Amy Ettinger has seen her fair share of technical problems, programming glitches and other snags over the past 10 years as executive director of the Scottsdale International Film Festival.
In fact, she even recalls a few times in which foreign-language films arrived without the subtitles or – even more embarrassing – with non-English subtitles. Ettinger, who refers to such situations as a dagger to her heart, acknowledges that she has beat herself up for being unable to achieve perfection in the past.
However, on the eve of this year’s festival – which takes place Sept 30-Oct. 4, 2011, at Harkins Shea 14, 7354 E. Shea Blvd. – Ettinger has decided to take a cue from her loyal festival-goers who cut her more slack than she cuts herself and simply do her best while resigning to the fact that accidents are bound to happen.
“I do my utmost best every single year,” Ettinger explains. “I have never dropped the ball intentionally. But when you are doing something once a year instead of every day like Harkins does it, you certainly have to roll with the punches. The festival is a boxing match and I roll with a lot of punches.”
The 11th Annual Scottsdale International Film Festival features 35 films in 69 screenings – everything from smaller, more difficult films to highly accessible foreign-language films and a few American independents. Each year, Ettinger releases a list of the 5 films playing at the festival that stayed with her longer than the rest and this year’s list includes “3,” “Hermano,” “Oxygen,” “Pure” and “Transfer.”
“However, the one that I pray that people will go see is a film from China called ‘Aftershock,’” Ettinger says. “I even put it late one night because I am trying to get the hip, urban, cool, young crowd out. It is the biggest-budget film ever made in China and it is their first ever IMAX release. It really is something. It goes from this high-budget special effects wizardry to quite an epic saga.”
Of course, then there are the studio releases that have high value and high recognition. Ettinger likens these films to the anchor tenants in a mall, such as Macy’s or Dillards, that bring people to the mall where they are eventually encouraged to shop around. This year’s “anchors” include “Blackthorn,” “Janie Jones” “Take Shelter,” “The Way” and “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”
Ettinger challenges people who are drawn to the Scottsdale International Film Festival by those “anchors” to choose just one independent film from her body of programming. Her experience shows that people who have taken said challenge are so impressed that they tend to return to the festival for a few more. In some cases, Ettinger has even seen people convinced into purchasing a VIP pass the following year.
At any rate, the highlight of any festival – and the Scottsdale International Film Festival is no exception – is the opportunity to participate in post-film discussions with filmmakers and acting talent. Several of Ettinger’s smaller selections include such discussions this year but it is the opening night and centerpiece films that have the executive director most excited.
“Like Crazy” – which Ettinger cites as the darling of Sundance – will kick off this year’s festival at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30. Actors Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones are scheduled to attend the screening for a post-film discussion. Then, legendary filmmaker John Sayles will receive the festival’s first-ever Artistic Diversity Award after a screening of his film “Amigo” at 6:20 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1.
“John Sayles wrote the book on independent film,” says Ettinger, noting the award will be given to those who have made an outstanding contribution as citizens of the planet through a commitment to artistic, humanitarian and social causes. “I just want to shake his hand and thank him for giving me so much pleasure and so much to think about over the years. Besides standing next to him and taking a few photos, I just hope I can say anything that sounds halfway intelligent.”
The 11th Annual Scottsdale International Film Festival takes place Sept 30-Oct. 4, 2011, at Harkins Shea 14, 7354 E. Shea Blvd. Tickets, which range in price from $10 for a single screening to $215 for a VIP package, are currently available online at www.ScottsdaleFilmFestival.com and will also be sold throughout the event at the box office.
Listen to Joseph J. Airdo’s “Movie Maverick” radio segment, every Friday morning at 8:30 a.m. during “The Daily Blender with Jeffry O’Brien” on KBSZ – NBC 1260 AM and 96.1 FM.