Fifth annual Peoria Film Festival gives fans old favorites and new classics

Oct 19, 2023, 2:15 PM

The fifth annual Peoria Film Festival begins Thursday. (Facebook Photo/Peoria Film Festival)...

The fifth annual Peoria Film Festival begins Thursday. (Facebook Photo/Peoria Film Festival)

(Facebook Photo/Peoria Film Festival)

PHOENIX — The Peoria Film Festival is offering local movie fans the chance to experience stories they may not get to see anywhere else.

Starting Thursday and going through Sunday, the festival is taking over the Harkins Arrowhead Towne Center.

Jason Carney, executive director, says the goal was to capture the excitement of Phoenix Film Festival, which he also helps run. Peoria wanted to help expand entertainment options in the West Valley, Carney said.

“We took a year off in 2020, but we’ve built good relationships in the community,” Carney said. “[Harkins Arrowhead] a great theater, all you need is good movies and a good theater and you’re halfway there.”

As for said movies, the festival boasts plenty of options. Thursday night will premiere “Gold Run,” directed by Norwegian filmmaker Hallvard Bræn, about a real-life World War II effort to smuggle a stash of government gold out of the hands of invading Nazi Germany.

Carney says it was exciting to work with the film’s distributors on getting it to Arizona, saying, “it was one of those things where I’m just crazy enough to program a Norwegian action film for an opening night spot, it’s not something I’ve ever done before. But I felt so great about the accessibility for people to enjoy this film.”

Friday kicks off with “June Zero,” directed by Jake Paltrow, the brother of actress Gwyneth Paltrow. It focuses on the 1961 trial of Holocaust architect Adolf Eichman. Later that day is a screening of the Kevin Kline-starring golf movie, “Tin Cup,” one of four classic sports films included in the lineup.

“We’re admittedly pretty 90s-heavy,” Carney says of their selections, which also include 1992’s “A League of Their Own” and 1993’s “Rudy.” “It’s about getting films that people are familiar with and going ‘oh, I’ll read the program, maybe I’ll check this thing out or I’ll keep an eye on the festival next year.”‘

Also notable throughout the weekend are Michael Hennessy’s “Critic” about a director who invites a harsh critic to a sinister dinner. Sunday night’s closing film, “Peak Season,” is about a New York couple struggling to maintain their relationship while on a Wyoming vacation, and “The Last Movie Ever Made,” an end-of-the-world comedy which won director Nathan Blackwell the Arizona Filmmaker of the Year award at this year’s Phoenix Film Festival.

Carney says some of the films they’ve cultivated at this and previous years’ festivals are from filmmakers his team have known for years, and want to maintain a level of trust in releasing their films.

“They’re trusting you to show their film and bring in an audience for it” Carney said. “Even a film maybe they’ve shown at 12, 13 other festivals, it’s still a fresh audience, a different community, different reactions and that provides an element of nervous excitement to the filmmakers.”

One of the things Carney is most proud of is their family-friendly showings, both for Saturday and Sunday’s short film showcases, as well as ‘Sparkle: A Unicorn Tale,’ a feature-length film about a group of animal rescuers who find a beaten-up unicorn. The tickets are free, with just a registration on the festival’s website required for tickets.

When Carney looks at the festival’s lineup, he says community is the biggest aim for him and his team.

“People at these festivals start talking about ‘oh, what did you think of this movie or this moment?’ It’s interesting, that dynamic never ceases to amaze me, how people just become friends at film festivals,” Carney said.

“Everyone’s behind these films, on the same side, rooting to maybe see the next big thing, and that’s an amazing feeling of community. It’s what going to the movies is all about.”

To find tickets and festival passes, as well as a full schedule of things to find at the festival, visit their website.

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Fifth annual Peoria Film Festival gives fans old favorites and new classics