Director Jason Reitman and Hamilton star Daveed Diggs will help the Philadelphia Film Society kick off a new spring film festival this month. Dubbed PFF SpringFest, it’s an event that’s here to stay, organizers say.
Spring lineups have popped up for the film society on a sporadic basis in previous years, but the slate of films scheduled to run April 27-29 is the first of what will be a consistent, annual complement to the larger fall festival, said executive director J. Andrew Greenblatt.
The spring event, he said, allows the film bookers to draw from a different slice of the festival circuit (winter and spring events like Sundance, Berlin, and South by Southwest) and to recruit more visiting talent.
“We want to be a part of introducing those films to our audience, and this is a good way to do that,” Greenblatt said.
The films will screen at SpringFest’s main venues – the Prince Theater, 1412 Chestnut St., and the PFS Roxy Theater, 2023 Sansom St. For information on times and tickets, visit Filmadelphia.org/springfest.
Diggs will attend the opening-night selection Blindspotting, at 8:30 p.m. April 27 at the Prince Theater. Diggs and friend/collaborator Rafael Casal (who will also attend) star as two buddies from Oakland, Calif., who witness an officer-involved shooting and find that race plays a role in the perception of the event and in the consequences arising from it. Diggs and Casal wrote the movie, which draws its dialogue from a combination of prose and hip-hop poetry.
SpringFest closes April 29 with Tully (8:30 p.m. at the Prince), an event that will feature an appearance by Oscar-nominated director Reitman. Tully reunites Reitman with star Charlize Theron (Young Adult) and screenwriter Diablo Cody (Young Adult, Juno) for a story about a pregnant woman with a hectic domestic life who gets borderline magical assistance from a strange and beautiful young woman (Mackenzie Davis).
Greenblatt said it was good to see Reitman “getting the band back together.” He said he’d long coveted the director and his movies for the festival and was pleased to land Reitman and Tully for SpringFest — it makes up for the time he couldn’t quite nab Up in the Air a few years back for the fall film festival.
The festival also includes Believer (6:30 p.m. April 29, Prince), slated for HBO, the latest documentary from Philadelphia producer Sheena Joyce and director Don Argott, who will introduce it. It follows Imagine Dragons band member Dan Reynolds to Utah, where he examines a connection between teen suicides and the attitude of the Mormon Church toward LGBTQ individuals. Betsy West’s documentary of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – RBG – will also play the festival (2:20 p.m. April 28, Prince). So will Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (4:20 p.m. April 29, Prince) a documentary about the life and work of Pittsburgh PBS fixture Fred Rogers, host of the long-running children’s television show.
Other highlights include another Sundance hit, Eighth Grade (4:30 p.m. April 28, Prince), directed by actor/comedian Bo Burnham (he played one of Kumail Nanjiani’s comedian buddies in The Big Sick). It’s about a 13-year-old girl (Elsie Fisher) enduring the comically excruciating final weeks of middle school.
The PFF SpringFest includes several noteworthy independent movies that have been well-reviewed at festivals, including Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace, (6 p.m. April 27, Prince) starring Ben Foster as a father raising his daughter off the grid in the Pacific Northwest. Granik has a knack for stories about rural families and helped make a star of Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone some years ago.
Director Bart Layton, who scored a big documentary hit a few years ago with The Imposter, mixes documentary and drama for his heist movie American Animals (8:45 p.m. April 28, Prince), based on the true story of college kids who conspired to steal rare books from a college library. Layton’s movie weaves drama with footage of the actual perpetrators – more than a decade later – reflecting about their lives and motives at the time.
Indie director Jim McKay (Our Song) returns from a 13-year absence with On the Seventh Day (6:15 p.m. April 27, PFS Roxy), a drama about hardworking immigrants in Brooklyn who live for Sunday soccer matches and the problems that arise in a big game when a star player can’t get off work.
“We’re thrilled with the lineup,” Greenblatt said. “We got just about everything we wanted, and we’ve got some great people coming in. It’s a great way to kick off this brand-new event.”
The only potential downside – if that’s the right word – is that SpringFest will be competing (if all goes well) with Flyers and Sixers playoff series. Though Greenblatt, a Sixers season ticketholder, said with two dozen SpringFest titles running Friday evening and from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, there’s no reason movie and sports fans can’t enjoy both.