Story by MARY ELLEN THOMPSON Photography by SUSAN DELOACHS
urprisingly enough, for a reasonably small town, Beaufort has a well kept secret. From the 12th to the 16th of February is the 8th Annual Beaufort International Film Festival (BIFF), held in the University of South Carolina Center for the Arts, with over 31 films shown over a period of three days, and bracketed by two to-die-for parties. But, shhhh… don’t tell because the majority of viewers come from over fifty miles away. This year, five foreign countries are represented – Germany, Australia, China, Canada and the Russian Federation. Ranging from 4 minutes to 98 minutes in length, films cover the following categories: Features, Documentary, Shorts, Animation and Student Film as well as Screenplays, and then there are Awards. Many of the films are South Carolina premieres, two are world premieres, and the student film category is dominated by the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, NC.
The 20th Anniversary of Forrest Gump is this years theme. Prior to that screening on Friday evening, there will be a sixty minute special film, The Magic Behind The Making of Forrest Gump, in which behind the scenes moments and footage will be revealed. See how Forrest was able to run carrying Bubba’s heavy body, find out how a golf course on Fripp Island was created in a war scene; it will make watching the movie (again) a more enlightening experience.
Tireless leaders of BIFF and the Beaufort Film Society (BFS), Ron and Rebecca Tucker work all year long to find the best of the best. Seven years ago, Ron had a vision and his unflagging efforts have brought this event a long way from it’s inception in 2007 with 500 people attending.The films selected are winnowed down from one hundred and fifty entries from all over the world. A select panel of judges watches all those films and chooses them on the following criteria: impact, technology, content and festival fit. Last year about 8,000 people came from all over the place to enjoy our film festival. On Wednesday evening, February 12, the festivities will begin with the Filmmakers Opening Night Reception held at the Old Bay Marketplace Rooftop. Several restaurants provide tasty bites of food with an abundance of wine, beer and water for drinks; the inclusive price is only $25 for BFS members and $35 for non-members. This party is not to be missed and is a wonderful place to meet and chat with the people involved in the film making process.
On Thursday, films are screened from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday evening a Wine and Cheese Reception starts at 7:00 prior to the Screenwriters Workshop and Table Read at 7:30.
Friday presents another day of films starting again at 9 a.m. and culminating with the Special 20th Anniversary Screening of Forrest Gump at 7:00 p.m. followed by Lowcountry Weekly’s Mark Shaffer moderating a discussion about the movie with Film Editor Arthur Schmidt and other special guests.
Saturday begins at 9:00 a.m. with films in the Animation and Student film categories and a special presentation of South Carolina Indie Grants Films. At 1:00 on Saturday afternoon is the Gary Sinise Foundation/Healing Heroes of the Lowcountry Presentation and the wonderful Documentary, AKA Doc Pomus at 2:00. But it’s not over yet – Saturday night’s wrap-up party begins with the Awards Ceremony Cocktail Hour at 7 p.m., catered by Debbi Covington; and the Awards Presentations begin at 8:00. This evening is always peopled with stars, want-to-be stars, and some people who just like to dress up as film stars; you never know who you might see – Scarlett O’Hara, Marilyn Monroe, Hedda Hopper and Clark Gable are just a few of the guests.
The Beaufort International Film Festival website (www.beaufortfilmfestival.com) provides the schedule, synopsis, and trailers of many of the films. But, because many of the trailers are short, perhaps some more in-depth information about a handful of the films will pique your interest:
The One Who Loves You (Feature) had two sold-out screenings at the 36th Starz Denver Film Festival last November. The film’s official website reads, “It’s 1974. Gloria Bethune faces a bleak existence when she retreats to her small hometown after failing as a singer in New York. She falls for a grifter who claims to be the former manager of a famous Country singer. Through this flawed man’s apparent faith in her, Gloria’s passion for singing is reborn, but she is pushed into uncharted territory. Enhancing the 1970′s flavor of “The One Who Loves You” is its roots-inspired Country soundtrack, which features music by the critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Phil Lee (“The Mighty King of Love”). The movie also includes a new recording of Lee’s “I’m The Why She’s Gone” by hard-core country maverick and Austin Music Hall of Famer Dale Watson, as well as scorching performances by country Academy of Country Music Awards nominees Jann Browne (“Ain’t No Train”) and Joy Lynn White (“One More Time”).”
Pechorin (Feature) was Winner of Best Feature Film at the 2012 London Film Awards. This description was presented by the County Theater for the New Hope Film Festival – “Based on Mikhail Lermontov’s classic Russian novel, A Hero of Our Time, this arresting film by Moscow-based auteur Khrushch Roman is a smoky, contemplative journey into the human soul. Our hero is dying on a rickety cart. The scene around him: nothing but desert. But the life he has led has been anything but barren. Hasn’t it? A bon vivant and debauche who has lived only for the moment, he is suddenly grappling with questions that long evaded him: what is life all about, and because it only ends in death, are its trials and pleasures even worth the effort? His past indifference to everything except himself, when contrasted with the surrounding, windswept sands that he will join soon enough, make him appear, on reflection, at best a greenhorn and a show-off. Pechorin deems this unacceptable. So, unable to lift his body a single piad, he will instead raise his spirit by choosing the final action of an intelligent, and indeed outstanding, man: to judge oneself without mercy. Roman’s brilliant adaptation is worthy of Lermontov’s original.” In Russian with sub-titles.
