Film festival brought some edge to Naples

Naples International Film Festival kicks off

Screening of "The Cove" draws crowd at ...

Reactions to The Cove

Did you miss the film festival?

Some of the best films of the Naples International Film Festival are being screened again at the Sidney and Berne Davis Arts Center, 2301 First St., Fort Myers. Tickets to each night are $20.

FRIDAY, NOV. 13, 2009: 6 p.m. to midnight

Shorts: “Re-Nude,” “Useppa Island: Florida’s Secret Silver Mine,” “The Chocolate Fetish” and “The Ressurection of Amalia Mendoza”

Features: “Official Rejection,” “Bitter/Sweet” and “The Knowers”

SATURDAY, NOV. 14, 2009: 6 p.m. to midnight

Shorts: “Good Rules for Bad Guys,” “Purple Martin” and “Sun Sessions”

Features: “Big Cypress Swamp: The Western Everglades,” “Immokalee, U.S.A.,” “Desdemona: A Love Story” and “Li Tong”

* For reviews, trailers and other information about the Naples International Film Festival:

www.naplesnews.com/filmfestival

After talking to organizers, filmmakers and patrons, we can say the inaugural Naples International Film Festival was a success.

Thousands of people saw a sampling of independent films that otherwise wouldn’t have graced a single screen in Southwest Florida. Nearly 1,100 came for the opening night gala showing of “The Cove” at the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts, the second biggest screening the Oscar-contending movie has had worldwide.

The VIP after-party for the opening night film had a buzz not typically found in Naples. The lines waiting to get into screenings at the Silverspot Cinema and the Norris Center were full of people talking about movies. Screenings of local films, such as “Immokalee U.S.A.” and a collection of shorts, sold out, leaving those who didn’t buy tickets in advance turned away.

A coworker told me that the festival was the first time she’d ever felt excited for an event in Naples. For a moment the community was more cosmopolitan and had a bit more edge.

This is exactly the sort of festival the Naples arts community needed. There are no shortage of talented people living in Naples, but few times could anything they are doing be considered on the edge of anything. We have a very Midwestern approach to the arts. We want familiar names, even if they are past their prime, and we want them to play their hits.

We want Picasso, Tony Bennett and Steven Spielberg, thank you. Or at least that’s what we are led to believe.

But for a weekend that wasn’t true. Over the course of four days, people flocked to see movies that few had heard of, that the New York Times and Entertainment Weekly hadn’t reviewed, that offered mystery.

In today’s mainstream film culture, geared more toward first weekend box office receipts than quality, there’s little left to surprise us. Even if the movies shown at the Naples International Film Festival weren’t always classics (see the soul-crushingly bad “The Human Experience”), they were at least not given away to us by an endless barrage of trailers and star appearances on the “Today Show.”

Now the mission for the folks who put on the festival to build off this success. If they need a model, they could do worse than looking at the area’s premiere social event — the Naples Winter Wine Festival.

The wine festival grew at an astonishing rate thanks in part to the organizers’ vast personal wealth, but also because they tapped into the wealth and industry-specific success that Naples offers. A little help from the rich and famous folks who call Naples a second, third or fourth home, would go a long way to creating a viable product in the future.

The film festival organizers are not millionaires many times over, but they are excellent at selling their vision. Getting buy-in from the community early on was key, which they did expertly through open screenings of potential festival films. Festival executives shrewdly brought in other arts organizations and venues into the fold. Having the Phil, the Norris Center and the von Lweibig Art Center as venues added some legitimacy to a first year festival.

Two big hurdles loom for the festival. The first is the inevitable internal struggle with success. The organizers did a good job when nothing much was expected from them. But now there will be power plays and backbiting. It’s impossible to avoid completely, but it doesn’t have to kill you. Stay to your core principles and trust your leadership team. They got you this far.

The second is to not bask in success for too long. Finding a film with the oomph to draw another 1,100 to the Phil for the next opening gala will be a challenge. We now have expectations for great things. Living up to it will be a challenge.

Connect with Jonathan Foerster at www.naplesnews.com/staff/jonathan_foerster

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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