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Florida Film Festival Celebrates Picture-Perfect Pearl Anniversary By Sandra Carr

The Florida Film Festival continues to shine brightly during its 30-year anniversary while premiering the best in current, independent and international cinema at the Enzian Theater in Maitland, Florida.

What an amazing journey! I have been covering the Florida Film Festival for nearly 30 years! I have experienced many marvelous memories that I will cherish forever!

Bringing Hollywood to Maitland has been a part of the Florida Film Festival’s successful formula. Actor appearances have included Drew Barrymore, Dennis Hopper, Steve Buscemi, Christopher Walken, John Waters, Glenn Close, Jon Voight, Paul Sorvino, Cloris Leachman, Susan Sarandon, Emma Stone, John Krasinski, Tippi Hedren, Sissy Spacek, Bob Balaban, Pam Grier, Lea Thompson, Richard Dreyfuss and other famous celebs over the years.

One of my all-time, favorite memories was when I had an opportunity to interview Dennis Hopper for WCPX Channel 6 (it’s now WKMG Channel 6) during the Florida Film Festival’s awards ceremony at Universal Studios (it’s now the Universal Orlando Resort) in June 1994. Hopper received the John M. Tiedtke Enzian Award for Artistic Vision during the event

I’m interviewing actor Dennis Hopper for WCPX Channel 6 during the Florida Film Festival in June 1994. Photo by: Jim Leatherman

I have been a Rick Springfield fan for the past 40 years! Longtime Springfield fan and executive producer Melanie Lentz-Janney fulfilled her dream of filming the “An Affair of the Heart” documentary about the rock star and his fans with gal pal and Emmy Award-winning director-producer Sylvia Caminer. The documentary had its world premiere at the Florida Film Festival in April 2012. I had an opportunity to interview Springfield on the red carpet during his appearance at the Florida Film Festival.

Journalist and blogger Sandra Carr interviewed Rick Springfield during the “An Affair of the Heart” world premiere at the Florida Film Festival in April 2012.

New Zealand stuntwoman-turned-actress Zoë Bell participated in a question-and-answer session after the screening of Quentin Tarantino’s action-thriller “Death Proof” in April 2013.

Tanya Hanson, Zoë Bell and Sandra Carr are striking a pose on the red carpet during the 22nd Annual Florida Film Festival at the Enzian Theater in Maitland, Florida. Photo by: Samantha Laine

I also had an opportunity to interview actress Emma Stone before the opening-night film party at the Enzian Theater for VenusZine in April 2010.

Actress Emma Stone at the Florida Film Festival in April 2010. Image courtesy of the Florida Film Festival.

I also hung out with actor Bob Balaban after the screening of “Gosford Park” in April 2015.

Sandra Carr and actor Bob Balaban at the 24th Annual Florida Film Festival. Photo by: Dan Carr

I also enjoyed watching “The Godfathers of Hardcore,” which is a music documentary on the band Agnostic Front. The group’s lead vocalist Roger Miret participated in a question-and-answer session and meet-and-greet after the screening in April 2018.

The Florida Film Festival also provides moviegoers with an opportunity to learn about a director’s experiences and perspectives. One of those moments occurred when legendary director Barry Levinson participated in a question-and-answer session in April 2012.

I also enjoyed seeing my friends who were involved with “The Blair Witch Project” celebrate the film’s 20-year anniversary at the Florida Film Festival in 2019.

Besides the actor and director appearances, the Florida Film Festival has received other nods, including being listed as one of the 20 coolest film festivals by MovieMaker Magazine and one of the top 50 film festivals in the world by The Internet Movie Database (Imdb.com).

The flick fete is also an Oscar-qualifying festival in animated short film, live action short film and documentary short subject.

This year’s 14-day festival is sponsored by Full Sail University and will feature more than 160 films, 23 world premieres and movies from 31 countries from April 9-22, 2021.

The film festival also is overflowing with girl power! Ninety films are focused on the ladies and 50% were directed by women.

The opening-night film and party will be occurring at the Enzian Theater on Friday, April 9 from 6-11 p.m., and features the world premiere of “Because of Charley,” a film about two estranged families who are attempting to stage a 10-year anniversary surprise party on Friday the 13th in Celebration, Florida. The movie was filmed in Celebration last summer and stars legendary actor John Amos and local actress Peg O’Keef. Admission is $60 for the party, which includes local bites, brews and cocktails, and $25 for the film.

