The SCAD Savannah Film Festival hosts a fantastic blend of Oscar-buzzed, competition, and student films along with detailed panels and Q&A sessions.
Entering its 20th year, the SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) Savannah Film Festival kicked off an exciting new year on Saturday, October 28th, with a screening of Aaron Sorkin’s Molly’s Game. Sorkin attended the opening night gala screening of the Jessica Chastain-starring film. There, he received the Outstanding Achievement in Directing Award and held court in a Q&A session that followed the screening. Also feted that night was Holly Hunter who received this year’s Icon Award. The Day 2 roster included a remarkable array of talent, including Salma Hayek Pinault, Sir Patrick Stewart, Andrea Riseborough, Dee Rees, Jennifer Morrison, and Sean Baker.
It’s an incredible list, and a great way to kick off their 20th year. Too bad I didn’t arrive until today…
Driving into Savannah brings back tremendous memories for me.
I’d travelled here a handful of times in my college days when I was obsessed with haunted hotels. Yes, that was a thing I did. I had an infatuation for ghosts and Spanish moss, so Savannah was my 2000s jam. I stayed in the supposed haunted room of the 17Hundred90 Inn where a grieving woman threw herself from her second story window into a courtyard below. I’d also stayed in the Planter’s Inn. No ghosts though. Only dozens and dozens of references to “The Book” (also known as Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) which was in fashion at the time.
When I started dating my now wife, we took our first couple trip in Savannah. There, we walked along the Savannah River drinking alcoholic slushes from plastic cups. When she spilled hers down the front of my stark white shirt, I knew it was love.
But it’s been nearly a decade since I returned to Savannah’s emo splendor, and the 20th anniversary of the SCAD Savannah Film Festival provided the perfect excuse. Once settled, I immediately wished I’d been able to attend the entire festival. Family matters come first though… Dammit.
Day 5 – Lady Bird
My first day here was actually the fifth day of the festival. Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird provided the gala screening of the night. The screening started as a mixture of locals, SCAD students, and industry professionals packed the Trustees Theater. Festival officials held a bit of business prior to the screening. SCAD is incredibly proud of their program, and rightfully so. Some 3,000-plus alumni work in the Georgia film industry, and not just in independent cinema. A montage of big-budget Hollywood films played before the screening and announced SCAD’s ties to such films as Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens. In fact, current Star Wars star John Boyega will attend a screening and Q&A of Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit. He will also receive the Vanguard Award.
But on to Lady Bird…
Greta Gerwig’s touchingly comic opus played like gangbusters to the festival crowd. Her smart screenplay serves up enormously powerful one-liners that star Saoirse Ronan knocks out of the park every damn time. I was kind of blown away by how good it really was, and so were the locals. I missed large chunks of dialogue because the audience either roared with laughter or gasped at some of the more potent revelations. A second viewing is definitely warranted.
Immediately following the screening, the audience poured into the lobby of the Trustrees buzzing about Ronan’s performance as the title character as well as Laurie Metcalf’s phenomenal work as her mother. If Academy screenings result in the same adoration as this screening at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival, then the film will do very well come nomination time. Ronan, Metcalf, and Gerwig’s screenplay are locks. I would argue that Gerwig’s sensitive direction and the picture itself merit serious contention as well.
As one of the largest film festivals in the South, the SCAD Savannah Film Festival seems to be growing in influence across the season. On-the-bubble contenders like Patrick Stewart (Logan) and Andrea Riseborough (Battle of the Sexes) increase their cache with appearances and awards at events such as this. While Savannah is obviously very much an East Coast joint, it and SCAD itself have deep ties into Hollywood and the broader film industry.
Tomorrow brings two of my most anticipated films of the year: The Shape of Water and Downsizing. There are also fascinating panels and the aforementioned Q&A with John Boyega. Friday offers so much content through the day that I will likely not see the sun for 16 hours. The SCAD Savannah Film Festival wraps Saturday night with a highly anticipated screening of Darkest Hour and a Lifetime Achievement Award tribute to Richard Gere whose Norman, which came out earlier this year, will screen as well.
Oh, and Robert Pattinson is here too with Good Time.
I cannot wait to close out the festival in style.