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Building on a decade of fine film
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Building on a decade of fine film

The Gray’s Reef Ocean Film Festival may be on our cover this week, but last Friday I had another film festival on my mind, when I attended a reception at The Mansion on Forsyth Park to kick off the Savannah Film Festival’s upcoming 10th anniversary.

While the main point of the get-together was for SCAD, the festival’s prime mover, to thank the community for its decade of support for the event, it was also a great chance to peruse the entire schedule of this year’s edition, taking place Oct. 27-Nov. 3. Everyone agreed that the lineup this year is nothing short of awesome, and an important leap forward for the festival as a whole.

Of course you always have to start by mentioning the celebrities, which seems to be all anyone cares about these days. And to be fair, the guest list at next month’s Film Festival is an impressive one:

• To open the Festival Oct. 27, Michael Douglas will appear the same night as Vanessa, Lynn and Corin Redgrave.

• The legendary Milos Forman, who is still putting out great films, appears Oct. 28.

• The great John Sayles will appear Oct. 29 to screen his new film Honeydripper, starring Savannah native Stacy Keach, who will also appear.

• Attendees over 30 probably won’t know who producer Brett Ratner is, but trust me — every SCAD student does.

• Nov. 2 sees an appearance by Oscar-winning director William Friedkin.

• And for us journalism geeks, Charlie Rose will accept an award Nov. 3.

This lineup ­— there are many more, those are just highlights — is not only formidable in and of itself, but also a significant step up from past guest lists, which tended to emphasize stars whose best days were well behind them.

At past editions of the Savannah Film Festival I’ve occasionally been jarred by the dissonance of an honoree accepting an award from SCAD only to tell the crowd that they felt sorry for any young people trying to get into the film business today.

While everyone’s entitled to an opinion, I’ve always felt this was a poor message to be disseminated at any film festival — especially one organized and funded by an institution of higher learning.

Thankfully, I don’t think that will be the case this year. All the big-name Film Festival guests are fully engaged in the industry and have made important, ongoing contributions with impacts that are being felt to this day.

But as usual, I’m most excited about the indie film lineup at this year’s Film Festival. This is where the real action is — the best and brightest young filmmakers doing independent-minded work for an audience of appreciative peers.

This year, filmmakers both renowned and obscure are bringing you work filmed around the world, from Julia Stiles’s 20-minute short Raving to the North Korea-themed Defaced to Numero Dos by country star Brad Paisley’s wife Kimberly to Will Frears’s All Saints Day to the Barbaro-themed doc The First Saturday in May to the rock doc My First Guitar starring Les Paul and Peter Frampton.

And that’s just a partial list.

It’s small films like these that really make the Film Festival not just a diversion, but an enlightening and educational event of lasting impact. These smaller-scale works have the passionate vision so often missing from big-budget productions, and also tend to have the most visceral effect on SCAD’s audience of students.

I’ll see you all there!

(Oh, and if you haven’t checked out The Mansion, you should. There’s a cool little art gallery there, the Grand Bohemian — indeed, the entire lobby is awash in great art. You’ll also find one of the coolest hotel bars outside of Manhattan or L.A. In all, a far cry from the mortuary that once occupied the building.)

We’ve received a lot of compliments on last week’s College Issue. It’s always fun to do, and seems to be pretty unique in this marketplace.

However, as one reader informs me, we missed the boat by not featuring an important nearby institution, the University of South Carolina-Beaufort. While technically it’s well outside our circulation area, USCB really should be on our radar screen, primarily because they offer in-state tuition for students living in Chatham and Effingham Counties. While Beaufort is an hour away, it’s certainly a scenic commute. And the addition of a Bluffton campus has brought the USC presence that much closer.

Coincidentally, I happened to be in Beaufort this past weekend. The main campus of USCB, on Carteret Street as you veer into the historic district, is large, scenic and inviting, with an impressive array of well-designed new buildings nestled amid the Spanish moss and Live Oaks.

Like most things in Beaufort, there seems to be great care taken to offer a clean, cared-for, litter-free public face. Maybe certain other historic Southern cities could take a cue from that, hmmm?

Jim Morekis is editor-in-chief of Connect Savannah. E-mail him at