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5 movies not to miss during the 2021 Phoenix Film Festival

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Posted at 4:37 PM, Aug 16, 2021

SCOTTSDALE, AZ — Nearly 100 feature films, 99 to be exact, and 115 short films will be screened during the 2021 Phoenix Film Festival, which is underway and runs through Aug. 22, 2021, at Harkins Theatres Scottsdale 101 in north Scottsdale.

Among those, CODA (Child of Deaf Adults), which swept the top awards in the U.S. Dramatic category at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, and stars Emilia Jones, Marlee Matlin, and Troy Kotsur, who hails from Mesa, Arizona, and Closed for COVID: Hope and Resiliency, a documentary by local filmmaker Sean Oliver that highlights 30 businesses and how they navigated the early months of the pandemic, while also looking out for their communities.

After having to postpone the festival in 2020 due to the pandemic, Executive Director Jason Carney said he was "excited and happy to be back" and to be able to bring together filmmakers, actors, and festival-goers in 2021.

With 214 films spanning the entire festival, Carney said there is "legitimately something for everyone," from mainstream feature films to independent films, foreign films, horror and sci-fi, documentaries, short films, and student films.

We asked him to share with us five films that he was excited about (and that people should see). Answers have been lightly edited for grammar and punctuation.

CODA – The film is the first in history to win "Best Picture," the "Audience Award," "Best Director," and an acting award at the Sundance Film Festival. If that wasn’t enough to get you excited, I’ll say it’s an emotional, tear-jerker that will make you feel good.

THE NIGHT HOUSE – This thriller starring Rebecca Hall is such a good suspense thriller. It’s the kind of super natural film that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout.

SET! – This documentary about competitive table-setting (you read that right) made me laugh out loud so many times. This is serious competition for these serious table-setters but the subjects are so different and the film produces many emotional and funny moments.

EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE – This one is our closing night movie. It’s a music-focused film about a teen who wants to be a drag queen. It’s a feel-good movie and a great way for us to wrap up the festival.

DEFINITION PLEASE – This comedy/drama is about a twenty-something woman who is a former Scribbs Spelling Bee champion who is dealing with her estranged brother and her sick mother while finding her path in life.

Closed for COVID Hope and Resiliency Trailer from Amoroma Productions on Vimeo.

Sean Oliver, the Phoenix filmmaker behind "Closed for COVID: Hope and Resiliency," said that he wanted to share a positive snapshot of how local businesses, who were at times on the brink of permanently closing during the pandemic, either pivoted their operations, found a new way to do business, or decided to help out their communities who were in need.

"What we really ended up discovering as we started doing the interviews, is -- was how they were giving back to the community, even at a point where they had nothing. You had these businesses, no income -- these are small businesses, they are people putting their own dollars into their dreams basically; and even at their darkest point, were saying, 'how can I be a resource if I can't have my doors open?'" said Oliver.

Individual tickets, which are good for one movie, are $15, plus taxes and fees. Passes for multiple screenings are also available.

Visit www.phoenixfilmfestival.com to see the schedule, learn about the different films, and to purchase tickets.