This year’s Florida Film Festival brings together locals with filmmaking experience to spare and ones who’ve just started their movie-making dreams. Check out what our homegrown talent has to offer this year at the Enzian Theater:
“An Affair of the Heart”
For Orlando resident Melanie Lentz-Janney, making movies was something she promoted, not did. For her directing always seemed a far-fetched impossible dream — until she met a woman with an IMDB list of credits as long as it gets. Sylvia Caminer, a hometown documentarian, and her industry experience paired with Janney’s passion for an idea has made for a documentary that they say, can sing into the hearts of anyone. Their film, “An Affair of the Heart,” follows Rick Springfield, of “Jessie’s Girl” fame, far after that song hit the charts. He’s a man who’s kept Janney’s attention for the past 30 years.
“Rick wrote the soundtrack of my life,” she said. “It’s only Rick.”
And she’s not the only one. He’s got a group of very dedicated fans, and their documentary shares their love and respect, and his special, totally reciprocal feelings for them.
“Music can have a healing effect on you,” Caminer said. “You can’t walk away from this film and not love him.”
Scroll down for a capsule review of this film.
Also a newbie to the movie-making business is David McKenna. The story his film tells isn’t happy, but it’s just as personal and full of passion. Many locals may know of the Orlando-started, now-national organization To Write Love on Her Arms — a nonprofit dedicated to finding help for people struggling with depression, drug addiction, self-injury and thoughts of suicide. One woman’s experience inspired its start and her struggle is told in “Renee” on the Fest’s opening night. It’s the story of friends supporting each other in the fight to stop the cycle of drug addiction.
McKenna, who is one of the friends portrayed in the film and is, is a producer, and enlisted the help of movie talent from all over Central Florida including from the University of Central Florida, Valencia College and Full Sail University. McKenna, a former Winter Park resident, hopes this film will not only inspire those who need help to find it, but also help others to recognize what addiction is and how to reach out and support those in need. He wants this film to make a difference.
“Kids are dying and people are dying … from addiction,” he said. “We need to preserve and save lives.”
“Eye of the Hurricane”
Another dramatic tale is told by filmmaker Jesse Wolfe, who grew up in Winter Park and now lives in Orlando. “Eye of the Hurricane” was inspired by Hurricane Andrew, and took many interviews of real victims of the storm to create the perspective of the small-town family affected by the devastating hurricane featured in the movie.
“I’m fascinated by people fighting to put their lives back in order … common people in a state of crisis,” he said.
Wolfe loves to tell stories with timeless themes anyone can relate to by taking a magnifying glass to small stories, like the one in his film, and staying focused on them just a little bit longer.
For Full Sail film professor Kevin O’Neill, that feeling is the same. He said he longs for the old narrative films of the past, and wants to create movies that offer a character-driven plot, full of relationships audiences can really feel.
His film, “Captain Fin,” focuses on an 18-year-old woman who, after finally getting a stack of letters she never received from her father, goes to visit him in prison to mend their relationship. It starts a bit dark, but audiences get a spark of hope as the father turns back into “Captain Fin,” the old pirate his daughter loved to play with.
“We’re thinking of telling the story, but we hope they feel something,” O’Neill said. “It’s a reflection of life.”
“Renee”: 7 p.m. April 13
“An Affair of the Heart”: Noon April 14 and 9:30 p.m. April 19
“Eye of the Hurricane”: 5:45 p.m. April 15 and 2 p.m. April 22
“Captain Fin”: 1:30 p.m. April 21
For more information about the films, tickets and screening locations, visit floridafilmfestival.com
More than films
Not only are there some great films playing at the Florida Film Festival, but there are also plenty of exciting events — everything from meeting famous directors to a lecture on food by a “Top Chef” finalist. Here’s a snapshot of some events:
On Saturday, April 14, there’s “The Digital Dish,” where you get to hear how television, film and the media age has changed the food world from the mouths of those who have experienced it most — “Top Chef” finalist Marcel Vigneron, well-known food blogger, TV food star and stand-out cookbook author. While you listen, the Enzian kitchen will be pumping out tasty dishes.
Enter for a chance to win a pair of Film Festival tickets by signing up for Winter Park-Maitland Observer's free weekly e-newsletter. Click on this link and then "subscribe to list".
On Friday, April 20, experience an evening with Cloris Leachman featuring the film that she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance in, “The Last Picture Show.”
Saturday, April 21, Academy Award winning director, screenwriter and producer Barry Levinson will be at the festival to give audiences an opportunity to ask him questions after the screening of his film, “Liberty Heights.”
In addition to these star-filled events, there will be industry experts speaking at forums about women in film, being a screenwriter and becoming a success.
Capsule review: “Renee”
Director: Nathan Frankowski
Starring: Kat Dennings, Chad Michael Murray, Rupert Friend, Mark Saul and Juliana Harkavy
“Renee” is the true story of a young bipolar woman who goes off her medication and starts cutting herself and abusing drugs — and ultimately becomes the inspiration for “To Write Love on Her Arms,” a nonprofit that helps people troubled with addiction, depression, self-injury and thoughts of suicide. It was partially produced at Full Sail and shot in Orlando; we see the Wachovia building, The Beacham, and Cinderella at a bus stop headed to work at the attractions. One particularly painful scene features an embarrassing acoustic rendition of a Coldplay song in Stardust Video and Coffee.
Renee’s psychosis is manifested in attractive, fantastic special effects sequences — “Heavenly Creatures” for the digital age. Unfortunately, they’re thrown away to make way for the heavy-handed centerpiece, a five-day cocaine detox with the help of Renee’s friends. Rupert Friend is fun to watch and the dialogue feels right, but the execution suffers while the movie can’t decide how seriously to treat its subject matter.