Munch during brunch outdoors before the movie at Eden Bar on Sunday, April 11 and Sunday, April 18 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.! The bottomless brunch cost $18.99 and includes one Bloody Mary or mimosa. A movie ticket is not required. All guests must be masked, unless actively eating or drinking.

Get cozy and spacey while watching John Carpenter’s “Starman” at the Enzian Theater on Sunday, April 11 at 7:30 p.m. The romantic science-fiction odyssey stars Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen. A Zoom question-and-answer session with Allen will follow the screening. Admission is $25.

Sit back and enjoy a cold brewski while listening to local music during Wednesday Beer Tastings at the Eden Bar on Wednesday, April 14 and Wednesday, April 21 from 6-8 p.m.! Ivanhoe Park Brewing Co. will be serving the beer samples.

“Blue Velvet,” one of my favorite David Lynch films, turns 35 this year, and will be screened at the Enzian Theater on Sunday, April 18 at 7:30 p.m.! The neo-noir mystery thriller stars Dennis Hopper, Isabella Rossellini and Kyle MacLachlan. A Zoom question-and-answer session with Rossellini will follow the screening. Admission is $25 and on standby.

Calling all foodies! Watch “The Truffle Hunters” at the Enzian Theater on Sunday, April 11 at 11 a.m.! The film takes moviegoers on an epicurean journey through the deep forests of northern Italy in search of the prized white Alba truffle.

The excursion continues by traveling back in time to the “Summer of ’85.” Experience a motorcycle ride throughout a Normandy seaside town in this coming-of-age French film about two friends with different dreams at the Enzian Theater on Tuesday, April 20 at 3:45 p.m. The film also is available to watch online.

Music makes its mark at the Florida Film Festival! Punk-rock trailblazer and poet Lydia Lunch is featured in the documentary “Lydia Lunch: The War is Never Over” at the Enzian Theater on Saturday, April 17 at 11:30 p.m. The film also is available to watch online.

My favorite ukulele musician Tiny Tim is featured in the documentary “Tiny Tim: King for a Day” at the Enzian Theater on Thursday, April 22 at 3:45 p.m. Weird Al Yankovic is the narrator. The film also is available to watch online.

The documentary “No Ordinary Man” is about a diverse group of contemporary trans artists who bring renowned jazz musician Billy Tipton’s life to the big screen. The film will be screened at the Enzian Theater on Monday, April 19 at 9:30 p.m. The film also is available to watch online.

The “Shots in the Dark with David Godlis” documentary is about the unofficial CBGB photographer who documented the burgeoning New York City punk scene during the 1970s. The film will be screened at the Enzian Theater on Monday, April 12 at 3:30 p.m. The film also is available to watch online.

Prolific rock ‘n’ roll and Rolling Stone photographer Baron Wolman meets up-and-coming free-form artist Sophie Kipner, and agrees to allow her to interpret his work in “Sophie and the Baron.” The film will be screened at the Enzian Theater on Tuesday, April 20 at 6:30 p.m. The film also is available to watch online.

The life of legendary jazz musician Billy Tipton is told by a diverse group of contemporary trans artists in “No Ordinary Man.” The documentary will be screened at the Enzian Theater on Monday, April 19 at 9:30 p.m. The film also is available to watch online.

Besides “Because of Charley,” other Florida films are being featured at the Florida Film Festival!

The “Florida Woman” short is about ex-pro wrestler and Lakeland, Florida resident Mary Thorn, who is battling with local officials to keep her pet alligator Rambo. The film will be screened at the Enzian Theater on Saturday, April 10 at 10 a.m. The film also is available to watch online.

The horror flick “The Old Ways” was created by Florida filmmakers and follows a Mexican-American reporter Cristina Lopez, who is on assignment in Veracruz, Mexico. She gets captured by a local “bruja,” a Mexican witch doctor, who believes Cristina is possessed with a demon. Cristina must stop at nothing to escape her personal prison while investigating what evil forces lie underneath the surface of the jungle, and the demons of her past. The film will be screening at the Enzian Theater on Friday, April 16 at 9:15 p.m. The film also is available to watch online.

“Icon” is a narrative feature film debut from Florida native filmmaker and Ringling College of Art and Design graduate  Tony Ahedo, BFA. The film is about a teenage skateboarder named Sam who is questioning the important people or icons in his life. His imprisoned dad left his mom for another woman when he was a child. Sam also struggles with having a good relationship with his mom and learns that his girlfriend Ana is pregnant. Sam is on a self-discovery journey as he figures out his past, present and future paths in life. The film screens at the Enzian Theater on Thursday, April 22 at 6:15 p.m. The film also is available to watch online.