Masque (Short) has won too many awards to list here. Here is the synopsis as stated in their press kit. “Colorado McBride is an infamous character who has led a sordid life as a prizefighter, gambler and henchman for a ruthless gang. An undefeated heavyweight champion, McBride is highly recognizable by his hideously scarred face that reflects not only his pugilistic profession but his dark and loathsome past. McBride’s boss informs him that tonight’s championship fight will be his last; “you’re past your prime”, the corrupt boss states, and he demands that McBride throw the fight to “this younger stronger man”. In defiance, McBride refuses to comply; he is drugged between rounds, ruthlessly beaten, and left for dead. Dragged to safety, by his loyal stallion, Colorado is found by a compassionate countrywoman who endeavors to nurture him back to health. As Colorado slowly heals, he quizzically observes the captivating caretaker who has taken him in. He is mesmerized by her beguiling beauty and demeanor. Quietly taking on his share of chores around the farm Colorado develops a doomed attraction to Grace. She shies from Colorado’s romantic advances, as he is the antithesis of all that Grace represents. She confesses to McBride that the man who might win her heart would possess “the face of a saint, a mirror of true love.”
Completely broken, McBride sets out in search of a mysterious Maskmaker, a gifted artisan who he believes can alter his appearance with the hope of winning the woman with whom he has fallen in love.The Maskmaker, who Colorado has brutally harmed in the past, empathetically agrees, and sets about creating a lifelike mask for McBride. With his newfound identity his outward appearance is transformed; on the inside, a change has also begun. The Maskmaker reveals to McBride that the mask cannot only cover his face, but holds a promise to “heal the man” if his desires are true. McBride returns to Grace as Cole, an attractive gentleman poet who asks if he can lodge for a time on her “peaceful and reflective” property so he can put his thoughts into words. Cole assists with the workings of the farm — even putting an old gristmill back into operation. Grace is engaged by the character of this kind and gracious stranger. She becomes enamored by “Cole” and his genuineness. Cole gives the Maskmaker money and requests that, in his behalf, he make financial amends to people he has formerly wronged. Inadvertently, McBride’s former cronies discover he is still alive. The boss and his gang ride into the country and confront a non-resistant “Cole” who they are confident is McBride in disguise. In front of his newfound love the mask is brutally ripped from his face to reveal…”
Moment of Tooth (Animated) was created at the Savannah College of Art and Design as part of a collaborative class. It is an absolutely enchanting story of Maurice, an elephant, while on his journey to becoming a tooth faerie gets his chubbly little elephant self stuck while trying to retrieve a tooth. In the four minute film there are so many elements combined that tell a much bigger story.
AKA Doc Pomus (Documentary) is the story of Jerome Felder. Born in Brooklyn and paralyzed as a child with polio, he was a blues singer who became one of the most brilliant songwriters with over a thousand songs to his credit, such as “This Magic Moment,” “Save the Last Dance for Me,” and “Viva Las Vegas”. In the film, there is a clip of him explaining his passion, “To be a successful songwriter, you have to write songs, it’s not like you want to write songs or you’ve figured out the best way to make a living. There is some kind of terrible force, and sometimes it’s out of control, and you have to keep writing and writing, even when there’s no meaning to it. You know you’re not going to make any money at it, you know it’s going to take up all your time, and you know nobody’s going to give a damn anyway. But, someday, you’re in the street and somebody is singing a song that you’ve written and you want to go up to that person and say, ‘Hey, I wrote that song,’ but they’d think you’re some kind of nut so you never do it.”
Discovering Dave – Spirit Captured in Clay (Documentary) is set a little closer to home. The film, which took more than two years to complete, was produced by Mark Albertin, of Scrapbook Video Productions, and George Wingard, of the Savannah River Archaeological Research Program. Wingard and his team discovered a shard of a “Dave” vessel in 2006, thus was born the idea for this documentary which traces the story of Edgefield, South Carolina slave potter, David Drake, who used his skills as a craftsman to create beautiful pottery during the turbulent 1800’s. Despite being born into slavery, not only did he produce thousands of pots, he also learned to read and write and several of his jars are inscribed with verses of his poetry. Often signed and dated, his vessels can be seen in several museums.
Tickets can be purchased in several ways – all events passes, day passes, and single film tickets. The best bet is to join the Beaufort Film Society as a member (www.beaufortfilmsociety.org) which will give you discounts on the Film Festival events, discounted ticket prices at the Plaza Stadium Theatre in Beaufort, and a discount for the “Beaufort Movie Tour” as well as other benefits. However you get there, just don’t miss this wonderful event which made MovieMaker Magazine’s 2013 list of the Top 25 Coolest General Film Festivals in the World!