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March 2014 - 2014 Sedona International Film Festival Great Success

By Joanna Paxinou

Patrick-Schweiss“One ordinary person can do extraordinary things” is how Patrick Schweiss, Executive Director of the Sedona International Film Festival, summed up some of the effects of the exciting and deeply moving independent films shown during this year’s festival.

While the festival may be over, the organization still offers a full schedule of independent films at the Mary D. Fisher Theatre 52 weeks, seven days a week, from 4-7 p.m. “There’s always something to do,” Pat stresses. Checkout their website at www.sedonafilmfestival.org for all the events planned throughout the year.

Also on their website are the lists of films that won awards at this year’s festival.

“This was a pretty special festival celebrating our 20th year—a big milestone for us,” said Pat. “It was an incredible world of film caliber and provoking films that inspired audiences to do something. … volunteer, or donate money, somehow get involved.”

“The films made a true connection with more people than in the past,” Pat continued. “They made audiences want to become partners and inspired them to help the causes shown in the films.”

The films urged people to make a difference in the world. They made them want to help in some way. “This was very rewarding. The festival’s theme was Movies into Motivation…Art into Activism. The films offered people opportunities to get involved. This was unusually wonderful for us.” Pat stressed.

Some films also helped people in personal ways. For example, the Mariel Hemingway (Ernest Hemingway’s granddaughter) film, RUNNING FROM CRAZY, explored mental illness in her family and how they dealt with it. She came out of it and was able to build a successful career. This gave people who are battling mental illness hope.

Asked about the festival’s success, Pat commented, “This year’s festival was bigger and better. There was significant growth. There were more people filling up theaters more consistently. Shows were sold out.”

An impressive feature of the festival was the Lifetime Achievement Awards that were presented to a well-rounded group of women--Susan Sarandon, Shirley Knight, and Stefanie Powers. Upon accepting her award, Shirley explained that she has not had plastic surgery and doesn’t plan to. She was open and positive. “I am as God made me,” she said. She is true to what she is as a human being. Awarded for her acting many times, Pat called her the heart and soul of independent films.

Susan Sarandon is truly committed to independent films—that’s where her heart is also. With her partner, Tom Morgan, she has formed Reframed Pictures, which produces films that make people aware of what’s going on in the world that no one knows about. She would like her films to change the way we think about people.

A film Ms. Sarandon’s company produced, WAITING FOR MAMU, which won the audience’s choice for the festival’s best documentary short, tells the story of Pushpa Basnet, the CNN 2012 Hero of the Year, who is also known as Mamu. The film shows what it means for children to grow up in a Napal prison with their parents and the impact of Mamu’s organization to help these children. Audience members at the festival were so moved by the film and Mamu’s work that they donated $30,000 for her organization.

Stefanie Powers, who presented her one-woman show at the festival, was also honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her commitment and work with the William Holden Wildlife Foundation in Kenya, Africa, which was established to continue his dedication to preserve wildlife.

Plans for the 2015 Sedona International Film Festival are already in the works. Orson Welles will be honored on his 100th birthday with a retrospective on his work. Also John Waters will be the festival’s special guest who will present a one-man show and Tab Hunter will present a new documentary on his life and work.

Pat expressed a very special thank you to the community for their continued support of the festival. “We couldn’t do it without the community. And that includes the hotels, restaurants, the trolley and buses, as well as the local police who offered security,” said Pat.

But we film buffs also owe a big thank you to the Sedona International Film Festival for all their hard work and dedication to bringing us the very best in independent films.


At The Movies With Joanna


Joanna Paxinou has been a film buff since she was a little girl growing up in New York City within walking distance of the great movie houses on Broadway. She has been an award-winnng business writer and has edited both fiction and non-fiction books. But her heart is still with films.

Joanna studied script writing for eight years in invitation-only workshops conducted by New York University faculty and is still studying writing with on-line courses at UCLA. She has co-written a film script, The Circle of Olympians...Return to Power and has two scripts optioned by an Los Angeles producer. Joanna also wrote a mystery entitled Killer in the House.

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