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By Michael Ferraro | April 19, 2005

The Florida Film Festival is the greatest thing that has ever happened to Orlando. Being a resident in this tourist trap of a city, this time of year is the time I look forward to most. It is the only time of year that this town feels less like an un-cultured country of its own and more like part of the real world. It is a time I can’t wait for each year and a time I hate to see end.

This year was a special year, however. The paper I write for here in O-town received two press passes and since none of the other staff members felt like abusing this privilege, I was handed one of them to keep for the entire festival. Given that I was handed this magical necklace of plastic lamination, how could I not abuse every opportunity to see a film or sneak into a party? In the end, there was rarely an occasion I passed up.

There were so many films to catch and so little time. Takashi Miike’s One Missed Call, Solondz’s Palindromes, Kung Fu Hustle, the infamous Murderball, “The Edukators,” Vitkin’s X,Y and Park’s Oldboy were just some of the many films I definitely wanted to see. Not to mention that “My Big Fat Independent Movie” had a special midnight showing, with a very special guest.

About a week into the festival, on Thursday, April 14th, Chris Gore calls me up. ^ “Hey man, what are you doing tomorrow?” he asks. ^ “Working till like, 5 or 6,” I tell him. ^ “Are you going to my showing?” (You see, “My Big Fat…” was showing on midnight that night.) ^ “You know it.” ^ “Alright man, let’s meet up before hand and get liquored up.”

The next day, I picked him up at his hotel and we headed to one of the few places in Orlando I never go to – Maitland. There was an “Industry Wrap Party” at an Irish pub there but since I had no clue how to get there, I used one of those internet mapping devices to secure the appropriate directions. The map was a dud – it told me to make a left instead of a right at a specific intersection which caused dozens of u-turns and the level of frustration to rise, since we were already somewhat late. Thank you Yahoo Maps, your help was appreciated.

The party included some odd karaoke choices from various guests but the best part was one of the guys from Pucker Up: The Fine Art of Whistling came on stage and whistled his way through some forgotten pop song. We finally met up with the masters of weird and bizarre, The Zellner Brothers. (If you haven’t seen Frontier yet, hit up the Film Threat DVD store before you leave.) Directors Vladimir Vitkin (“X, Y”), Morgan J. Freeman (Hurricane Streets) and Mark Christopher (“54” and “Pizza”) were also on hand at the gathering and provided some interesting and bizarre conversations.

Afterwards, we headed to the midnight screening of “My Big Fat Independent Movie” at the Enzian. The turnout was wonderful and Gore even did a Q&A afterwards. Some people asked some interesting questions while others, just simply wanted to show off their love for Gore.

The next day, Chris was the lucky emcee of the Filmmaker Awards. His co-host was none other than a giant alligator he dubbed “Jeb.”

That night, we geared ourselves up to attend the Florida Film Festival Revel at the Polasek Museum. The theme of the party was the 1920s; it even had a trolley ride from the parking lot to the event. Paul Reiser and Peter Falk were there to claim an Artistic Achievement Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award, respectively. The party was outside, which is fine for Florida in the middle of April but on this day, however, the weather was chill and most of the female guests had party dresses on. Not exactly the kind of attire one should wear in the cold.

As the party came to an end, the decision of where to go afterwards was unclear. There wouldn’t be free drinks at our next locale and that wasn’t the kind of ride we were looking for. Since I had a bag (which was dubbed a “man-purse”), we packed up a couple “roadies” from the bar’s cooler until we figured out where to go. It truly was a night to remember.

The thing I recall most about this night was a fine drink you must ask a bartender to prepare for you. It’s called the “Pink Cucumber” and if you can get one, it will be ranked amongst the finest drinks you will ever have in your entire life. Mark my words.

Like all good things, though, both the partying and the festival came to a crashing halt. We local residents of Orlando now have to wait another year for this fine festival. I now have to return to my boring and uncultured lifestyle, thanks to a city raped by tourism.

…And the awards go to:
The Lifetime Achievement Award: Peter Falk, for his long and varied career on stage and screen.
Artistic Achievement Award: Paul Reiser, for his contribution in the fields of acting, writing, and directing.
Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature: THE CIVILIZATION OF MAXWELL BRIGHT, directed by David Beaird.
Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature: LOGGERHEADS, directed by Tim Kirkman.
Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary Feature: MARDI GRAS: MADE IN CHINA, directed by David Redman.
Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature and Special Jury Award for Excellence in Filmmaking: PUCKER UP: THE FINE ART OF WHISTLING, directed by Kate Davis and David Heilbroner.
Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative Short: FIELDS OF MUDAN, directed by Stevo.
Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary Short: PHANTOM LIMB, directed by Jay Rosenblatt.
Grand Jury Award for Best Animated Short: 9, directed by Shane Acker.
Audience Award for Best Short Film: MIGHTY TIMES: THE CHILDREN’S MARCH, directed by Bobby Houston and Robert Hudson.
Special Jury Award for Narrative Filmmaking: ON THE OUTS, directed by Lori Silverbush and Michael Skolnik.
Special Jury Award for Originality: THE RAFTMAN’S RAZOR, directed by Keith Bearden.
The 2004 Narrative Features Jury was comprised of Morgan J. Freeman (Hurricane Streets), Lauren Lloyd (Bedlam Media), and Rob Williams (Wellspring). The Documentary Competition jurors were Paul Devlin (Power Trip), New York-based publicist Susan Norget, and Brian Younce (Showtime Networks). The Shorts Jury was comprised of Jason Leaf (Avatar Films), Chel White (Magda, Best Animated Short, FFF 2004), and Emily Woodburne (Zeitgeist Films).

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