The private dining hall, shied away from tourists and locals alike, is quaint yet never-ending. People in elegant clothing mingle and talk with each other, many hopping from one table to the other, Stella Artois in their hands.
This may sound like any other community event, but this one was particularly special; many of the people were not only prominent St. Augustine residents, but also directors, screenwriters, and actors.
Celebrating its tenth anniversary, the Saint Augustine Film Festival brings the community together with a celebration of cinema. It is a smaller, more intimate offshoot of the acclaimed Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, or FLIFF for short.
Movies from around the world are showcased, from Italy’s quirky ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ to New Zealand’s spiritual ‘Camino Skies’. Films shot and edited in St. Augustine, such as the endearing and sometimes tragic documentary ‘America’s Untold Story’, are also given recognition.
So, why exactly St. Augustine as the location for a film festival? “Well, St. Augustine is beautiful,” says Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival chairman Skip Margerum.
“People here are so enthusiastic about movies and really the arts in general.”
This enthusiasm has no sign of stopping, as every film screening and All Access party was brimming with excitement. This was particularly true at the Flagler College Student Film Showcase.
Hosted by Professor Nicholas Serenati, the showcase featured a variety of different projects ranging from experimental (such as the portrait of a local artist ‘Preservation’) to documentary (with the mental health advocacy short ‘Unfit to Stand’ closing).
The Saint Augustine Film Festival also is a celebration of acting, with the festival honoring an important actor annually with their Lifetime Achievement Award. This year’s recipient was American actor Joe Pantoliano, whose filmography spans both film and television.
“You know, I’m really happy to be here,” he jokes, “but everytime they give me an award like this, people always ask me when the eulogy is!”
Despite all of this, Pantoliano is grateful for all of the opportunities he has been given in life.
Pantoliano was also excited for his daughter Daniella’s work shown at the festival, the shorts ‘False Negative’ and ‘Losing It’ which she directed and wrote. When asked about the advice she would give to aspiring filmmakers like herself, she said that the most important thing is to go out and make something.
“You just have to go out and create,” she says, “if you have any kind of camera, you can make a short film.”
The tenth iteration of the Saint Augustine Film Festival went off without a hitch, with many guests praising the eclectic variety of films and shorts. While it is far too soon to speculate on next year’s entries and surprises, rest assured it will be just as exciting as this year’s.