Lights, cameras and action in Philly

As the 14th annual Philadelphia Film Festival prepares to take up residence downtown and in University City from April 7 through 20, Penn students enrolled in the new cinema studies program are getting ready to hit the theaters to catch films they would never normally see.

It¹s a way of making connections between what goes on in the classroom and the outside world of film, says Professor of English and Director of the Cinema Studies Program Timothy Corrigan. It tells the students, "What we¹re doing here is not a hothouse activity. Let¹s get out in the streets."

With nearly 275 films from 40 countries screening at the festival, there¹s plenty to choose from this year. Documentaries, shorts, experimental film, animation and new features will all be shown at the festival. Directors Todd Solondz, Gregg Araki and Wim Wenders are each bringing new features, as are actor/directors David Duchovny and Steve Buscemi, who will also receive the festival¹s 2005 "American Independence Award." Cinema from Korea and the Muslim world will also be featured, along with unconventional films in the "Danger After Dark" section. Most screenings will take place at venues downtown, including the Ritz at the Bourse and the Prince Music Theater, but two University City venues are back for another year‹International House (3701 Chestnut St.) and The Bridge: Cinema de Lux (4000 Walnut St.).

"It does look like a nice list this year," says Corrigan, who says he especially looks forward to seeing the films by Wim Wenders and Gregg Araki. "It may be that the [Philadelphia Film Festival] reputation is growing. Š I would say, of the second-tier festivals, which would follow places like the New York Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival, it certainly has more potential than most."

Also back for another year are five casual talks about the business and culture of film called cine cafés. Three of them will be run by cinema studies faculty and will include Corrigan¹s own "Hollyworld?" on April 14, about trans-national cinema. Another, "Women in Film," will be run by Karen Beckman, assistant professor in the History of Art Department, on April 12; and on April 8, Professor of English and Cinema Studies Peter Decherney will lead one on the "Business of Film." The fourth, "Film and Our Culture," will be held on April 18 at the Penn Bookstore and will feature local journalists. A fifth event, "Music in Film," features the band Boister playing along to Buster Keaton¹s "Steamboat Bill Jr." on April 1 at World Café Live.

"Our plan is always to get more involved with the festival in a physical way and an academic way, as well," says Corrigan. "We¹re just taking advantage of the festival being here."

Corrigan says he will be reaching out to filmmakers, actors and producers in town for the festival and will invite them to speak at or attend a cine café. Already slated to speak at Decherney¹s April 8 talk is Penn parent Jeff Berg, CEO of ICM, one of Hollywood¹s biggest agencies. Corrigan is also working to put together a discussion with Marc H. Simon, one of the producers for the documentary "After Innocence," which is screening at International House.

Corrigan says part of a successful festival is the creation of a unique environment where filmmakers and actors will want to bring their films. "We could really assist with that profile, because the Festival has, at its door step, a major university with a major cinema studies program," he says.

For a complete schedule, including times and locations of the cine cafes, go to: http://cinemastudies.sas.upenn.edu/. For a Philadelphia Film Festival schedule, go to www.phillyfests.com.

Originally published on March 31, 2005