It's the sixth year of the Phoenix Film Festival, and thanks to vérité hits such as like “March of the Penguins” and “Murderball,” the competition boasts an abundance of documentaries.
“This is the year of the documentary,” says festival executive director Chris LaMont. “The quality of documentaries has just gotten huge.”
Four of the 11 features vying for best picture are documentaries, two of which are about the entertainment industry.
“There's one called ‘Rough Cut.' It's about a filmmaker who needed to finish his movie, so he contracted with a hit man to kill his wife to collect the insurance money to make his film,” explains LaMont.
“There's another one about child actors called ‘Life After Tomorrow,' about all the girls that were in the ‘Annie' musical back in the '80s, including Sarah Jessica Parker, looking at fame and how it affects child actors,” says LaMont, a faculty member of the ASU School of Theatre and Film.
The other two documentaries competing are “Andrew Jenks, Room 335” and “Last of the Spanish Mustangs.”
Another trend is television actors popping up in competition films.
“There's a movie with Poppy Montgomery from ‘Without a Trace' in one of our competition films (‘Between'), also Kurtwood Smith (‘Hard Scrambled'), who's the dad in ‘That '70s Show,' ” says LaMont.
Like most festivals, there's also “showcase” films with high-profile flicks, many of which are making their Arizona premiere, including “My Big Fat Independent Movie,” which spoofs arthouse flicks from “Memento” to “Magnolia.” It's written by Film Threat magazine editor Chris Gore, who will be hosting a seminar.
“The fact that he's coming this year is a testament to how big this festival is getting from a national perspective,” says LaMont.
>>The Phoenix Film Festival runs Thursday, March 23, through March 30 at Harkins Scottsdale 101, 7000 E. Mayo Blvd. $10 for screenings, $120-$150 for festival pass. (602) 955-6444 or phxfilmfestival.com.
The actor will discuss “Akeelah and the Bee,” about an inner-city girl in a national spelling bee, written and directed by former Valley resident Doug Atchison.
Bud Bundy himself will participate in a Q&A for “Nice Guys,” a comedy about Hollywood wannabes selling drugs to fund their dream project.
The talkative half of cult favorite duo “Jay and Silent Bob” from Kevin Smith films (“Clerks,” “Dogma”) will also talk about “Nice Guys.”
Melissa Joan Hart:
The former “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” and “Clarissa Explains It All” star will participate in a seminar and discuss her short film “Mute.”
Dr. Evil's No. 2 and “Hart to Hart” actor will promote “Hoot,” about endangered owls and also starring Luke Wilson.
“Dark Heart” Drama detailing an Iraq war veteran's struggles with life upon returning to his hometown.
“Her Minor Thing” Sprawling comedy on how sex interconnects the lives of eight people. With Kathy Griffin.
“Pirates of the Great Salt Lake” Two wannabe modern-day pirates stumble across a treasure map.
“Self Medicated” A promising teenager's life spirals out of control when he abuses drugs after his father's death.
“Ten 'Til Noon” Ten minutes that change a businessman's life are seen from alternating perspectives.
“American Dreamz” Satire about a a U.S. president (Dennis Quaid) who appears as a judge on an “American Idol”-esque reality show to boost his popularity.
“Lucky Number Slevin” Josh Hartnett re-teams with “Wicker Park” director Paul McGuigan in a mistaken-identity thriller. Bruce Willis and Morgan Freeman also star.
“Hard Candy” Drama with an unsettling premise: 32-year-old man takes home 14-year-old girl he meets on the Internet. “Grey's Anatomy's” Sandra Oh co-stars as presumably neither.
“Experiment” 2005 International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival Award winner about a man and woman who both lose their memory as the result of an experiment.
“Take the Lead” America's newfound love affair with ballroom dancing continues with Antonio Banderas as a former professional teaching New York City students.