Going to the movies has been a favorite American pastime for decades. There’s something magical about getting a giant tub of popcorn, sitting back in plush seats and escaping for a few hours into the silver screen. Every year, Florida film lovers have an opportunity to enjoy this magic during the Florida Film Festival in Maitland, just outside Orlando.
The Florida Film Festival is a core program of Enzian Theater, a nonprofit organization serving the Central Florida community for more than 25 years. The 10-day event featuring American independent and international films draws more than 25,000 people each year, from die-hard film lovers who aim to see as many films as they can to newcomers to the festival circuit.
The Film and Food Celebration runs in conjunction with the opening weekend of the festival, providing a special atmosphere for foodies and film buffs. Countless celebrities have made appearances over the years, including Paul Newman, Christopher Walken, Oliver Stone, John Waters, Campbell Scott, James Caan, Ed Burns, Malcolm McDowell, Jason Lee and William H. Macy.
The Opening Credits
Enzian Theater began as a small repertory theatre in 1985. When it started the Florida Film Festival 20 years ago, there were hardly any festivals dedicated to cinema in the country, let alone the state, so it has served as a pioneer for film festivals statewide. “Regarded as one of the region’s top film festivals and ranked as one of the 15 best vacation film festivals in the world, the Florida Film Festival is an established part of Central Florida's cultural calendar and international film scene,” said General Manager Chris Blanc.
Traditionally, the audience is as diverse as the programming, which includes narrative films and documentaries from around the world. Any given screening will end with audiences spilling out into the adjacent Eden Bar to talk about what they have just seen, while some screenings end with a question-and-answer session featuring the filmmaker. Without fail, the buzz of excitement in the air is always palpable.
The Orlando area is home to a diverse community of residents who are passionate about supporting the arts. “I think that residents are eager to experience something new,” said festival marketing coordinator Jordana Meade. She added that although Orlando is traditionally thought of as a tourist town, “if you scratch the surface, then all of these wonderful arts and cultural programs are revealed.”
Enzian Theater boasts a gigantic 33-by-14-foot screen, Dolby surround sound and 230 plush seats spread out over four levels. The unique cinema café offers waiter service at tables of two and four, as well as captain’s chairs and loveseats. Movies are also shown at the Regal Cinemas Winter Park Village 20, a multiplex that shows first-run Hollywood films, for a more traditional theater experience.
But don’t be misled – this event is more than just days of film screenings. Parties, informational forums for industry professionals and intimate question-and-answer sessions with directors and stars like Jon Voight and Glenn Close are regularly part of the festival.
…and Be Seen
Submitting a film to the festival is simple. The festival places a call for entries at the end of the summer, when filmmakers can log onto the Web site and register their films electronically. Each film then faces a selection committee, which gives the final word on whether or not it will be part of the spring festival.
For those who would rather watch than create, the Florida Film Festival has advance tickets for sale online and at local box offices. A VIP package provides access to every event during the festival, as well as a joint pass to the film festival and Film and Food Celebration. Visitors to the festival Web site can also enjoy the official festival blog, exclusive videos and interviews with filmmakers.
Find more info at www.floridafilmfestival.com.