Ancient City takes center stage for ninth annual Saint Augustine Film Festival

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The magical, artistic aura of St. Augustine was especially evident the weekend of Jan. 17-20, when the nation’s oldest city hosted the ninth annual Saint Augustine Film Festival.

The event featured 47 films, including features, documentaries and short films. Attendees of the Festival screened the films at the Lewis Auditorium at Flagler College, all three theaters at the Corazon Cinema and Café and the Gamache-Koger Theater inside the Ringhaver Student Center at Flagler. New this year, the St. Augustine Distillery hosted a special screening on Jan. 17.

More than a dozen filmmakers, actors or people who are the focus of documentaries were in attendance of the Festival, including actress and director Karen Allen, who is known for her roles as Marion Ravenwood in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and Katy in “Animal House,” among others. She showed her directorial debut of “A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud.,” and also received the Saint Augustine Film Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award. A few of Allen’s other films, including “Year by the Sea,” were also shown at the Festival. The acclaimed actor also used the time in St. Augustine to scout locations for a film she’s in the process of making.

“The Alligator Farm is in the film; the Lightner Museum is in the film,” said Allen, who visited St. Augustine for the first time. “It’s an incredibly beautiful, scenic location to make a film.”

Allen was among the filmmakers and actors/actresses at the Festival with high praise of the Ancient City. Actor Ray Abruzzo, who played Carmine Lupertazzi Jr. in “The Sopranos,” said it’s hard not to love the area.

“This is my first time in St. Augustine, and I’m just amazed how beautiful it is and the history that goes along with it, back to the slave trade through the civil rights movement to where we are today,” Abruzzo said. “It’s pretty interesting to see how the American story is told here in St. Augustine. It’s pretty impressive.”

Actor Vincent De Paul, whose film “His Wives” played at the festival, returned to St. Augustine for the second time and said he wants to create a film in the town.

“It is so cinematic,” he said. “I would love to do a movie back in time.”

The Festival also featured a few local celebrities, including St. Augustine resident, actor and sculptor Frosty Myers, whose documentary about his life, “The Art & Times of Frosty Myers,” was screened at the event.

“This is like a dream come true,” Myers said. “It’s a chance to show my film, which I’m very proud of. It’s a story of my life in pictures, and the art that I do and all of the famous artist friends that I had in the 60s and 70s. … It’s a great thrill to be here and be part of this film festival. It’s the kind of stuff you can’t make up.”

Racing legend and St. Augustine resident Hurley Haywood was also in attendance for the screening of his film, “Hurley,” which focuses on his life and decision to publicly come out as gay.

The opening night film at Lewis Auditorium on Jan. 18 was “The Return of the Hero,” featuring Jean Dujardin, who won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 2012 for the film, “The Artist.” The centerpiece film on Jan. 19 was “Fiddlin,’” a documentary about the world's oldest fiddler's convention in the Appalachian Mountains. The closing night film on Jan. 20 was the Canadian documentary, “Sharkwater Extinction,” which is about the illegal shark fin industry. 

For more information on the Saint Augustine Film Festival, visit https://www.staugfilmfest.com/. 

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