Ten must-see movies from the Philadelphia Film Festival

The Philadelphia Film Festival, featuring films from Philadelphia and around the world, starts Thursday and runs through Oct. 29. While many of the movies at the fest will get a theatrical release in the Philadelphia area, many more can only be seen on the big screen here during the fest. But there are tons of movies to wade through, ranging from big-name directors (Oscar nominee Richard Linklater, Todd Haynes) to fresh voices (Sean Baker, Alex Ross Perry) to some of the great filmmakers from around the world (Agnieszka Holland, Joachim Trier). If you don’t want to get lost in a sea of cinema, we’re here to help. Here are 10 movies to keep an eye on at this year’s Philadelphia Film Festival.

Read more: Here’s what to expect at the 2017 Philadelphia Film Festival

Love Means Zero

Great title for a documentary that’s winning praise for its fascinating and unblinking portrait of tennis coach/svengali Nick Bollettieri, 86, who coached tennis greats Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Boris Becker and the Williams sisters, among others. Bollettieri switched allegiances mercilessly, often playing one protégé against the other, in ways that didn’t always benefit the player but often benefited Bollettieri. From Philadelphia director Jason Kohn. 2:40 p.m. Oct. 21; 2:20 p.m. Oct. 29, Ritz East.

Most Beautiful Island

A winner at the South by Southwest Film Festival, this movie follows an undocumented immigrant (Ana Asensio, also the writer and director) as she tries desperately to make ends meet, eventually putting herself at risk in the process. This is the directorial debut for the Spanish actress. 8:50 p.m. Oct. 22; 3:45 p.m. Oct. 23; Ritz Five.


A 12-year-old (Thomas Gioria) caught in the middle of a vicious divorce finds himself between his violent father (Denis Menochet) and his endangered mother (Lea Drucker). Written and directed by former child actor Xavier Legrand, who took home the best director prize at the 2017 Venice Film Festival, where it also took home the “Lion of the Future” prize for best debut feature. 7:15 p.m. Oct. 20, 2:30 p.m. Oct. 29; Ritz East.

On Body and Soul

Two introverted people, who work in a slaughterhouse, have a close encounter when they realize they share the same mysterious dream, and together try to determine where the images are coming from in this film that won big at the prestigious Berlin Film Festival. Written and directed by Ildikó Enyedi. 12:10 p.m. Oct. 21; 7 p.m. Oct. 28; Ritz East.


Someone in a remote German village is killing the deer hunters. As the bodies pile up, so do the questions. Is the culprit the quirky local vegetarian (Janina Duszejko)? A dark and wryly comic mystery from writer-director Agnieszka Holland. 6 p.m. Oct. 24; 8:45 p.m. Oct. 25; Ritz East.

A Ciambra

In Italy, a Romani boy (Pio Amato) learns to survive on the streets by following the example of his older brother, whose disappearance forces Pio to grow up quickly in a world where factional tensions among the Italians, the Romani and African immigrants come into play. This Cannes winner was executive produced by Martin Scorsese. Noon, Oct. 20; 1:20 p.m. Oct. 25, Ritz East.


Rare footage of naturalist Jane Goodall, from the archives of National Geographic. Brett Morgen (The Kid Stays in the Picture) assembled the footage to create a profile of the woman who challenged existing beliefs about chimpanzees and our perceptions of nature itself. Set to the music by composer Philip Glass. 5 p.m. Oct. 20; noon Oct. 21; Ritz East.

The New Radical

This documentary profiles tech-savvy anarchists — including a man who used the internet to publish instructions on using 3D printers to make handguns, and an advocate of Bitcoin. A look at what anti-authoritarianism looks like in the digital age. 8:10 p.m. Oct. 23; 8:40 p.m. Oct. 29; Ritz Five.

Faces Places

Another strong documentary, following French New Wave director Agnès Varda, now 89, as she works with French visual artist JR on his ongoing project to photograph ordinary people and turn the images into large murals.  12:15 p.m. Oct. 22; 6:20 p.m. Oct 23, Ritz East.

Before Hollywood: Philadelphia and the Invention of the Movies.

Director Andrew Ferrett explores the region’s role in the roots of filmmaking – including Charles Wilson Peale’s “moving pictures,” Siegmund Lubin’s early 20th century studios, and the early inventors who contributed to the technology and the art. 6:30 p.m. Oct. 27, Ritz East.


Philadelphia Film Festival