Chapel Hill, NC, October 1, 2020 – As the saying goes, The Show Will Go On! Film Fest 919 is proud to announce today the program for its highly-anticipated 3rd edition as a LIVE event with two Opening Nights: Wednesday, October 14 with Amazon’s critically acclaimed ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI, and Opening Night at the Green on Thursday, October 15 with MLK/FBI, and will continue Wednesdays through Saturdays, closing on Saturday, October 31 with ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW.
Film Fest 919 (FF919) embodies the true spirit of a film festival, presenting a diverse breadth of compelling features to the area’s enthusiastic, film-loving audience. Showcasing the season’s most talked-about films selected by Cannes, Sundance, Berlin, Venice, Telluride and Toronto film festivals, audiences will have an opportunity to see awards-worthy films early on…with a twist! FF919 2020 will offer the best in pandemic viewing using two outdoor venues: The Green at Southern Village and the newly created Drive-in at Carraway Village, made possible by Northwood Ravin.
“In light of these unprecedented times, we are delighted to be able to offer this year’s program in person, enabling all to enjoy an evening under the stars and experience some of the season’s most compelling movies,” commented Founders Randi Emerman and Carol Marshall. “Films are a powerful way to increase our understanding of one another and encourage healthy dialogue especially during this fraught and divisive time and we feel strongly that our program reflects that spirit.”
With two new venues, Film Fest 919 will present two opening night films. Opening Night at the Drive-In at Carraway Village will kick off on Wednesday, October 14 with Amazon Studios’ ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI, a fictional account of one incredible night in 1964 where four icons of sports, music and activism gathered to celebrate one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. When underdog Cassius Clay, soon to be called Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree), defeats heavy weight champion Sonny Liston at the Miami Convention Hall, Clay memorialized the event with three of his friends: Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge). Based on the award-winning play of the same name and directed by Regina King, the film is inspired by this historic night and the conversations these four formidable figures had on racial injustice, religion and personal responsibility which still resonate more than 40 years later.
Opening Night at The Green at Southern Village will kick off on Thursday, October 15 with MLK/FBI, directed by Sam Pollard based on the newly declassified files exploring the US government’s relentless surveillance and harassment of Martin Luther King, Jr. Inspired by the work of historian David Garrow, the film uses recently declassified files to study the FBI’s motives and methods. In the 1950s and ‘60s, when Black people started mobilizing the fight racial discrimination, Hoover saw the movement as a communist plot. Rather than support equality, the FBI sought to undermine King through wiretapping and blackmail, in what former FBI director James Comey calls “the darkest part of the bureau’s history.” King’s life was cut short at age 39. Hoover’s FBI reign lasted 48 years. Today, we see their legacies continue in a new wave of protests and pushback. This film is a crucial way to connect the past to the present.
The fest will close with a special 45th anniversary showing of ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, directed by Jim Sharman and starring Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Meat Loaf and Richard O’Brien, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Sharman. What better way to celebrate Halloween night during a pandemic?
FF919 is excited to show NOMADLAND and present the second-ever Distinguished Screenwriter Award to writer/director Chloé Zhao. NOMADLAND, the winner of the Venice Golden Lion Award as well as the Toronto International Film Festival People’s Choice Award, is the first film ever to receive both awards. Following the economic collapse of a company town in rural Nevada, Fern (Frances McDormand) packs her van and sets off on the road exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad. The third feature film from director Chloé Zhao, NOMADLAND features real nomads Linda May, Swankie and Bob Wells as Fern’s mentors and comrades in her exploration through the vast landscape of the American West. NOMADLAND is being released by Searchlight Pictures.
The Film Fest 919 Spotlight Award will go to writers/directors/brothers Ian and Eshom Nelms prior to the World Premiere screening of FATMAN, about a rowdy, unorthodox Santa Claus who is fighting his business decline. Film stars Mel Gibson, Walton Goggins and Marianne Jean-Baptiste. Commented co-founder Randi Emerman, “The Nelms Brothers have a long history with Carol and I, having premiered their very first short film, Squirrel Trap, 16 years ago at the Palm Beach International Film Festival. We’ve seen them grow ever since as filmmakers and are proud to be able to acknowledge what will be a long, creative career.” The film and presentation will be preceded by the World Premiere screening of the short film, GOOD SAMARITANS, written by UNC-Chapel Hill alumni and popular Tar Heel linebacker Jake Lawler and Conor Lawler and directed by Nick Stathopoulos.
