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Behind the Curtain: Palm Beach International Film Festival

Mary Gibble

   Since 1996, the Palm Beach International Film Festival has brought filmmakers and enthusiasts to Palm Beach County. The 2014 festival, taking place April 3 to 10, will include premieres, parties and events the public has come to expect as well as the addition of an education component and a membership program in partnership with the Sundance Institute. We spoke with Randi Emerman, the president and CEO of the festival, about the changes, her favorite moments from the 2013 festival and how she hopes to see PBIFF grow.


PBI: How have you seen the film festival evolve since you've been involved?

Emerman: Well, I was a founding board member so I've been involved with it since the beginning. I think the most important [aspect] is being recognized on a worldwide format as far as the films and connecting with the filmmakers around the world...You're not going to see these films anywhere else [and you're] able to meet and learn about these people from around the world.


Why is it so important to have an international film festival in Palm Beach County? What do you think it brings to the community?

Well, I think it brings awareness, it brings education. And, the name Palm Beach is synonymous with culture. The name Palm Beach everybody knows around the world. And we should have a premier film festival here; it should be what it is and even more.


How do you view this festival in relation to other similar festivals? What's PBIFF's DNA?

I think our DNA is bringing people together. For the filmmakers, they have a great time and they see Palm Beach County in a whole different light. Our community is exciting, it's fun, it's growing, it's the place you want to be....We don't have the budget that other festivals have, and that's the one issue that has been a challenge. We don't have the multimillion-dollar budgets that festivals down the street or in our state have, and not even the $20, $30, $40 million that everyone wants to compare us with. We're doing this with volunteers; a lot of people with passion are coming to the plate to make this happen.


What were some of the highlights of the 2013 festival?

I would say Comedy Warriors touched everybody; funny, great film, and yet, these were heroes, real heroes, that were joining us. And I don't think I'll ever forget that. And, the surprises in the films and the ways people react to them are always interesting. The other one was our opening night film about the cancer survivor, Decoding Annie Parker. Just all these people who related with her and knew who she was and wanted to meet her and how they were touched by this.


How are plans coming along for the 2014 festival? Any tidbits you can share?
Well, one of the big things we're starting is this year-round presence with an education series [in partnership with the Delray Beach Center for the Arts at Old School Square]. The primary part of it will be a movie with a lecture; we'll talk about the movie afterwards, and a professional is going to help us interpret what we saw and why he sees it that way. Then, there'll be seminars on how to get involved in a movie, why to invest in a film...different things like that about the industry that the community's interested in. We're going to start introducing this in November. There will also be a new theater added to the mix, the Cinemark Palace in Boca Raton. That's going to be a great addition.


How do you see the festival growing over the coming years?

Well, [we are introducing] a membership program, which I think is going to really help us grow. We're partnering with the Sundance Institute, and it is the first time they're ever doing this with an outside film festival.


What does a partnership like that allow you to do?

Well, first of all, the members that get that membership level will be given membership with the Sundance Institute and invitations to their premiere events. It also opens the door for us. Currently, we work with Sundance as far as what they have in the festival to play at our festival, and that will expand a little bit. And just having their name attached. So many people from Palm Beach County go to the Sundance Festival that aren't even attending our festival or know about it. It's hard for us to get our name out with the limited dollars.


How can members of the community get involved in the festival?

Come out and see these films, meet these filmmakers. And when I say support them, I don't mean financially or anything like that; support their visions, learn why they did this and what's the heart and soul of film and how it brings the world together, or can bring so much light to us.

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January 2017