On the surface, The 28th Annual Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival was a success. Honored actors Lea Thompson, John Shea, Finola Hughes and Tab Hunter were class acts; they showed up on time and were gracious with their fans. Legendary actor Ed Asner and band leader Pauly Cohen revealed that their star power has not faded. When Free Ride star Anna Paquin was forced to cancel, her husband (and True Blood co-star) Stephen Moyer, executive producer of the film, substituted and he was fanfriendly.
With screenings of Life is Beautiful, Black Swan and The Artist, FLIFF has a history of presenting future Oscar winners through the years. This year, the fest screened the inspirational biography One Chance, Bruce Dern’s performance was honored for his work on Nebraska, while Meryl Streep will likely continue her Oscar streak for her performance in August: Osage County.
The evening with Tab Hunter was particularly memorable. Brooklyn College film professor Foster Hirsch conducted an onstage interview with Hunter that covered his career. In the business since age 19, Hunter has reinvented himself for many generations. He was teen idol with a hit record that rivaled Elvis Presley, and a co-star to iconic leading men like Gary Cooper and John Wayne. Since coming out of the closet, Hunter has earned a new fan base with his autobiography Tab Hunter Confidential. As he exited the Cinema Paradiso spotlight, he received a standing ovation from the audience.
FLIFF acknowledged South Florida history with They Came from the Swamp, a documentary about William Grefe’s movies produced from the ‘60s to the ‘80s. With titles like Death Curse of Tartu, Sting of Death and Mako: Jaws of Death, these independent films were created on a shoestring budget with a loyal crew. Grefe’s knowledge of South Florida swamps led to consultant work on James Bond productions, most notably Sir Roger Moore’s first outing, Live and Let Die.
The Last Hit was named Best Florida Feature. Written by Lou Pappas (who is also the leading man), The Last Hit is a modern gangster/noir film about a hit man with a conscience. Filmed in our neighborhood, this film features FLIFF photographer Irwin Levenstein as an ornery gangster.
The final screening of Krissy Belle, another locallymade film directed by Alyn Darnay and starring writer Carole Wood, was held in the new Cinema Paradiso – Hollywood. This Art House Theater is so new that the paint is still drying on the wall. Located on Hollywood Boulevard, Cinema Paradiso – Hollywood is a great cultural addition to South Florida and is worth an excursion to the south county.
Behind the scenes, FLIFF suffered. One week before the gala, office manager Jane Moguillansky passed away. A lovable presence at Cinema Paradiso, Moguillansky had a keen eye for detail. Her loss reverberated throughout the festival.