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With holidays fast approaching, the daylight dwindling, and temperatures falling fast, the 2017 Fresno Film Festival has arrived, just in time to save local cinema fans from lazing into premature winter couch submission.
Fresno Filmworks, the non-profit, all-volunteer organization that presents first-run independent and international films at the Tower Theatre once a month, will offer up eight features this weekend as part of its 13th annual festival. This harvest of carefully curated, cineaste-approved films is a brilliant reason to get out, meet other local film lovers, and travel the world via celluloid. Comprising films from nine countries, this year’s roundup promises to take you places the multiplexes typically don’t dare to go.
Thematically and culturally loaded, the eight films demonstrate a wide range of human experience and understanding; running the gamut from broad comedy to intense psychological thriller, they represent the type of cinema that’s capable of catapulting us out of our comfort zones and into foreign realities, unfamiliar locales, and inconceivable states of mind; the kind of films that stay with you long after the closing credits and the drive home, that maybe even permanently change the way you see life.
2017 Fresno Film Festival line-up
The 2017 Fresno Film Festival begins on Friday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. with Django, a French biopic written and directed by Etienne Comar that is centered on a harrowing event in legendary jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt’s life. While his escape from Nazi-occupied Paris in 1943 provides the film’s narrative thrust, Reinhardt’s music is amply spotlighted throughout, a reward for fans and a potential revelation for those new to his perennially beloved oeuvre. The film will be followed by opening-night festivities.
Saturday’s day of screenings kicks off at 12 p.m. with The Force, which, by the way, should not be confused with the next installment of the Star Wars franchise. This is a documentary about the Oakland Police Department, in which director Peter Nicks goes for the ultimate ride-along as the law enforcement agency struggles to maintain its community credibility amidst brutality accusations and a shocking scandal. Peace Fresno and Community Alliance are co-sponsors of the program.
Director Petra Volpe’s The Divine Order, at 2:30 p.m., tells the inspiring story of women’s suffrage in 1970s Switzerland from the point of view of an unlikely housewife heroine who finds herself defying social norms to fight for social progress.
At 5:30 p.m., In Syria, directed by Philippe Van Leeuw, is an intense story of a modern Damascus woman’s effort to protect her home and family against an encroaching war zone as it strikes ever closer. This Berlin Panorama Audience Award-winner hailing from Belgium, France, and Lebanon is screened here courtesy of the Fresno Center for Nonviolence.
Saturday’s final program, at 8 p.m., is I Dream in Another Language, a film from Mexico and the Netherlands. In this compelling story directed by Ernesto Contreras, a researcher ventures into a tropical jungle to find and preserve a dying indigenous language, only to discover that its last two speakers are entangled in a bitter, mysterious feud. The program is sponsored by the Center for Creativity and the Arts at Fresno State.
Sunday’s showings begin at 12 p.m. with Our Time Will Come, another WWII-era drama, this one set in Japanese-occupied Hong Kong. Director Ann Hui’s film details the enlistment of a teacher in a plan to rescue Chinese novelist Mao Dun. Central California Asian Pacific Women sponsored the program.
At 3:30 p.m., zany romantic comedy prevails as nature runs amok in Unleashed, in which a star-crossed single lady (Kate Micucci) has the unique and bizarre opportunity of dating her pets, who’ve somehow transformed into eligible bachelors. Director Finn Taylor will be on hand to field questions from audience members.
Finally, the festival will close with the 7 p.m. screening of The Women’s Balcony, a comedy from Israel directed by Emil Ben-Shimon. Sponsored by the Jewish Studies Program at FSU, plus the Fresno Jewish Film Series, this charming romp follows the efforts of a group of Orthodox ladies in Jerusalem to assert themselves against their ultra-Orthodox new rabbi.
Event details and festival pass giveaway
All programs are screening at the Tower Theatre (815 E. Olive Ave.). Tickets for individual programs are $10 for general admission, $8 for students and seniors. Whole-festival passes are available for $50. Tickets can be found online (http://fresnofilmworks.org/buy-tickets/) and at the Tower Theatre box office.
If you’d like to try your luck at winning a festival pass, we’re giving one away courtesy of Fresno Filmworks.
To enter, fill out the form found here. One winner will be chosen at random and emailed prior to the start of the festival. Deadline is Thursday, Nov. 9, at 5 p.m. Good luck!