High Energy: Sedona International Film Festival Ascends the Ranks of the Circuit

The Sedona International Film Festival 2015 (February 21 to March 1) celebrated 21 years in February and rolled out the proverbial red carpet in all-round stellar programming, featuring the work of a group of diverse, visionary filmmakers.

Sedona filled every audience seat in every screening with enthusiastic and supportive festival attendees eager to ask intelligent questions at the Q&As, and sounded the royal trumpets for all narrative feature, documentary and short filmmakers alike with hotel accommodations, cuisine from local eateries in the VIP lounge, morning panel discussions, jam-packed screenings, and evening networking parties filled with candid debates on the joys and challenges of filmmaking. During one such Q&A, Oscar-winner Peter Fudakowski, in town to screen Tsotsi and his latest, Secret Sharer (inspired by the Joseph Conrad short story), spoke about how much the evolution of the distribution model has stirred the indie filmmaking pot in the past decade.

In a world where a film festival can be just a means to bring business to its host, Sedona gets it right by concentrating on the very reason everyone comes together in the first place: the films. The town attracts visitors for the unparalleled beauty of its red rocks, and the mystical juju of its famous “energy vortexes.” Yet it is the passion, clarity and intelligence of SIFF’s programming that has it hiking its way into an elevated tier of U.S. festivals. Special events this year included John Waters’ performance of his one-man show This Filthy World!, an in-person appearance and career retrospective of Richard Dreyfuss, as well as Beatrice Welles’ hosting of a slate of films by her father, Orson Welles, including the lesser-seen Chimes at Midnight.

Beatrice Welles (daughter of Orson Welles), Richard Dreyfuss, and the Director of the Sedona International Film Festival, Patrick Schweiss

Jane Seymour, Richard Dreyfuss, and the director of the Sedona International Film Festival, Patrick Schweiss

And hey—if the marker of success for an eight-day film festival extravaganza is a mosh pit of filmmakers rocking out to a band playing Prince’s “Purple Rain,” Sedona soars high. MM

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Directors’ Choice 2015 winners: Slingshot (Best Documentary Film); Heritage (Best Student Film), Copenhagen (Best Feature Film, Drama); Macropolis (Best Animated Film); Roaming Wild and Just Eat It (tied for Best Environmental Film); Myanmar: Bridges to Change (Best Documentary Short); Bis Gleich (Best Short Film); Healing (Best Foreign Film); Frank vs. God (Best Feature Film, Comedy)

Audience Choice Award 2015 winners: Attila Marcel (Best Feature Film, Comedy); Macropolis (Best Animated Film), Una Vida: A Fable of Music & The Mind and Like Sunday, Like Rain (tied for Best Feature Film, Drama); Birthday and Bis Gleich (tied for Best Dramatic Short Film); Capturing Grace and Keep on Keepin’ On (tied for Best Documentary Feature), Pie Lady of Pie Town (Best Documentary Short); Marie’s Story (Best Foreign Film), Hands of Flame (Best Student Short), In the Clouds (Best Comedy, Short Film).

Photographs by Wendy Hansen. For more information on the Sedona International Film Festival, visit its official website.

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