The first year Gregory von Hausch organized the Saint Augustine Film Festival, he said you could have fired a canon at Lewis Auditorium and probably not hit anyone. Nine years later, the festival’s audience has grown exponentially, and this year’s event boasts more films and filmmakers than ever.
“There’s something for everyone to enjoy,” said von Hausch, who is the president and CEO of the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival, which produces the Saint Augustine Film Festival. “Hopefully the people will come out for it. I think they’ll enjoy it.”
Running Thursday, Jan. 17 through Sunday, Jan. 20, the ninth annual Saint Augustine Film Festival features 47 films, including features, documentaries and short films. Films will be played at four screening locations in St. Augustine, including 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 will host a special screening on Thursday night. Thursday is a special preview day for All Access and All Films Passholders only.
According to von Hausch, this year’s festival features an eclectic list of films, ranging from comedy to drama, thriller, suspense and more. The opening night film at Lewis Auditorium on Friday is “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 Saturday evening will be “Fiddlin’” — a documentary about the world's oldest fiddler's convention in the Appalachian Mountains. Writer and producer Vicki Vlasic will attend along with a musician/dancer in the film, Martha Spencer. The closing night film is the Canadian documentary, “Sharkwater Extinction,” which is about the illegal shark fin industry. The filmmaker Rob Stewart died in a scuba diving accident while shooting the film in Florida last year.
The festival will also have something to offer for kids, such as the film, “Aldabra: Once Upon An Island.” Narrated by Pierce Brosnan, this 3D family theatrical feature film takes viewers on a journey to a magical coral island via the lens of giant tortoises, crabs, sharks and more fun characters.
More than a dozen filmmakers, actors or people who are the focus of documentaries will be in attendance of the festival, including actor and director Karen Allen. She will be showing her directorial debut, “A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud.” According to von Hausch, the festival will also show a retrospective of her life/career. Allen will also be holding a benefit at the screening of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” on Saturday for the St. Johns County Center for the Arts and the performing arts program at St. Augustine High School.
Local celebrities in attendance will include, among others, racing legend Hurley Haywood, whose documentary, “Hurley,” focuses on his life and decision to publicly come out as gay. Several of Haywood’s race cars will be parked in the piazza outside Lewis Auditorium on Saturday. The racing legend will participate in a question and answer session after his film is shown on Saturday, as well as a privately ticketed event before and after the screening to raise funds for two local United Way charities, Port in the Storm and EPIC.
Festival passes, perks and information about the festival can be found online at . You can also read daily updates on Facebook at . Advance tickets to individual films screening at Lewis Auditorium are now available online. Tickets can be purchased for $10 prior to the screening of any movie, subject to availability. The order of entry is passholders at 20 minutes prior to screening, advanced ticket purchase holders 15 minutes before a film and then all remaining seats are sold to the general public.
Overall, von Hausch is most looking forward to the cornucopia of experiences that the festival will produce.
“The cars, people performing, music and dancing, doing things at the Distillery, using different venues, having the stars talk about their films,” von Hausch said. “I try to create an experience that is really multi-dimensional. That’s what I really want to get out of this thing.
“And for people to realize, films aren’t just about special effects and super heroes and comic books,” von Hausch continued. “They’re about everything in the human experience.”