High school sweethearts Sam and Ana in “Icon.” Image courtesy of Tony Ahedo.

“My Fiona” tells the poignant story of grief and loss while exploring sexual identity after a woman’s friend commits suicide. The film screens at the Enzian Theater on Sunday, April 18 at 2 p.m. The film also is available to watch online.

Artist Tim Carey is on a mission to create the largest stained-glass window that’s the size of a basketball court for a Kansas City mega-church. Italian artist Narcissus Quagliata collaborates with Carey and saves the day. The film will be screened at the Enzian Theater on Wednesday, April 14 at 9:15 p.m. The film also is available to watch online.

“Snowy” is a tale about a terrific turtle that ventures out after being in a terrarium for a decade. The film will be screening at the Enzian Theater on Monday, April 12 at 3:30 p.m. The film also is available to watch online.

A woman returns to her estranged family in New England, and reconnects with a former lover. When the robbery they plan goes awry, she must choose between abandoning her family again or taking responsibility for the chaos she’s created in “The Catch.” The film will be screening at the Enzian Theater on Monday, April 12 at 6:30 p.m. The film also is available to watch online.

“Jacinta” explores a complicated relationship with a mother and daughter in drug-ravaged Maine. The film will be screened at the Enzian Theater on Wednesday, April 21 at 6:30 p.m. The film also is available to watch online.

Jacinta and Rosemary at the Maine Correctional Center in 2016. Photo by: Jessica Earnshaw.

Homeless and single mom Dani and her daughter Wes camp outside of the city. Dani works several jobs and tries to overcome obstacles in order to save money to rent an apartment in “I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking).” The film will be screening at the Enzian Theater on Saturday, April 17 at 6:15 p.m. The film also is available to watch online.

A young cleaning woman at a strip club parties with the dancers and fantasizes about a stripper life in “Gabriela.” The film will be screened at the Enzian Theater on Sunday, April 11 at 1:45 p.m. The film also is available to watch online.

A hairstylist scalps clients’ heads who she wants to look like in “The Stylist.” The film will be screening at the Enzian Theater on Tuesday, April 13 at 9:30 p.m. The film also is available to watch online.

YouTube star Lily Hevesh creates and designs colorful and mind-blowing domino displays. The documentary “Lily Topples the World” follows her domino-art lifestyle. Her domino art was in the film “Collateral Beauty,” starring Will Smith. She also has created domino art for Katy Perry, Jimmy Fallon, the Today Show and others. Lily also has her own domino set line called H5 Domino Creations. The enlightening and touching documentary shares how Lily has mastered building, creating and toppling dominoes. The film will be screened at the Enzian Theater on Sunday, April 11 at 4:30 p.m. The film also is available to watch online.

Photo credit: Photo by Steve Price

Ed Popil, a.k.a. Mrs. Kasha Davis, was a contestant on the seventh season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” The documentary takes the audience on a journey and shows how her life had changed after becoming a drag performer in the “Workhorse Queen.” Actress, comedian and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Rachel Dratch makes a cameo appearance in the documentary. The film will be screened at the Enzian Theater on Saturday, April 10 at 8:45 p.m. The film also is available to watch online.

“No Man’s Land” is a documentary short that features women who live in a lesbian separatist community in Alapine, which is located in rural Alabama. The film will be screened at the Enzian Theater on Saturday, April 10 at 8:45 p.m. The film also is available to watch online.

Actor Will Ferrell portrays a therapist who becomes angry when his personal life intrudes on a depressed patient’s emergency session in “David.” The film will be screened at the Enzian Theater on Saturday, April 10 at 12:30 p.m. The film also is available to watch online.

Boyfriends Shane and Dusty are two Stevie Nicks-loving bears who discuss their relationship and a magical concert moment involving the original shawl from the “Stand Back” video in this animated short titled “The Shawl.” The film will be screened at the Enzian Theater on Wednesday, April 14 at 6:30 p.m. The film also is available to watch online.

“The Shining” has gone to the dogs! A family’s new rescue pup is terrorized by deceased pets in “Ghost Dogs.” The animated film will be screened at the Enzian Theater on Wednesday, April 14 at 6:30 p.m. The film also is available to watch online.

Photo credit: Photo by Joe Cappa

Owners of an ice cream shop in South Carolina soon learn that getting a Confederate flag removed, even in the wake of the Charleston Massacre, is not an easy task when the Sons of the Confederacy are involved in “Meltdown in Dixie.” The film will be screened at the Enzian Theater on Monday, April 12 at 3:30 p.m. The film also is available to watch online.