Film Fest 919 will also present a special virtual discussion around one of the most talked-about documentaries, THE SOCIAL DILEMMA, moderated by Fred Stutzman, founder, and Phil Amalong, VP Marketing of Freedom, the world’s leading solution for digital distraction, along with the film’s director Jeff Orlowski, producer Larissa Rhodes and Tim Kendall, CEO of Moment; former president, Pinterest; and former director of monetization, Facebook.
Other films include:
Written and directed by Francis Lee
Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan star in this raw love story between a solitary paleontologist and a wealthy, grieving wife in 19th-century Dorset. Mary Anning (Winslet) devotes her days on Southwest England’s Dorset coast to finding and cataloguing fossils of ammonites, extinct and beautiful sea creatures. In the early 19th century this is no work for a woman, and no scientific society will have her. So Mary toils alone, even as male scientists visit to study and take credit for her work. When one visitor brings along his grieving wife, Charlotte (Ronan), then abandons her there to return to London, the two women have no one to turn to but each other. Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan have both shown exceptional range, depth, and intensity on screen, delivering performances of raw electricity. Film premiered at Toronto International Film Festival
FAREWELL AMOR, USA
Written and directed by Ekwa Msangi
After 17 years apart, Angolan immigrant Walter is joined in the U.S. by his wife and teen daughter. Now absolute strangers sharing a one bedroom Brooklyn apartment, they struggle to overcome the emotional distance between them. Walter is trying to let go of a previous relationship while his wife Esther struggles with a new country, culture and a husband who seems distant. Their daughter Sylvia is a dancer just like her father, and while she also finds her new life difficult, she bravely starts to explore the city and show herself through dance. The film is both a universal immigrant story and the unique perspective of three characters bound together by history and hope. It is an intimate and deeply personal look at an inter-generational tale that has defined America since its inception. Film premiered at Sundance 2020.
Directed by Phyllida Lloyd
Single-mother Sandra (Clare Dunne) escapes her abusive partner with her two young children, only to find herself trapped in temporary accommodation. After months of struggling, she draws inspiration from one of her daughter’s bedtime stories and hits upon the idea of self-building an affordable home. She finds an architect who provides her with plans and is offered land by Peggy (Harriet Walter), a woman she cleans for. Aido (Conleth Hill), a building contractor, appears willing to help too. But as her past rears its head in the form of Gary (Ian Lloyd Anderson) her possessive ex, and as bureaucrats fight back against her independent spirit, will Sandra be able to rebuild her life from the ground up? Film premiered at 2020 Sundance Film Festival; winner of Human Rights Film Award, Dublin International Film Festival.
NIGHT OF THE KINGS, France/Côte d’Ivoire/Canada/Senegal
Written and directed by Philippe Lacôte
When a young man is incarcerated in Côte d’Ivoire’s largest prison, La MACA, he finds himself entering a world as dangerous and complex as the one he was navigating on the outside. While ostensibly overseen by a team of rundown guards, the prison is really ruled by Blackbeard (Steve Tientcheu, Les Misérables). On his last legs, and seeing his power waning, Blackbeard makes one final play to keep his power over the prison: on the night of the red moon, he designates MACA’s newcomer “Roman.” In a griot role that recalls Scheherazade in One Thousand and One Nights, Roman (Koné Bakary) must recount a story until the sun rises if he wants to keep his life and the prison from falling into chaos. Roman spins a story about Zama King, a notorious gang leader whose life spanned from ancient times to the fall of Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo and was filled with intrigue and magic. Film flows between a prison drama and visually stunning sequences that depict Roman’s elaborate tale. Further incorporating song and dance, Night of the Kings is a mesmerizing meditation on the art of storytelling and its role in survival.
