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Orlando’s First Film Fest Screening 30 Features

Thanks to two guys from Fantasyland, Orlando has its first film festival.

The Orlando Intl. Film Festival opened April 26 with “The Field,” followed by one of two state premieres, “Dead Men Don’t Die,” with topliner Elliott Gould in attendance. The other is the documentary “Christo In Paris” (well received at the Sundance Film Festival in January), which is showing as part of a short program of independent pics.

Some 30 features and a side-bar of shorts, kiddie pics and environmental films are screening over the festival’s nine days, closing May 5 with Puerto Rico’s Oscar finalist of 1989, “What Happened To Santiago?”

The event is the brainchild of Richard Halpern and Timothy Grayson, commercial producers who met years ago while selling mouse hats and Cinderella paraphernalia at Fantasyland in Orlando’s Disney World theme park. This first fest has a budget of $450,000, per Halpern, of which the bulk is from in-kind donations and barter.

More unusual, for a Florida-based film festival: No public funds are involved (expensive festivals in Sarasota, Miami and Fort Lauderdale are partly funded out of a half-million-dollar state arts treasury specially earmarked for them). Halpern says next year will be different: They’ll go after the admittedly dwindingly state, county and municipal larders.

New to the area

Most of the Orlando fest’s inaugural selections are well known to audiences in South Florida, where they have screened in fests in Miami (“What Happened To Santiago,” “Rozencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead,” “Wait Until Spring, Bandini”) or Lauderdale (“The Whole Truth,” “American Blue Note,” “Carnival Of Souls”). But virtually all entries are new to Central Florida, which is served by a single arthouse.

Other guests include June Allyson, subject of a tribute; her “Little Women” will be shown. Film-production seminars, all the rage at Florida fests, will draw former producer Paul Lazarus, now head of the U. of Miami film school, and Kim Dawson, one of three “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” producers.

Major sponsors are General Cinema, which comped screens at two locations, and Disney, which supplied the grounds of its movie-themed park for the opening-night champagne-and-dessert bash. U.S. Air, Radisson and Cellular One, as well as Orlando-based Entertainment Complex office facility, kicked in as well.

Tickets are pegged at $6 ($4.75 for members of the fledgling Orlando Intl. Film Festival and Society).

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