'Zonawood 2' — Arizona goes to the movies

By Tom Maxedon
Published: Thursday, January 19, 2023 - 5:05am
Updated: Thursday, January 19, 2023 - 8:26pm

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Tim Agne/KJZZ, Getty Images
Upcoming film festivals in Chandler, Scottsdale, Tempe and Sedona offer something for all viewers.

Upcoming film festivals in Chandler, Scottsdale, Tempe and Sedona offer something for all viewers. 

KJZZ turns its lens on what’s coming to a theater — or even a TV — near you.

Chandler International Film Festival (Jan. 21-29) — Chandler

The range and breadth of movies being screened over the next two months in Arizona is breathtaking as the 2023 film festival season launches. 

And while the bulk of the offerings are not made by locals, there's some gems to be found from those connected to the state who either live here or once did.

The latter is the case for Eva Hamilton who was born and raised in the Valley.

Her recent film "The Shed" is nominated for “Best Suspense Thriller/Horror Short” at the seventh-annual Chandler International Film Festival, which begins Jan. 21.

Mooncat Motion Picture Co.
Eva Hamilton co-wrote and directed "The Shed." The short film also stars Stacey Nelkin and is nominated for an award at the 7th Annual Chandler International Film Festival.

According to a log line for the film, the plot “centers on a struggling escort [played by Hamilton] who responds to an advertisement for a house sitter, only to discover the agenda of a desperate mother [played by Stacey Nelkin] who will do anything to ‘feed’ her monstrous son.”  

Hamilton, who now lives in Los Angeles, co-wrote and directed the project which was produced by L.A.-based Mooncat Motion Picture Co.

“It is pretty creepy. It’s a short, but we really have a lot that happens in a pretty short run time. It’s kind of an homage — a throwback to '80s horror,” she said. “It’s a really interesting premise. It looks at the lives of two women in very different positions in their lives dealing with motherhood, survival and kind of just existence amidst a lot of very intense situations.”

The festival in Chandler boasts 120 films, and actor Rob Schneider, who lives in Arizona, is expected to attend.

Hear Eva Hamilton's interview with KJZZ's Tom Maxedon

Women's Worldwide Film Festival (Feb. 17-19) — Scottsdale

Next on the marquee in terms of chronological order, the fifth-annual Worldwide Women’s Film Festival in Scottsdale premieres mid-February.

Out of over 130 films and videos submitted, 45 selections made the director’s cut, according to festival President Kim Huenecke. “We’ve got horror, some sci-fi, the LGBTQ+ community, romance, comedy, documentary, music videos and some web series, so honestly we have something guaranteed for everybody," Huenecke said. 

She said there are two main criteria judges use at the outset of their deliberations.

First, a woman must be behind the camera in a principal role. 

“That’s THE most important thing. And [second], it has to be a woman-driven story about women. So, two guys drinking beer talking about women — that’s not going to happen. A film was submitted with that premise,” said Huenecke, who added there's a handful of submissions from local filmmakers.

Hear Kim Huenecke's interview with KJZZ's Tom Maxedon

But what about audiences who want to get out of the Valley?  

Road trip.

Sedona International Film Festival (Feb. 18-26) — Sedona

For almost three decades, the 29th-annual Sedona International Film Festival has boasted best in show. Its cavalcade of movies starts Feb. 18.

This year, legendary actress Jacqueline Bisset will accept an award for her lifetime of achievements.  

“She’s a multi-talented actress and just a beautiful human being," said festival executive director Pat Schweiss. "She’s in a brand new film called ‘Loren & Rose’ where she plays Rose and she’s been committed to helping the filmmaker [Russell Brown] and travel with the film.”  

"Loren & Rose" stars Bisset, who will accept an award for a lifetime of service at the Sedona International Film Festival.

Schweiss said he's also excited about the premiere of “Condition of Return,” starring Dean Cain and AnnaLynne McCord who will be on hand. The film was shot by local movie makers at locations in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Sedona and the Verde Valley.  

"People are going to recognize some of the locations and locales that they shot in, including a scene that takes place up here in the Verde Valley Courthouse," he said. "It’s kind of exciting how all over the state of Arizona, they used as much local talent as they possibly could as far as the cast, the crew and the extras. It’s really going to be quite a wonderful celebration of Arizona.”  

"Condition of Return" debuts at the Sedona International Film Festival. It was shot on locations around Arizona. The film stars Cain and McCord.

Hear Pat Schweiss' interview with KJZZ's Tom Maxedon

Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival (Feb 19. -March 5) — Scottsdale & Tempe

Back in the metro region, the Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival starts Feb. 19 in Scottsdale and Tempe. It will include “iMordecai” starring Judd Hirsch whose character is a Holocaust survivor re-capturing his youth after learning how to access Jewish music on his phone.  

Organizers of the festival went with a hybrid approach offering movies in theaters and via streaming this year due to ongoing health concerns and advice from planners for similar events.  

“We’re kind of torn," said Sue Adatto, who is co-executive director of the festival. "We feel like the virtual part of the festival is always going to be with us, but it’s certainly not the same as being in person and feeling the vibe, and everybody’s talking about the film and enjoying being an audience member with others.”  

Adatto also said in addition to the feature length movies there’s a submission contest involving film students in Israel. “Our committee probably looks at 60 shorts and four winners are chosen, with cash prizes. Those are always a highlight to be featured amongst our other films," Adatto said.

There’s no highlight reel long enough to showcase all of what upcoming festivals have to offer, but there’s bound to be several flicks worth your time.

"iMordecai" stars Hirsch and will be featured at the Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival. (NOTE: Some language in this trailer may be objectionable).

Hear Sue Adatto's interview with KJZZ's Tom Maxedon

Movie buffs who are interested in the history of film in Arizona can take advantage of two upcoming free discussions with Jim Turner who retired from the Arizona Historical Society. The presentations are part of Arizona Humanities' "AZ Speaks" series. The next is on Feb. 11 at the Glendale Public Library followed by a session on Feb. 13 at the Scottsdale Public Library.

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