According to the Book of Exodus, after leaving Egypt the Jews spent 40 years in the desert. As of this year, the Greater Phoenix Film Festival is more than half way to the same tenure in this different desert.
Year in and year out since 1996, it’s been one of the Valley’s more interesting cinematic shindigs, featuring dramas, comedies and documentaries, both American and international, reflecting the diversity of the culture it represents.
Many of the showings are accompanied by speakers to expand on the themes explored by the films.
The 21st annual edition, which runs Feb. 12 to 26, promises the same abundance.
As in past years, the fest is spread out over venues in the West Valley (Arrowhead Fountains in Glendale), the Scottsdale area (Harkins Shea 14) and the East Valley—Chandler Fashion 20.
The list that follows includes the selections and showtimes for the “Great Films…With a Little Jewish Flavor” handy to the Wrangler News coverage area, at Harkins Chandler Fashion 20 at Chandler Fashion Center, 3159 W. Chandler Boulevard:
Sunday, February 12, 3 p.m. Rosenwald — The Chandler side of the Festival kicks off with this documentary, directed by Aviva Kempner, about Sears CEO Julius Rosenwald, who, though he never finished high school, built thousands of schools in African-American communities in the South.
The speaker at the Chandler showing will be the Rev. Ozetta Kirby.
Sunday, February 19, 3 p.m. On the Map—Dani Menkin’s documentary is about the 1977 Maccabi Tel-Aviv basketball team and their triumph over the Soviet team in the European Basketball playoffs.
Monday, February 20: 7 p.m. Remember—This Canadian drama by Atom Egoyan stars Christopher Plummer as an elderly Auschwitz survivor racing his own memory loss as he searches for a Nazi in hiding.
Tuesday, February 21:7 p.m. Wunderkinder—Three young musical prodigies, two of them Jewish, face the invasion of the Nazis in Ukraine in 1941. The Festival warns that, while his movie is about children, it isn’t for children; it’s recommended for ages 13 and older.
Wednesday, February 22: 7 p.m. Kapo in Jerusalem—This drama from Israel concerns a married couple, both Holocaust survivors, haunted by the husband’s activities in the camps.
Thursday, February 23: 7 p.m. Sabena Hijacking: My Version—Another Israeli production, this recounts the 1972 hijacking of a Belgian commercial airline on its way to Tel Aviv, from the point of view of its English Captain Reginald Levy.
Sunday, February 26: 3 p.m. Moos—Nothing to do with cows. The title character of this Dutch comedy, played by Jip Smit, is an aspiring singer trying to get into a performing arts academy.
Go to gpjff.org for tickets and details, including information on selections and showtimes at the other venues.
The Red Turtle—This animated feature is a Japanese-European co-production, and it looks it. It begins with ocean waves that look like the art of Hosukai.
These tempestuous swells maroon a man, who looks like a character out of Tintin, on an island of bamboo forests and beaches crawling with deadpan little crabs.
The man has all he needs to survive on the island except companionship.
Eventually he finds this in the form of the great red sea turtle that he attacks, blaming the creature for scuttling his attempts to escape on rafts.
The turtle mysteriously changes into a beautiful woman, the man abandons his plans to leave the island, and the two of them settle into married life and have a child, who…well, it’s all very surreal and dreamlike.
Directed by Michael Dudok de Wit, this nearly wordless film couldn’t be much more beautiful visually.
It has quietly magical atmosphere, but somehow it doesn’t quite add up to the masterpiece it seems to want to be.
I liked a lot about it, but the moment where the story’s dream logic provides a dramatic payoff is missing.
Still in theaters
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter—Alice, played by Milla Jovavich, wriggles out of the ruins of the Washington D.C. and finds the world still crawling with cannibal zombies, bio-engineered monsters and amoral corporate mercenaries in armored vehicles.
In this, the sixth and supposedly the last installment of the series based on the gruesome video game, she must return to “Raccoon City” and the underground complex where it all began to retrieve some concoction that will shut down the zombies.
These movies represent almost everything I despise in contemporary big-budget moviemaking—overblown, hyper-edited action, sterile CGI visuals, actors growling humorless dialogue, too many endings.
So it’s embarrassing to admit that they’ve been a guilty pleasure for me—just possibly the ever-fetching Jovavich has something to do with this. I enjoyed this one, too, but even so I’d agree that it’s time to retire the series.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is Rated R and plays at Harkins Arizona Mills, Chandler Fashion 20, Tempe Marketplace and other multiplexes Valleywide.