Do Savannnah

Do Savannah's top picks for 2017 SCAD Savannah Film Fest

  • “At the Drive-In”
  • “Good Time”
  • “Krystal”
  • “Molly’s Game”
  • “The Shape of Water”
  • “Through the Windmill”

Do Savannah's top picks for 2017 SCAD Savannah Film Fest

25 Oct 2017

Feeling a bit overwhelmed as you contemplate the exhaustive list of options available at this year’s SCAD Savannah Film Festival?

I hear ya. It’s an embarrassment of riches, to be sure. If you were not able to purchase a coveted pass that allows for admission to any and all events, then picking and choosing just a handful over the next week becomes all the more difficult.

With that in mind, to make sure you do your level best to catch the most noteworthy or promising screenings and talks, I offer my own personal list of suggestions. Individual tickets to many of the picks on this list were still available at press time through Savannah Box Office; however, some of these shows have already sold out.

Don’t let that deter you, though, as folks willing to show up an hour or more before the scheduled start times and queue up in the “standby line” often find themselves being offered great seats at face value just moments before the lights go down.

That’s because some pass holders fail to show up for certain screenings, which frees up space for the general public at the last minute.

Remember, quality is in the eye of the beholder, so your mileage may vary. That said, here’s where I’m pointing my friends and associates for each day of the festival.

Oct. 28

“Jane” (11 a.m., Lucas Theatre) has already racked up four award nominations at established competitions like the Critics Choice Documentary Fest and the London Film Festival. Built around what’s been described as a “treasure trove” of previously unseen archival footage, it paints a vivid portrait of iconic British anthropologist Jane Goodall’s earliest explorations into the field to study chimpanzee behavior (on which she is now considered to be the world’s preeminent authority), as well as her personal relationship with her husband Hugo, who also served as her cameraman.

“Molly’s Game” (7:30 p.m., Trustees Theater) is being hailed by those few who have seen it as boasting one of the most densely packed scripts ever put on film. That’s no surprise, as it was written and directed by the somewhat legendary screenwriter and playwright Aaron Sorkin (“A Few Good Men,” “Moneyball,” TV’s “The West Wing”), who will also be on hand for a Q&A after this sneak preview (it hits multiplexes in January). The true tale of a vivacious Olympic-caliber skier who was busted by the FBI for running “the world’s most exclusive” poker game, it stars Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba and Kevin Costner.

Oct. 29

“Docs to Watch Directors Roundtable” (6 p.m., Lucas Theatre) is the fourth annual onstage discussion between nine of this year’s most notable and celebrated documentary filmmakers, hosted by well-known film journalist Scott Feinberg of the Hollywood Reporter. Expect plenty of interesting information, unique perspectives and unscripted moments between peers, many of whom will likely be meeting for the first time.

“The Florida Project” (10 p.m., Lucas Theatre) is the latest effort from writer-director Sean Baker, whose 2015 feature “Tangerine” (a prostitute Christmastime meltdown dramedy if ever there was one) won scores of awards at all manner of international festivals. An ultra-realistic portrayal of a rebellious mother and young daughter living in a low-rent Orlando motel in the shadow of Disney World, this gritty drama stars Willem Dafoe and has been wowing critics and audience members alike. Baker and his co-writer Chris Bergoch will host a live Q&A after the screening.

Oct. 30

“Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992” (11 a.m., Trustees Theater) is a lengthy documentary on the decade of tensions and unrest that preceded the 1992 Los Angeles race riots that followed the exoneration of police officers videotaped beating Rodney King. Unlike the 91-minute TV cut, the SSFF will screen the full, 144-minute version, followed by a live Q&A with director John Ridley, best known as the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “12 Years a Slave” and the executive producer and director of the acclaimed TV series “American Crime.”

“At the Drive-In” (3:30 p.m., Trustees Theater) documents the inspirational story of a group of devoted drive-in movie theater fanatics who band together to help keep an aging theater in rural Pennsylvania open once it becomes apparent the business cannot afford the $50,000 cost of converting its old 35mm film projector to digital technology. Their solution? Screen only vintage 35mm prints and volunteer to staff the drive-in for free. (Also screening at 9 a.m. Nov. 4, Trustees Theater.)

“Icarus” (3:30 p.m., SCAD Museum of Art) won the Special Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Fest. It’s a documentary on doping in professional sports that wound up uncovering an international conspiracy behind an unexplained death that stretches all the way to Olympic gold medalists. “Icarus” is said to be as suspenseful and engrossing as any geopolitical thriller, and afterward, director Bryan Fogel will take questions from the audience.

