"The Irishman" is a toxically male, mob movie-opera story of who may (or probably not) have killed Jimmy Hoffa, played loudly by Al Pacino with costars Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel and Joe Pesci, directed by Martin Scorsese.

Roll… Festival: The 28th Philadelphia Film Fest unspools

When Andrew Greenblatt (the CEO and Executive Director of the Philadelphia Film Society) and Michael Lerman (Artistic Director, Philadelphia Film Society) talk, they start each other’s thoughts and finish each other’s sentences. While that could be confusingly complicated if they were talking about personal issues, when it comes to their annual Philadelphia Film Festival, they make perfect, unified sense.

“We start working on one festival,” started Greenblatt.

“The day we finish the one we’re holding,” finished Lerman.

“Maybe sooner. It’s always a matter of timing,” said Greenblatt.

That’s how 2019’s 28th Philadelphia Film Festival came about. 

Held from Thursday, October 17 to Sunday, October 27 at screening spaces such as Philadelphia Film Center, Ritz Five, and Ritz East (tickets and info at www.Filmadelphia.org), this 28th collective run of 120 films (shorts and feature-length) from over 40 countries, features some of cinema’s most populist directors (Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s Rian Johnson, Martin Scorsese, Edward Norton), alongside currently favored experimental filmmakers (Bong Joon-Ho, Taika Waititi, Noah Baumbach) next to esteemed Philadelphia movie makers (Mark Webber,Tommy Avallone). 

Cynthia Erivo stars as Harriet Tubman in HARRIET, a Focus Features release.

“We’re always looking forward to having the best filmmakers and actors be here, and to show their films to an audience that is anxious to see them,” said Lerman. And Philly’s retinue of cineastes is anxious to see them as most of the 28th PFF’s screenings are nearing the sold-out point. To go with its screenings, the PFF will welcome more than a few major names connected with many of the festival’s fare (check daily for additions).

Ki-jung Kim So-dam Park and Ki-woo Park Woo-sik Choi in PARASITE.

While I’m anxious to see Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life,” South Korean master Bong Joon-Ho’s “Parasite” Edward Norton’s “Motherless Brooklyn,” Kasi Lemmons’ “Harriet” and Taika Waititi’s controversial “Jojo Rabbit” – a film he directed while in his flick’s full Adolf Hitler costume and make-up – it is Scorsese’s “The Irishman” that will heed my closest attention.

Not only because of “The Irishman”‘s storied deal with Netflix (the streamer paid for it and will screen it before the end of November after a brief theatrical run), the director’s re-teaming with his the crew he ran with such as Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel and Joe Pesci, and the radial de-aging tech FX. Rather, this toxically male, mob movie-opera story of who may (or probably not) have killed Jimmy Hoffa (played loudly by Al Pacino) alludes more often than not to Philadelphia and the relationship of the Philly mob to New York city and state, to Hoffa and beyond.

Taika Waititi and Roman Griffin Davis in the film JOJO RABBIT.

“That was definitely a big reason that we brought it here,” said Greenblatt when I joked that “The Irishman” was essentially a Philly film as Italian Market touchstones such as Dante & Luigi’s and the Friendly Lounge are in the film, though none of it was filmed in South Philly. “There’s a lot of Philadelphia in Scorsese’s new movie,” said Lerman, from DeNiro’s titular character, Frank Sheeran, to Keitel playing Angelo Bruno to Bobby Cannavale’s Felix ‘Skinny Razor’ DiTullio.

As for Philly filmmakers, though I have not screened an advance of “The Place of No Words,” from Philly-raised director Mark Webber. “Waldo on Weed,” from Philly auteur Tommy Avallone, features some very famous local faces in Brian Dwyer, the Pizza Brain owner on a quest to help aid his cancer-stricken son with CBD oil after he has an adverse reaction to chemotherapy.

Ask Lerman and Greenblatt if they have any favorites among the 120, and they don’t need to start or finish each other’s phrases. This time they speak at once. “They’re like our children. You can’t like one more than another.”

Check out Greenblatt and Lerman’s kids at the 28th Philadelphia Film Festival.


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