From cult classics to political documentaries, this month’s Chandler International Film Festival promises to deliver a diverse lineup of films for local moviegoers.
The four-day event Jan. 17-20, will include 120 short and feature films by directors from 35 countries – with visits by some easily recognizable Hollywood movie stars.
Free filmmaking workshops, red carpet events, an awards ceremony and panel discussions are all on the program for a festival that’s considered one of the fastest-growing in Arizona.
In addition to local storytellers, the festival will showcase the works of filmmakers from Singapore, Mexico, Canada, Europe and Australia.
“That’s something unique,” said Mitesh Patel, the festival’s founder and president, commenting on the large number of foreign films picked to screen in Chandler.
When Patel started the festival in 2016, he aimed to cater to a broad, international audience. He wanted to showcase films not only entertaining audiences but also educating them about the world’s diverse customs.
“It’s important for people to see the other cultures,” Patel explained.
The 2020 schedule includes tales about a lonely Korean teenager, an undercover Japanese samurai, an Irish romance and an American boy who battles an ancient witch.
Patel said among the 700 submissions his staff receives each year, he looks for the uplifting stories that end with some sort of inspirational message.
His staff tries to avoid material that’s too dark or negative, he said, and attempt to find lesser-known films never screened in Arizona before.
Adolpho Navarro is one of the filmmakers selected to present a short film at this year’s festival.
The Arizona native will screen “A Father’s Fury,” a 40-minute action flick he shot around Chandler and Phoenix. Navarro wrote, directed and acted in the film, which tells a story of a father attempting to rescue his kidnapped daughter.
It’s a great story about overcoming adversity, he said, and responding to unexpected obstacles.
Navarro grew up around Globe, making home movies on his dad’s camera and admiring the works of Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis.
After reading a book by director Robert Rodriguez, a young Navarro realized he didn’t need to be in Hollywood or have a huge budget to make movies.
He’s learned to operate as a one-man operation, churning out several short films each year with limited resources. Navarro said he enjoys having the creative freedom to tell whatever stories he wants and never having to stick to one genre of film.
“I just love telling stories,” he said. “I usually don’t stick to the same thing.”
The Chandler festival is a great networking tool, Navarro added, because it allows filmmakers to learn from each other’s work.
“As long as there are great venues like this and great festivals, then we can connect,” he added.
This year’s festival is expected to have a number of actors attend and participate in audience discussions after their respective films.
Michelle Rodriguez, known for her role in the “Fast and Furious” films, will be presenting “Girlfight,” a sports drama the actress starred in 20 years ago.
Robert Davi will have two of his film credits screened during the festival. Audiences can see his starring role in “Mott Haven,” an independent feature about a fallen radio mogul, or his memorable supporting part as a treasure-seeking crook in “The Goonies.”
Other guests include Anna Chazelle, sister to Academy Award-winning director Damien Chazelle, and actor Brian Sacca, known for his appearances in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Kong: Skull Island.”
Patel started the festival after moving to Chandler a few years ago and noticing there was a lacking film presence in the city.
He had been producing and directing films in Los Angeles before deciding to flee to a city with less traffic and smog.
Chandler is a great place to live, Patel said, but it didn’t have anything for film buffs like him.
He said he’s proud of the presence his festival has made in the East Valley and the platform it’s created for unknown filmmakers to tell their stories.
“I just want to have people come and enjoy the films,” Patel added.