bridge’s screening of McElwee’s latest film, “Bright Leaves,” on April 9. “It’s emblematic of what we could do, will do and should do,” he said. “All of the academics that we spend the whole semester working on—we’re going to bring it to life.”

The Film Festival promises to provide plenty of learning opportunities for the casual filmgoer, too, whether it’s a Sundance Film Festival hit making its East Coast premiere, cinema from the Muslim world, or a new documentary. The solid reputation of Philly’s festival will only grow over time, predicted Corrigan. “It does a really wonderful job of showing international film and identifying a documentary tradition. It tends to get movies that other festivals don’t get.”

For a complete list of Festival screenings, events and ticket information, visit

Originally published on April 1, 2004