Films that put the Philly in the Philly festival

Posted: April 06, 2007

Philadelphia is the Mesopotamia of movies, home of the first film mogul, Siegmund Lubin, who built the world's first movie studio here in 1911. Lubin is the focus of one of the film festival's wealth of locally connected programs, "Saluting Siegmund Lubin," hosted by scholar Joseph Eckhardt on Wednesday (International House, 7 p.m).

What makes a film Philadelphian? Irv Slifkin's enjoyable book Filmadelphia suggests that a picture has Philly provenance if it's set here. Next Friday, Slifkin himself will present The Burglar (1957), an underknown noir starring Bryn Mawr's own Jayne Mansfield and shot in and around Philadelphia and Atlantic City (7 p.m., Ritz Five).

Homeboy Mark Webber, the precociously talented son of neighborhood activist Cheri Honkala, will receive the festival's Rising Star Award on April 14, preceding the screening of The Memory Thief, Gil Kofman's provocative first feature about a troubled boy (Webber) who assumes the identity of a Holocaust survivor (9:30 p.m., Prince Music Theater).

The most mythic film with a local connection was shot almost entirely on the MGM soundstage in Culver City, Calif. That would be The Philadelphia Story (1940), the supremely entertaining yarn contrasting the privileged and the proletarian. Inspired by the late Main Line socialite Hope Montgomery Scott, the film stars Katharine Hepburn (as the blueblood), Jimmy Stewart (as the guy with blue-collar roots), and Cary Grant (as the recovering alcoholic). Camille Paglia, University of the Arts professor and public intellectual, will lead the audience discussion, promising the spectacle of one Philadelphia institution deconstructing another on Tuesday (6:45 p.m., Ritz Five).

On the subject of local institutions, Silk City, the late, lamented Northern Liberties diner and club, is eulogized in Farewell, Silk City, Alison Crouse's short about the last days of the home of "eat it and beat it." On the "Stone Soup" program, Sunday (7 p.m., International House).

Another much-missed musical institution, Leopold Stokowski, is honored in a rare public screening of Fantasia (1940), Disney's concert feature pairing classical music with classical animation. Stokowski conducts The Philadelphia Orchestra in selections from The Rite of Spring and Sorcerer's Apprentice tonight (6:45 p.m., Prince Music Theater).

Sometimes the Philadelphia connection is not a person or place, but a thing. Is the spirit of William Penn messing with our sports franchises? The Curse of William Penn hypothesizes a curse-of-the-Bambino explanation for the recent failures of the Eagles, Flyers, Phils and Sixers to go all the way, much to the frustration of Philadelphia sports fans. The film from Rob Marcolina, Mikaelyn Austin and Dan Borkson screens tonight (9:30, Prince Music Theater).

One offering that's Fluffyan to its core is Consequences, a low-budget affair from rookie director Stephen M. Stahl about five buddies who reunite for an Eagles home game and some extracurricular fun that devolves into a most dangerous game, showing Saturday (9:45 p.m., Ritz East).

The nomination for most Philadelphian offering on the film festival menu has to be"Scribe Video Center's Precious Places," snapshots of neighborhoods from Fishtown to Strawberry Mansion, made by the people who live there. The program of 10 shorts screens April 15 (5 p.m., International House).

Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey

at 215-854-5402 or

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