Much like Holly Golightly, the indelible Truman Capote character reimagined on this year’s marketing poster (courtesy of local model Sabrina Anderson), the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival is a party girl whose good-time guise can obscure her more substantive side.
To be sure, the 29th annual festival that gets going Friday does like to have fun: The opening-night film at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts is a madcap musical comedy, “Lucky Stiff,” and its screening includes an appearance by one of its stars, former “Seinfeld” bumbler Jason Alexander.
The evening includes a raffle with a zany prize, two cemetery plots at Beth David Memorial Gardens in Hollywood (valued at $4,000 each), and an afterparty at Cyn, a Himmarshee nightclub best known for the abbreviated attire of the staff and the tasering of Miami Dolphin Derrick Shelby.
That said, FLIFF is serious about films, and this year’s festival is particularly strong when it comes to documentaries and dramas, according to FLIFF president Gregory Von Hausch.
There are about 180 films screening through Nov. 23, a period that is a week shorter than last year, in an attempt to trim expenses, Von Hausch says. The list was culled from about 1,200 submitted films, plus dozens more seen by FLIFF staff at festivals from Tribeca to Cannes.
Von Hausch personally viewed more than 500 films, including one sent in “without a box,” from a clearing house that relays him piles of movies of all lengths and genres. But you never know what you’re going to get — even at 3 a.m.
“One night, I was really tired, and I thought, ‘I really shouldn’t do anybody a disservice by watching a film now. I’ll just put one more in and see where that takes us,’ ” he says. “So here it is, almost 3 in the morning, and I’m laughing my butt off.”
The film was “Lucky Stiff,” based on the hit 1988 off-Broadway farce, which follows the plight of a sad-sack British shoe salesman who will inherit $6 million if he can fulfill the last wish of his dead American uncle: Take his corpse on a weeklong trip to Monte Carlo. The cast includes Alexander, Dominic Marsh, Pamela Shaw, Dennis Farina and Nikki M. James (who won a Tony Award in “The Book of Mormon”).
“The art direction is so beautiful, the lyrics for the songs are just wonderful and … it’s just a riot,” Von Hausch says.
For ticket information please visit: www.FLIFF.COM