A Film Revolution

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This spring, film festivals across the country aim to bring something new to the table.

By Ashley Ryan

The year was 1878, and eccentric photographer Eadweard Muybridge pioneered a technique that would make cinematic history. After placing 24 glass plate cameras attached to strings along the racetrack at the Palo Alto Stock Farm in Stanford, Calif., he gave his assistant the signal to bring a horse to a gallop down the path. As the horse passed over the strings, it triggered each shutter and captured a series of moments in time. Muybridge later put the photos together, producing an animation of the galloping horse and, in turn, creating the first motion picture—a defining moment in the field of film. The industry has come a long way since then, with the advancement of technology leading to digital formats and lower production costs. As filmmaking techniques evolved, so did the ways for filmmakers to showcase their work; thus, the film festival was born.

Today, film festivals connect independent artists with professionals, as aficionados across the country celebrate the miracle of motion pictures throughout the year. Spring blooms with offerings from some of the nation’s top talent—this season, watch as aspiring and accomplished filmmakers travel from coast to coast to showcase their films and celebrate the art of their craft.

Tribeca Film Festival

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April 16-27; New York City
A diverse international event, New York’s Tribeca Film Festival forges ahead in 2014 with a major focus on innovation. Each year, the lower Manhattan festival—founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff in 2002—draws both established and emerging filmmakers, having screened more than 1,400 films from 80 countries since its inception. New events and features will be added to this year’s festival, including an entire day of free public screenings and a new app that provides visitors with updates and information about activities and screenings. Popular returning activities are the complimentary drive-in series along the Hudson River, which allows visitors to watch new and classic films outdoors on the big screen, as well as an enhanced presentation of the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards honoring those whose ideas are changing the world. The annual festival continues to grow—it received more than 6,000 submissions last year—so the 2014 rendition will undoubtedly bring more big names, exciting programs and digital advancements. (tribecafilm.com)

Newport Beach Film Festival

Newport Beach Fest

April 24 – May 1; Orange County, Calif.
The Southern California coastal community hosts its 15th annual film festival this April, placing an emphasis on creating connections within the community. The festival, which showcases both studio and independent films, has presented notable works such as “(500) Days of Summer” and “The Way, Way Back” starring Steve Carell, as well as the U.S. premiere of the Academy Award-winning “Crash.” This year, the festival again promises another lineup of stellar motion pictures, including those in its annual Community Outreach Program, which partners local nonprofits with films sharing a similar message to introduce audiences to the cause and a new perspective. In addition, the Newport Beach Film Festival hosts industry-based seminars, giving aspiring filmmakers and cinephiles a chance to hear from professionals on topics ranging from screenwriting to financing production costs. Held at theaters across Newport Beach with celebratory after parties taking place outdoors, the festival is an ideal way to experience the culture and ocean air in coastal Orange County. (newportbeachfilmfest.com)

WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival

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April 4-13; Houston
Among the oldest independent film festivals in the country, WorldFest-Houston has dedicated itself to showcasing independent productions since its inception in 1961 (then known as Cinema Arts, an International Film Society). A number of notable filmmakers received their first awards at WorldFest, including Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Though it aims to promote Houston as a film production destination, the festival places a focus on bringing a different level of diversity to the event. Every year, it spotlights films from one country, in addition to partnering with other festivals across the globe to allow top WorldFest participants in the Remi Awards program to enter other international competitions. To reward loyal festivalgoers, the jury insists on screening only world premieres for the opening and closing night exhibitions. An event that eschews the pomp and circumstance of most large-scale festivals, WorldFest is for the true independent film admirer—one who hopes to be immersed in a cultural experience that spans the globe. (worldfest.org)

San Francisco International Film Festival

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April 24 – May 8; San Francisco
As the longest-running film festival in the Americas, the San Francisco International Film Festival now showcases films created in more than 50 different countries. The event takes place in venues ranging from the historic Castro Theatre to the Presidio’s Walt Disney Family Museum, allowing guests to explore the city while enjoying productions created by this year’s participants. The festival also hosts a unique annual event—a silent film screening accompanied by a live musical artist, an exciting tradition beloved by many. Near the end of the second week, the San Francisco Film Society presents a formal gala, the Film Society Awards Night, which recognizes directors, screenwriters and actors for their outstanding work. With screenings of narrative feature films, animated shorts, television shows and documentaries, in addition to panels, seminars, tributes and retrospectives, the 57th annual San Francisco International Film Festival is not to be missed. (sffs.org)

Atlanta Film Festival

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March 28 – April 6; Atlanta
As one of the country’s biggest festivals—with more than 25,000 audience members—the Atlanta Film Festival is also one of the most diverse, screening everything from international and independent films to documentaries and animated works. In addition, the festival also offers many exciting, interactive activities, such as dialogues with filmmakers and other industry professionals like previous guests Josh Brolin (“No Country for Old Men”) and Ray McKinnon (“The Blind Side”). An expected highlight, the festival’s third annual Sound & Vision event will combine live music, music videos, shorts and art installations to create an evening focused on the sound behind film. This year, the Atlanta Film Festival even debuts a new stand-alone category: puppetry. There’s much to discover and explore at the Academy Award-qualifying festival as it celebrates the art of filmmaking in all its forms. (atlantafilmfestival.com) B