While the mention of a film festival may conjure up images in your mind of jam-packed screenings, phalanxes of celebrities and even greater phalanxes of paparazzi, a more genteel and more low-key cinematic celebration kicks off this weekend as the Savannah Film Festival—hosted by the Savannah College of Art and Design—begins its 15th year.
Isabella Rossellini at the Savannah Film Festival
“I’ve been to a lot of festivals and there’s something really special about the celebration of cinema here,” says Michael Chaney, a SCAD professor who’s been involved with the festival since its inception. “It feels like people are relaxed, they’re laid back. This is really a celebratory atmosphere.”
That could be because instead of the usual hustle and bustle of red-carpet premieres and gifting suites, the Savannah Film Festival hosts—in addition to the screenings of films in competition—a large number of lectures, panels and workshops, many of which include SCAD students and make for an educational, collaborative environment.
James Marsden at the Savannah Film Festival
“I went four years ago for a movie called Bare and I loved the festival and the city,” says actor Zach Gilford, best known for TV’s Friday Night Lights and returning this year for his film In Our Nature. “The people running the festival were so helpful, kind and well-organized and it was such an amazing experience. The next year when they did a screening of another movie I did, I was so stoked to go back.”
In addition to the festival, Gilford notes that the bar beneath Savannah culinary stalwart The Olde Pink House is also a draw to the charming Georgia town.
Gilford at the Savannah Film Festival
Besides the town’s libations, other draws to the film festival this year include master classes lead by Gabourey Sidibe, Stan Lee, Diane Lane, Matt Dillon and more, as well as screenings of David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, which opens the festival (and recently won the top prize at the Toronto International Film Festival) and Rise of the Guardian, an animated film directed by Peter Ramsey.
Emmy Rossum at the Savannah Film Fest
“The festival is sponsored by SCAD, so the mission of the festival has an academic bent to it. ,” says Chaney.” But it’s not about lectures, it’s about conversations. When guests come, there’s this amazing thing that happens where the guests engage the students and vice versa. There’s a magic that happens.” The film festival runs through Nov. 3.