Film festival in Key West features a Hemingway and Oscar winners

An Oscar-winning screenwriter, the director of two Academy Award winning pictures, a man who can bend steel and a drug smuggler from Miami’s notorious past will be featured in person at the second annual Key West Film Festival.

So will Oscar-nominated actress Mariel Hemingway. She will conduct a Q&A session and attend a special event at the museum inside the former home of her late grandfather, Ernest Hemingway. She’s promoting her new documentary, Running from Crazy, which delves into her family’s history of mental illness and suicides. At least seven members of her family have taken their own lives, including her sister Margaux and her iconic grandfather. Hemingway shot himself in the head with a 12-gauge shotgun at age 61, four months before Mariel was born.

The festival also is showing several happy films that will make you laugh, including director Josh Greenbaum’s The Short Game, in which he follows the lives of eight of the world’s elite junior golfers for one year. The five boys and three girls are just 6 and 7 years old — “the last age before kids get self aware or self conscious,” he says. “They say they want to grow up and be astronauts, and they really mean it. It’s really a magical age.”

The festival was founded by Brooke Christian, executive vice president of a Washington-based global translation services company. His father has lived in Key West since 1992 and Christian thought the tourist town would be a great place for such a creative event.

It was a lunch with a corporate client in Bethesda, Md., that “pushed me over the top,” Christian said. The client mentioned a French film festival being held in Richmond, Va. “Apparently they have a stipend from the French Embassy,” he said. “But if they could make it financially viable than I could make a film festival work in Key West.”

The next step was to decide what kind of film festival to have. There have been about 9,700 film festivals worldwide in the past 15 years and about 3,000 of them are currently active, according to a 2013 study done by writer/producer Stephen Follows.

South Florida is a hotbed for them. In addition to the major festivals in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, there are several smaller ones with themes that include American Black, Sicilian, Miami Short Film, Miami Jewish, Israel, Chilean and Brazilian. And Key Largo recently hosted its first Humphrey Bogart Film Festival.

“When we first launched the Key West Film Festival, we thought: ‘Do we want to theme this thing and put in a niche?’ ” Christian said. “But we wanted to get a broader base and Key West is such a diverse community.”

The festival, which runs through Sunday, will showcase an eclectic array of about 35 films. The schedule and ticket information is available at kwfilmfest.com.

“We’ve got a good mix of bigger spotlight titles, American independents, small budget documentaries, foreign language films and offerings for the gay and lesbian audience,” said program director Michael Tuckman, founder of New York-based M Tuckman Media.

The festival also has a good selection of Florida-related films assembled by Kareem Tabsch, co-founder of O Cinema in Wynwood and Miami Shores.

The films are being shown at the San Carlos Institute on Duval Street and the Tropic Cinema art house, just a two-minute walk away on Eaton Street.

The San Carlos Institute, an historic landmark founded in 1871 by Cuban exiles, has a 350-seat theatre with plush red seats. It will show the bigger titles of the festival, including August Osage County. Academy Award winners Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts star in the film, about a family forced by tragedy to reunite in their Oklahoma home and face their dysfunctional mother.

The Tropic Cinema has a 150-seat theatre and three 50-seat screening rooms that are “really intimate and cozy and a cool place to see some of the little new films,” said Tropic Cinema executive director Matthew Helmerich.

Billy Corben, who directed Cocaine Cowboys, will be at the San Carlos at 2:30 p.m. Sunday to show extensive clips from his new version of that movie, Cocaine Cowboys Reloaded, which will be released on March 24. Between clips, he will have a Q&A about the documentary that combines interviews and archival footage of Miami’s drug smuggling of the 1980s.

“It’s a wholesale re-edit of the first movie from scratch,” Corben said.

New footage will include the 1981 case of the Kendall Six, one of the worst mass murders in Miami history. “It’s still an unsolved homicide, although it definitely was ordered by [cocaine godmother] Griselda Blanco,” Corben said.

I am Divine

Director John Waters will perform his one-man show “This Filthy World” after a screening of the documentary I am Divine, at 7 p.m. Thursday at the San Carlos Institute.

Other Hollywood heavy hitters will attend a segment produced by the Tropic Cinema called Screenwriters’ Spotlight. The panel includes Terry George, who last year won the Oscar for best live action film with The Shore and is on the art house’s board. George also directed Hotel Rwanda, about the 1994 Rwandan genocide, which earned critical acclaim.

George persuaded his friend Paul Haggis to attend. Haggis was the screenwriter and producer on consecutive Academy Award winning pictures — 2004 Million Dollar Baby starring Clint Eastwood and 2005 Crash.

Author Judy Blume, a part-time Key West resident who wrote the screen play for Tiger Eyes (her own book), rounds out the panel.

Bending Steel

The Short Game

For Tuckman, one of his favorite films of the festival is Broken Circle Breakdown, Belgium’s entry to the Oscars for best foreign film. The tearjerker, with a great bluegrass soundtrack, tells the story of a doomed young couple with a daughter battling leukemia.

“We always tell our audiences to give these unknown movies a try and get an all-access pass,” Tuckman said. “You have the ability to walk in and out of all the screenings. You never know what you might discover.”

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