Everything you need to know about the 28th Annual Philadelphia Film Festival

Philadelphia Film Festival
PHOTO: Getty

Roll out the red carpet and pop some popcorn, the 28th Annual Philadelphia Film Festival kicks off this week. Throughout the years, the PFF has featured incredible films from award-winning dramas to interesting foreign picks to highly anticipated star-studded selections and more. This year is no different, in fact, it’s actually elevated. On top of 120 incredible films, the PFF will also hold galas, feature incredible talent, highlight curated packages and even offer free tickets. Whether you’re a film buff, avid movie-goer or just a curious mind, this intoxicating extravaganza is truly an event that cannot be missed. 

Everything you need to know about the 28th Annual Philadelphia Film Festival

With a massive amount of film selections out there, it can be hard to fathom just how each category and film is picked. That’s where Executive Director, Andrew Greenblatt, and Artistic Director, Michael Lerman along with a screening team come in. 

“We spend about a year scouring looking for submissions. We go to other film festivals, have conversations with people we know, see things on the internet and keep track of things that we see going on in the film world and try to see as much as possible,” says Lerman. “On top of that, we take blind submissions and they get watched by the screening team and watched by the programmers. We have a lot of discussions and finally, we decide what’s going to make the final cut.” 

With so many selections at the PFF, both Greenblatt and Lerman know that choosing which screening to attend can be a bit overwhelming—but the volume is not by any means a sway away from attending. 

“I always encourage people to check out the whole program,” says Greenblatt. “I know it’s intimidating and 120 films are a lot to get through. But the reason we make the program guide free and accessible is because we want you to read all about these films. I would say if there is any singular one that you respond to, go to that film. We picked these films because we loved them all and we think they should be shown here.” 

There are 14 categories to choose from ranging from: “Spotlights” (this year’s highly anticipated films), “Filmadelphia” (showcasing talent from the greater Philadelphia area), “After Hours” (highlighting creepy, eerie cult classics in the making), “From the Vaults” (classic films) and more. When asked which categories he would recommend to first-time Festival goers, Lerman suggested “Spotlights” to experience some star-studded films and “World View” because “It’s essentially the peak of what we’re doing.” 

A few of the bigger films will also coincide with galas, another tradition at the PFF. Films in the “Galas” category include: “Just Mercy,” “The Irishman,” “Jojo Rabbit,” “Harriet,” “Marriage Story,” “Motherless Brooklyn,” “The Two Popes,” and “Waves.” 

Philadelphia Film Festival

“Some of the biggest films we want to highlight, either because of the level of talent in them or the quality of them. They are tenfold at our Festival,” says Lerman. “It varies from movies like “Waves” which was one of the best-reviewed movies of the year, to “Marriage Story” which is a great and very moving tale of divorce and custody starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, to the Closing Night Gala film “Knives Out” which is a fun comedic murder mystery with Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Michael Shannan and Jamie Lee Curtis— just a massive all-star cast. They are the biggest pieces of the whole puzzle.” 

Opening Night for the “Galas” category will be Destin Daniel Cretton’s “Just Mercy.” The powerful film follows the life of social justice lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) whose quest to free innocent incarcerated inmates from Death Row is the focal point. According to the release, Bryan Stevenson, who authored the book on which the film is based, screenwriter Andrew Lanham, and star Karan Kendrick are scheduled to attend.

“We try to make it very clear when and where we will have guests because we know that is part of the fun of the festival. We bring in as many as possible,” says Greenblatt.

A full list of participating talent attending the Festival, including Philadelphia’s own Ben Simmons, is posted on the Festival’s official website. 

Other opening night films include “Parasite,” “ Cunningham,” “Come As Your Are,” “Bikram: Yogi, Guru,” and “The Lodge.” 

Closing night (Oct. 26) will highlight Rian Johnson’s outlandish mystery film “Knives Out” starring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Michael Shannon, and Jamie Lee Curtis. Johnson is scheduled to attend the festivities. 

“Opening and closing nights are the two biggest nights of the Festival. They feature some of our most highly anticipated films and we almost always have talent there whether it’s the filmmaker or someone associated with the film. They also always come with an event or a party,” says Greenblatt. “We tell people to come ready for a fun, interesting, engaging evening. One of my favorite things about our Festival, and really almost any film festival, is to go to those films where the filmmakers are present and to really go beyond just watching the film passively— to really have that type of engagement to learn more about behind the scenes and what goes into it and speak with the filmmaker. I feel like that’s what makes it really special.” 

The PFF also features curated packages to help guests sample films from different categories or help narrow down interests. Packages are available for purchase on the official website, or tickets/packages may also be purchased in-person at the main Box Office at the Philadelphia Film Center, or over the phone at 215-422-4588. According to the release, as a bonus, the PFF will also offer complimentary tickets to all films in the “Made in USA” and “Non/Fiction” categories. Dates, times, and locations for each title are available online. 

For more information visit filmadelphia.org

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