THE COMEBACK TRAIL, USA
Written and directed by George Gallo, co-written by Josh Posner
It’s 1974, and as his latest schlock-pic tanks, Max Barber (Robert De Niro) is deep in debt to the mob—specifically, Reggie Fontaine (Morgan Freeman) who has a certain flair that’s very ‘70s. He even uses movie references (think: Tony Perkins in Psycho) as threats. Barber devises a scheme to save himself and partner Walter Creason (Zach Braff) from ruin: they’ll make a picture where they set up their aging star in an insurance scam so they can save themselves. The star? Duke Montana (the indisputably great Tommy Lee Jones). If you’re up for a flick that flips stereotypes and tramples taboos, drive on over, tune in, and enjoy the ride. With De Niro, Freeman, Braff, and Tommy Lee Jones on board, isn’t that just what you need? From the writer of Midnight Run and produced by Joy Hurwitz, whose husband Harry Hurwitz wrote and produced the original film.
GOOD SAMARITANS, USA – World Premiere
Written by Jake Lawler and Conor Lawler and directed by Nick Stathopoulos
After seeing a homeless man get abused during their meal, two men from different walks of life debate the homeless crisis in America before heading off to work.
UNCLE FRANK, USA
Written and directed by Alan Ball
In 1973, teenaged Beth Bledsoe (Sophia Lillis) leaves her rural Southern hometown to study at New York University where her beloved Uncle Frank (Paul Bettany) is a revered literature professor. She soon discovers that Frank is gay and living with his longtime partner Walid “Wally” Nadeem (Peter Macdissi) — an arrangement that he has kept secret for years. After the sudden death of Frank’s father — Beth’s grandfather — Frank is forced to reluctantly return home for the funeral with Beth in tow, and to finally face a long-buried trauma that he has spent his entire adult life running away from. Writer-director Alan Ball’s (Academy Award® winner for American Beauty screenplay) heartfelt and hilarious road movie travels from the bohemian scene of post-Stonewall New York City to rural South Carolina, following Frank’s painful journey from hitting rock bottom to acceptance and forgiveness and, finally, reintegration into his family and into life itself. Bettany reveals Frank’s fragile core by peeling away the layers of Frank’s sophisticated but guarded persona. Sophia Lillis plays Beth as a naive but observant young woman whose eyes are opened to a world she could never have imagined. Peter Macdissi also has a standout performance as Wally, a man whose capacity for compassion runs deeper than he even knows. Ball (known for his ensemble TV work on Six Feet Under and True Blood) also elicits strong turns from his superb supporting cast, including Stephen Root, Margo Martindale, Steve Zahn, Judy Greer and Lois Smith. Film premiered at 2020 Sundance Film Festival; winner of Audience Award, Deauville Film Festival.
Written and directed by Christian Petzold
Undine is a historian who works as a museum guide in Berlin. She knows all about the Humboldt Forum, and has the knack of choosing just the right blouse and suit. She is nonchalantly beautiful, and the way she imparts her knowledge about the city that was built on a swamp is as professional as it is graceful. And yet, time and again, her gaze wanders over to the courtyard café at the Stadtmuseum to see if he is there, or is still there, or if he’s there again. Him. But Johannes is leaving, leaving her, and Undine’s world is collapsing. The magic has gone… Christian Petzold reworks the myth of the mysterious water spirit as a modern fairy-tale in a disenchanted world. His Undine defies her role as a powerless and spurned woman and falls in love anew, with Christoph, who dives into the sunken world of a reservoir. Petzold’s deeply assured work reimagines this legend by way of his own cinematic vision, in which precise everyday gestures are combined with ghostly hyperrealism. The story of a life-or-death love splendidly and effortlessly told. Film premiered at Berlin International Film Festival, winner of Silver Berlin Bear and Fipresci Prize.
About Film Fest 919:
FF919 is founded and run by two old broads: Randi Emerman, VP of Programming for Silverspot Cinemas and co-founder/former CEO of the Palm Beach International Film Festival whose multi-faceted career spans production, marketing, theatrical exhibition and distribution, and Carol Marshall, veteran publicist for a wide variety of entertainment clients including such previous film festivals as Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Sonoma and Bermuda international film fests. FF919 is a thoughtfully curated, inclusive festival with a commitment to bold, director-driven programming and is especially supportive of female and diverse filmmakers.
The festival schedule and more details will be available soon. Passes are still available and tickets will go on sale October 8, available at www.FilmFest919.com. All showtimes will be 7:30 pm, with both venues opening at 6:30 pm for entry. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest updates and for when individual tickets go on sale.