The Philadelphia Film Festival turns 20

When the Philadelphia Film Festival debuted, there was no Netflix. There were no DVDs to slip into non-existent Netflix envelopes. And there was not — prepare yourself — high-speed Internet for those nights when you’d rather just stream “Eurotrip” and ignore the artsy new release judging you from the coffee table.

And so 20 years later, while the festival is no longer the only chance to see many films, it is a rare opportunity to experience them in a theater, with people, far removed from the temptations of that high-speed Internet. “With all these alternative means of distribution, the festival becomes almost the domestic release for a lot of these films,” says J. Andrew Greenblatt, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Film Society and the festival. “In a city like Philadelphia, where we only have something like 14 screens in Center City, the festival identifies these films and shows them in the way they deserve to be shown.”

Spanning 15 days and packing 120 films, there’s plenty to see. We asked Greenblatt for three of his can’t-miss picks.

‘Like Crazy’

Opening the festival tonight, “Like Crazy” took home the Grand Jury prize at Sundance this year. “It’s a powerful, beautiful, heartbreaking but ultimately fulfilling film,” says Greenblatt of this story of a budding romance interrupted by visas and the red tape that comes with them. “On the surface it looks like it skews younger, but it really does appeal to all audiences.”

Tonight, 8 p.m., The Annenberg Center; Sunday, 2 p.m., The Ritz East

‘Joe Frazier: When the Smoke Clears’

This documentary on the legendary Philly boxer is just one of a collection of sports-oriented films this year. “‘Joe Frazier’ was a submission — we didn’t even know it existed — and we just loved it from the beginning. Joe Frazier isn’t just a Philly icon, he’s an international boxing icon — he beat Ali.”

Saturday, 4:45 p.m., Prince Music Theater; Sunday, 9:25 p.m., Ritz East

‘The Descendants’

Alexander Payne’s latest film stars George Clooney as a father attempting to full-time parent for the first time after his wife is injured in a boating accident. “It’s certainly going to get him the nomination — if not the award — he’s been waiting for,” says Greenblatt of Clooney’s performance.

Closing night: Oct. 29, 7 p.m., The Annenberg Center

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