The Philadelphia Film Society took the wraps off its lineup for this year’s 30th Philadelphia Film Festival, which will mark the fest’s return to in-person showings after last year’s festival was held virtually. Running from October 20 to 31, it’s the first festival that will be held entirely at the Film Society’s own venues, which are the Philadelphia Film Center, PFS at the Bourse, and the PFS Drive-in at the Navy Yard. There will also be a streaming option, which will offer about 25 percent of the lineup, the programmers said, although there will not be a dedicated Roku app this year.
In a Zoom press conference Thursday morning, PFS’ Executive Director Andrew Greenblatt and Artistic Director Michael Lerman announced that the lineup will include 140 films from 50 countries.
In terms of COVID protocols, the venues will require proof of vaccination and masks and will operate at 50 percent capacity. There will also be more chances than usual to see most films, including repeat screenings of some of the centerpieces. The opening and closing night parties, meanwhile, will be held at venues with both indoor and outdoor areas.
The opening night film, on October 20, is Belfast, director Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical story of a boy growing up in 1960s Northern Ireland, while the closing film October 29, is The Same Storm, director Peter Hedges’ pandemic-shot film. Hedges will appear in person, although Branagh will not, the programmers said. Hedges directed the opening night film, Ben is Back, in 2018, and appeared then as well.
Also appearing will be Kevin Smith, the subject of the documentary Clerk, as part of a “Special Event” on October 23.
The other centerpieces include Mike Mills’ C’mon C’mon, Will Sharpe’s The Electrical Life of Louis Wain, Michael Piece’s Encounter, Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, Reinaldo Marcus Green’s King Richard, Pablo Larran’s Spencer, and an additional secret screening. All have appeared at other festivals this fall.
The Masters of Cinema program includes several acclaimed films by top directors from around the world, including Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car, Asghar Farhadi’s A Hero, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria, Celine Sciamma’s Petite Maman, Sean Baker’s Red Rocket, Gaspar Noe’s Vortex and Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World.
Each of the programs has an “opening night” of its own. For Masters of Cinema it’s Drive My Car, for World View it’s Kira Kovalenko’s Unclenching the Fists, for Non/Fiction it’s Beth Levison and Jerry Risius’ Storm Lake, for After Hours it’s Jean Luc Herbulot’s Saloum, and for Green Screen, it’s Liz Garbus’ Becoming Cousteau. The Green Screen program comes as a result of Film Society’s newly announced takeover of the Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival.
In addition, there’s a From the Vaults program of older films, including John Carpenter’s 1976 Assault on Precinct 13 (in restored 4K); Kenneth Branagh’s 1991 Dead Again (in 35mm), Michael Mann’s 1995 Heat (in restored 4K), Joan Micklin Silver’s 1975 Hester Street (in restored 4k), Elaine May’s 1971 A New Leaf (in 35mm), Lynne Ramsay’s 1999 Ratcatcher (in restored 4K) and Joanna Hogg’s original The Souvenir (2019.)
There are also sections dedicated to the cinema of France and Iran, to music documentaries, and a robust shorts program.
What’s not there? While the 2018 and 2019 festivals featured many films that were part of the Netflix awards slates those years, the 2021 lineup does not have any titles from that streamer. That means Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, which drew positive notices at the Toronto and New York Film Festivals, is not in the lineup, nor is Tick, Tick Boom or Don’t Look Up, neither of which has premiered yet. Other films from the fall festival circuit that aren’t on PFF’s schedule include Paul Verhoeven’s Benedetta and Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth. If you were hoping for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza, which comes out in November, that’s not in the lineup, either. Perhaps the secret screening will be one of the above.
Those interested in badges and tickets can visit the PFS website.