Oct. 31

“Krystal” (1 p.m., Trustees Theater) marks only the second feature film directed by Oscar-nominated actor William H. Macy (“Fargo,” “Boogie Nights,” TV’s “Shameless”) and stars Rosario Dawson, Kathy Bates and William Fichtner. It’s a dramedy about a sheltered man who develops a fixation on an exotic dancer and pretends to have a drinking problem just so he can join her Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to be near her. What could go wrong? (Also screens at 11 a.m. Nov. 3, Lucas Theatre.)

“Frankenstein” (9:30 p.m., Lucas Theatre) is the perfect way to celebrate Halloween night. This encore presentation of the National Theatre Company of Britain’s 2011 stage production of Mary Shelley’s classic monster tale stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller and was directed by the inventive, Oscar-winning filmmaker Danny Boyle (“Trainspotting,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “28 Days Later”). It will be shown in hi-def digital projection.

Nov. 1

“The Rewards and Challenges of Filming in Cuba” (2 p.m., Gutstein Gallery) is a two-part panel discussion on the logistics, restrictions and wondrous benefits our country’s newly widened access to the island of Cuba now affords to U.S.-based filmmakers. Learn firsthand about Cuba’s beautiful scenic locations and thriving arts and culture communities from camera people, documentary directors, producers and production assistants who have already traveled to (and shot on) the island. Moderated by award-winning nature documentarian (and SCAD professor) Kevin McCarey.

“Lady Bird” (7 p.m., Trustees Theater) marks the first feature film to be both directed and written solely by award-winning indie-film actress Greta Gerwig (“Baghead,” “Greenberg”). It’s the tale of a California nurse’s volatile relationship with her teenage daughter amidst their family’s trying financial crisis, and stars Saoirse Ronan (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”), Laurie Metcalf (“Horace and Pete”) and Tracy Letts (best known for writing “August: Osage County,” “Bug” and “Killer Joe”).

Nov. 2

“Women of Sci-Fi and Horror” (11 a.m., Gutstein Gallery) is a panel discussion featuring women who work in a variety of positions within the sci-fi and horror film industries, including: the writer and producer of “Van Helsing,” “Evangeline” and “Ghost Wars”; the producer and director of “XX,” “Southbound” and “V/H/S”; and the new media executive from acclaimed firm Blumhouse Productions/BH Tilt. Sandra Leviton, a producer with Under the Stairs Entertainment, will moderate the talk.

“The Shape of Water” (7 p.m., Trustees Theater) is a sneak preview of the soon-to-be-released adult fantasy from esteemed writer-director Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Mimic”), and stars Sally Hawkins (“Blue Jasmine”), Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer (“Gifted”) and Oscar-nominated Michael Shannon (“Nocturnal Animals”). Set in early 1960s America, it concerns a secret classified scientific experiment which permanently alters the lives of two female co-workers. After the film, actor Richard Jenkins and the film’s producer and production designer will take questions from the audience.

Nov. 3

“The Ballad of Lefty Brown” (1 p.m., SCAD Museum of Art) is dividing the few audiences who have seen it on the festival circuit, with some hailing it as a phenomenally unique Western-themed period revenge flick anchored by a tremendously nuanced lead performance by Bill Pullman (“The Serpent and the Rainbow”), while others find it laughably bad. Either one is a win in my book, so those incongruous reviews make it a must-see for me. Peter Fonda co-stars.

“Good Time” (3 p.m., Lucas Theatre) finds actor Robert Pattinson (“The Rover”) playing a determined bank robber who races against the clock to spring his younger brother from Riker’s Island. A dark, frenetic and twisted crime film, it was already nominated for the Cannes Film Fest’s coveted Palme d’Or. After the show, Pattinson will be on hand to discuss the film onstage.

Nov. 4

“Through the Windmill” (9 a.m., Lucas Theatre) marks the full-length directorial debut of SCAD professor of film and TV Amanda Kulkoski, who’s also worked for years as a cinematographer and gaffer on numerous feature films and cable series. The first-ever in-depth look at the history of miniature golf in the United States is designed as a road trip across America. It’s a love letter to the golden age of quirky, independent mom-and-pop mini-golf courses, and features rare archival footage and exclusive interviews with the folks who designed and built many of the most notable courses of yesterday and today, as well as the kids and adults who love playing them.

“Norman” (3 p.m., Lucas Theatre) was one of the more intriguing small dramas of this year, and features at its center a densely layered performance by Richard Gere as Norman, a dogged hustler who has spent decades ingratiating himself (with varying degrees of success) into New York City’s monied Jewish community. One single afternoon spent with a rising Israeli political figure leads Norman to a life-altering situation several years later. Gere, who is receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the festival, will be on hand to discuss his life and career after the film.


See the full festival schedule and get tickets at