Individual film tickets are $12, packages are $55-$200 and passes are $125-$1,500 per person.

Browse the film schedule by downloading the free Florida Film Festival app for iPhones, iPads and iPod touches. For more information, including the Florida Film Festival schedule, visit floridafilmfestival.com.

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Punk Rockers Experience Desert Oasis at ‘Desolation Center’ By Sandra Carr

The Desolation Center documentary took audiences back to the early days of the LA punk-rock scene during its screening at the Florida Film Festival. The film was directed by the Desolation Center’s founder Stuart Swezey who provided moviegoers with a chance to see punk-rock band performances in the desert more than 30 years ago on the big screen.

Swezey’s innovative concert experiences are also considered the precursor to Coachella and the Burning Man music festivals.

Coachella

The Coachella music festival is held at the Empire Polo Club, a 78-acre polo club in Indio, California in the Coachella Valley near Palm Springs, California. Image courtesy of Coachella.

Burning Man Festival

The Burning Man festival is an annual, nine-day gathering in the desert that includes artistic performances, installations and live music. Image courtesy of Burning Man.

Desolation Center Movie Poster

The Desolation Center screened during the 28th Annual Florida Film Festival. Image courtesy of the Desolation Center.

Being a punk rocker in Los Angeles during the 1980s wasn’t easy. The City of Angels’ law enforcement weren’t fond of teens and young adults who had a mohawk haircut, colored locks, wore black attire and listened to anti-authoritarian and politically-charged punk-rock music.

Members of the punk-rock subculture were looked upon as outsiders or troublemakers, but in reality they were misunderstood artists, creatives, dreamers, musicians, writers and decision makers of the future.

Mohawk

Punk rockers hung out on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, California during the 1980s. Photo by Kevin Panet of the Melrose Avenue in the 80’s Facebook page.

Punk Rockers on Melrose Avenue

Punk rockers ruled Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, California during the 1980s. Photo by James Baker of the Melrose Avenue in the 80’s Facebook page.

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) appeared at punk-rock concerts when there wasn’t a disturbance. The police activity also caused tension between law enforcement and the punk-rock community. Many concertgoers felt that the police instigated fights with the punk-rock scene, so they could make arrests.

LAPD

LAPD officers stand outside of the Hollywood Palladium waiting for The Ramones and Black Flag concert to end on Nov. 17, 1984. Photo by Gary Leonard.

Folks living in LA at the time consider this era as LAPD Chief Daryl Gates’ reign of terror. Many of the punks felt he was a tyrannical puppet master holding the strings and causing unnecessary chaos.

LAPD Chief of Police Daryl Gates

Daryl Gates was the Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department from 1978 to 1992.

Swezey was a punk-rock music enthusiast who was fed up with LAPD harassing fans at concerts. He wanted to make a difference and give fans and musicians a safe haven for concerts. He came up with the name Desolation Center for his venture, which displayed his feelings of despair in the punk scene. He scouted out remote locations for out-of-town shows. With the help of Bruce Licher of Savage Republic, Swezey organized his first concert at Soggy Dry Lake, a lake bed near the Joshua Tree in the Mojave Desert. The concert was called the Mojave Exodus, which included performances by the Savage Republic and Minutemen on Saturday, April 24, 1983.

Mojave Exodus

The Desolation Center’s first concert, Mojave Exodus, occurred on April 24, 1983 in the Mojave Desert. Image courtesy of the Desolation Center.

LA punks embarked on a mysterious and adventurous journey as buses transported them to the Mojave Desert.

Buses

Music fans traveled on school buses and experienced a punk-rock field trip to a concert in the Mojave Desert. Image courtesy of the Desolation Center.

Besides the concert being situated in a secluded utopia, there were hiccups during the first Desolation Center concert. The bands needed to block out the sand and wind, so the best solution was placing socks on the microphones and parking the buses behind the them to create a windbreak. The buses came to the rescue again when the generator powering the public-address (PA) system started to run out of gas.

Mojave Exodus2

The Desolation Center provided punk rockers with an opportunity to experience concerts in the Mojave Desert’s scenic and serene ambiance. Photo by Scot Allen.

Savage Republic

The Savage Republic performed during the Desolation Center’s Mojave Exodus concert in the Mojave Desert. Photo by Dan Voznick.

