Savannah Film Festival

While shopping for a flat-screen television recently, the H.H. Gregg salesman asked me what I do for a living. After telling him I write about film -- hence the need for a technological upgrade -- the proud father started bragging me about his oldest son, an artist, graphics designer and potential screenwriter who is studying at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

“Are you familiar with SCAD?” he asked.

Oh man, am I ever.

SCAD supports the annual Savannah Film Festival, an event I have been lucky enough to attend and cover for the better part of the last decade. Traditionally held during the final week of October, the fest has steadily grown in stature and importance to become the Southeast’s preeminent film celebration. It is a promotional stop for Oscar contenders, a cherished spot for Hollywood luminaries, and a casually joyous social experience for lovers of movies and the film-going experience. Click here for information on the 2013 Savannah Film Festival program, which kicks off on Oct. 26.

Nebraska

This year offers SAVFF attendees yet another stellar slate of pedigreed titles. Alexander Payne’s latest, Nebraska, already was announced as the Opening Night film. Payne will be in attendance, where he’s expected to receive the Outstanding Achievement in Cinema Award. (On a special note, the director will be presented the award by his Nebraska star Bruce Dern, who was honored by SCAD during the 2006 film festival.)

The programming schedule actually improves from there. Jon Turteltaub’s ensemble comedy Last Vegas, James Toback’s Cannes documentary Seduced and Abandoned, Brian Percival’s esteemed adaptation of The Book Thief and David Frankel’s talent-show drama One Chance are guaranteed crowd-pleasers on the SAVFF slate. Elsewhere, studio gems hoping to fan the flames for awards consideration include Stephen Frears’ Philomena, Asghar Farhadi’s The Past, Justin Chadwick’s Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and Ralph Fiennes’ The Invisible Woman.

The festival’s true coup this year, though, has to be the Closing Night selection. Savannah audiences will be treated to a special, early screening of John Wells’ eviscerating August: Osage County, the silver-screen adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts in the lead. The Weinstein Company isn’t releasing August until December, so make sure you’re in the Trustees Theatre as the fest closes for a special sneak peek.

August Osage County

As per usual, a full slate of special guests will make the trip to Savannah to participate in what has become known to be the friendliest, most accessible film festival in the Southeast (and, arguably, the nation).

Alec Baldwin will join James Toback to premiere and discuss their HBO documentary Seduced and Abandoned. On Sunday afternoon, Oct. 27, previous Discovery Award honoree Miles Teller will host a special screening of the incredible film The Spectacular Now with director James Ponsoldt and screenwriter Michael Weber. The legendary Terence Stamp will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the fest this year, while Natalie Dormer of Game of Thrones, Ron Howard’s Rush and the upcoming Hunger Games sequel, Mockingjay, will receive this year’s Discovery Award.

The Savannah Film Festival has become a can’t-miss affair. I love interacting with the quaint Southern city’s residents, who truly appreciate film, the movie industry and the creative aspects of the filmmaking process. You can see SCAD’s influence on Savannah around every corner, and it’s always a joy to see jaded industry folks come to Georgia and drop their guard, embracing the inquisitive SCAD students and reminding themselves why regional festivals of this nature play such an important part in the movie-peddling process. In Savannah, there’s access to the year’s best movies, as well as to the people who make them. If you live anywhere near this beautiful city, it’s worth the trip to experience the film festival, at least once.

I’ll be there, once again. Like I said, it is a can’t miss. And if your father happens to sell television sets at an H.H. Gregg outlet in Charlotte, come up and say hello.

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