Plans underway for second Naples International Film Festival

Guests arrive via the red carpet at the opening of the Naples International Film Festival at the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009, in Naples. David Albers/ Staff

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Guests arrive via the red carpet at the opening of the Naples International Film Festival at the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009, in Naples. David Albers/ Staff

Opening night for the second Naples International Film Festival is going to look a lot like the first, close enough that you might consider it a remake.

Again hosting an opening night gala at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts, the festival organizers once again selected an documentary to kick off the weekend-long festival.

But those expecting “The Cove II” might be a little disappointed. By the time “The Cove” came to Naples, it was the most talked about documentary of the year thanks in part to its subject matter — the slaying of dolphins in Japan— and its tireless director, Louis Psihoyos.

This year the festival, which runs Nov. 4-7, opens with “Thespians,” a lesser-seen film chronicling four Florida high school theater troupes trying to rise through a state competition.

Despite less buzz, “Thespians” does come with rave reviews. Steve Persall, film critic for the St. Petersburg Times, said in May the last time he felt “this good about a previously unknown documentary was “Murderball” a few years ago in Sarasota, and that one got nominated for an Oscar.”

Rowan Samuel, the festival’s executive director, said “Thespians” works well with the festivals theme this year — the arts.

“It’s a great fit for us based on our focus,” he said in an e-mail on Thursday.

Ellen Goldberg, program director for the festival, said it wasn’t a conscious decision to choose another documentary as the opening film.

“We really wanted a film that would appeal to a wide group,” she said. “‘Thespians’ is also a Florida film... You feel great while watching it.”

Festival organizers are working to finalize the complete roster of films, which should be released next week. But Goldberg did give a sneak peek to a few changes from the first year:

n With the exception of the opening gala, all films will be screened at Silverspot Cinema at Mercato. Last year, movies were screened at the Norris Center and the von Liebig Art Center. Only the kids program will take place downtown at Cambier Park and the Norris Center. The number of screens available to the festival at Silverspot was increased from three to six to accommodate the elimination of other venues.

n No local films are being screened this year. Last year there was one documentary, “Immokalee, U.S.A.,” and several local shorts screened. Goldberg said only three local films were submitted for consideration, but that the low number could be because of the elimination of the strictly local category. She said the festival might bring back the category in future years.

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

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