Minutemen

The Minutemen performed during the first Desolation Center concert in the Mojave Desert. Photo by Bob Durkee.

Swezey took his second desert DIY experience up a notch in the Mojave Desert near Mecca, California. The Desolation Center’s Mojave Auszüg concert, which occurred on Sunday, March 4, 1984, featured avant-garde, experimental German band Einstürzende Neubauten, noise artist Boyd Rice and the machine performance-art collective Survival Research Laboratories.

The explosive concert featured Einstürzende Neubauten banging rocks on metallic surfaces and oil drums and Survival Research Laboratories attempting to blow up a canyon cave along with having its Mad Max-looking mobiles drive around in the desert.

Punk Rockers2

The Psi Com band’s lead vocalist Perry Farrell (later the frontman for the alternative-rock band Jane’s Addiction) and drummer Aaron Sherer attended Mojave Auszüg on Sunday, March 4, 1984. Photo by Mariska Leyssius.

Desolation Center

Einstürzende Neubauten became one with the desert during the band’s Mojave Auszüg performance. Image courtesy of the Desolation Center.

Boyd Rice

Noise artist Boyd Rice was one of the opening acts during Mojave Auszüg. Image courtesy of Mute Records.

Survival Research Labs Photo

Mark Pauline (pictured on the left) and his Survival Research Laboratories crew create machine art that shoots flames and blows up things that get in the way. Image courtesy of Survival Research Laboratories.

Three months later, the third Desolation Center concert, Joy at Sea, left the barren desert for a vessel voyage in the San Pedro, California harbor. Fans experienced a concert on the water before concert cruises were popular! The show, which occurred on Friday, June 15, 1984, featured the Minute Men, Meat Puppets, Points of Friction and Lawndale.

Joy at Sea

The Desolation Center’s third concert was Joy at Sea. Image courtesy of the Desolation Center.

Joy at Sea Banner

Sailing with punk-rock music fans during Joy at Sea. Photo by Ann Summa.

Joy at Sea Bands

Pictured from l-r: Curt Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets and D. Boon of the Minutemen at Joy at Sea. Photo by Ann Summa.

The Desolation Center’s final Mojave Desert gig, the Gila Monster Jamboree, featured the Sonic Youth, Meat Puppets, Redd Kross and Psi Com on Saturday, Jan. 5, 1985. During this show, fans drove themselves instead of relying on buses to transport them to the concert, but stopped at checkpoints along the way.

Gila Monster Jamboree

The Gila Monster Jamboree was the final Desolation Center concert. Image courtesy of the Desolation Center.

Sonic Youth goes ballistic during its desert performance, Redd Kross dresses down and rocks out and punk-rock fans have an opportunity to see Perry Farrell perform with his Psi Com band before it disbands and becomes Jane’s Addiction. Farrell organized Lollapalooza as a touring music festival, but after a six-year run, it’s now based at Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois.

Lollapalooza

Lollapalooza is a music festival conceived and created by Jane’s Addiction lead vocalist Perry Farrell. Image courtesy of Lollapalooza.

Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth’s bassist Kim Gordon performs in the desert. Image courtesy of the Desolation Center.

Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth have a rockin’ time in the desert during the Gila Monster Jamboree. Image courtesy of the Desolation Center.

The film from start to finish flows well and tells the wonderful story of the four Desolation Center concerts with classic footage and interviews by Swezey, band members and concert attendees.

The desert punk-rock concert concept was ahead of its time. It took a lot of guts and determination for Swezey to make his dream a reality.

Swezey participated in a question-and-answer session after the film screening. I had an opportunity to ask him if he would change anything and which band he wished had performed during one of his Desolation Center concerts.

Stuart Swezey

Desolation Center’s founder Stuart Swezey directed the documentary about his desert-destination concerts. Image courtesy of the Desolation Center.

“I wouldn’t have had attendees drive themselves to the Gila Monster Jamboree concert because I felt like it changed the vibe and slightly detracted from the overall atmosphere,” said Swezey.

As far as the bands go, “I would have enjoyed seeing and booking the Butthole Surfers because the group’s performance would have been incredible with fire in a desert setting,” he said.

Butthole Surfers

The Butthole Surfers are on Swezey’s Desolation Center band bucket list. Image courtesy of the Butthole Surfers.

Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming DVD releases, featuring footage and extras from the Desolation Center concerts in the future.

Music fans will love the Desolation Center documentary because it’s punk-rock history melded with timeless tunes that make you want to go back and experience the music by land and sea.

 

 

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