Around the World in 50 Titles
By Hans Pedersen, November 2015 Issue.
If an international experience is on this year’s to-do list, you might want to get going on that (you only have two months left). Otherwise, the Scottsdale International Film Festival is bringing a wide variety of international experiences to the big screen Nov. 5-9.
In its 15th year, the acclaimed festival offers audiences more than 50 films from more than 20 countries around the world.
According to festival founder Amy Ettinger, its logo includes a globe and theater seat, since foreign films give you the feeling of “armchair traveling” or being someplace far away for the duration of time between the opening and closing credits.
Ettinger has been involved with film festivals for nearly two decades and is the founder and former executive director of the Valley’s first LGBT film festival, Out Far, which ran for about 10 years.
Still, Ettinger admits that finding such fascinating, must-have selections is not an easy task, and credits a team of programmers with helping her anticipate what will resonate with viewers and select films months ahead of each year’s festival.
Today, she credits the combination of a trip to Paris and her life-long passion for foreign films as her inspiration for creating an international film festival in the Valley.
Ettinger undoubtedly drew on her LGBT film festival experience in selecting these four must-see titles:
Four of the festival’s selections feature LGBT themes, including one of the crown jewels of the fest, the much-anticipated Carol by director Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven).
According to Ettinger, landing Carol (ahead of its theatrical release, no less) is thrilling.
“The Weinstein Company has been very generous with us … in allowing us to premiere their films in Arizona,” Ettinger said. “Last year they gave us The Imitation Game and it won our audience award for best film, and I think they were very pleased with that. They’re representing Carol and I think they were happy to allow us the honor to show the film.”
Based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt, Carol is a 1950s Manhattan love story about Theresa (Rooney Mara), a department store clerk in her 20s who falls for Carol (Cate Blanchett), a woman caught in a pointless marriage. As their romance grows more intense, Carol’s home life becomes threatened, and her husband (Kyle Chandler) challenges her ability to be a mother.
Ettinger said she was happy to include Carol in the lineup of screenings without having yet seen it – a testament to such immense faith in the film’s creative team.
The Girl King
The Girl King is a selection in French and English that the festival founder also seems genuinely thrilled to be sharing with audiences. Directed by Mika Kaurismaki, the historic drama focuses on the iconoclastic Queen Kristina and her attempts to end the violent war between Catholics and Protestants.
“When I heard about it … I called the distributors right out of the gate and said I had to have it right away,” Ettinger said.
Amid a tumultuous political backdrop, Queen Kristina is overcome by her love for Countess Ebba Sparre, and her deep affection for her own striking lady-in-waiting becomes a challenge to resist.
“She was a Swedish queen who was raised in a manly fashion because she was taking the throne from her father as a child,” Ettinger said, pointing out how Greta Garbo appeared in an early film version of the story.
Brought up as a young man, Kristina was “split between two worlds by two forces,” she said, “and was probably pushed into a little bit of gender dysphoria. That’s what I took away from it …”