The 7th annual Beaufort International Film Festival gets under way today with an invitation-only filmmaker reception at Old Bay Marketplace, and organizers don't expect a forecast for rain to put a damper on the event ... or the week.
"It's going to be happen, rain or shine we're going to have a film festival," said Ron Tucker, president of the Beaufort Film Society, which conducts the event.
Thousands are expected to attend the four-day event that includes movie screenings, receptions and workshops.
The University of South Carolina Beaufort's Center for the Arts will be home base for the festival, which is growing in popularity, measured by both attendance and the number of films submitted for possible screening. In its first year, the festival drew 500 people. Last year, attendance swelled to 7,000. In 2009, there were 100 entries. This year, more than 400 films were considered.
A local panel of film and television professionals chose the finalists for categories that include animation, documentary, shorts, student films, screenplays, best actor and best director.
Director and producer Mike Tollin will be presented with the Jean Ribaut Award for Excellence in Filmmaking. His films include "Radio," "Wild Hogs," "Coach Carter," "Hardball," "Varsity Blues" and "Big Fat Liar." "Radio" was filmed mostly in Walterboro and included extras from the Beaufort area.
Filmmaker Chris Brinker, who died Friday, will receive the first Robert Smalls Indie Vision Award. He is best known for producing "The Boondock Saints" and was finishing production of "Whiskey Bay," which is set to be released later this year by Sony.
Films from across the country and world will be shown, including entries from Taiwan, Madrid and Berlin. More than 30 films will be shown, including five South Carolina Indie Grants films. One of the Indie Grants films, "The Debutante Hunters," won the Yahoo!/Sundance 2012 Shorts Competition.
A 10th anniversary showing of "Radio" will include an appearance by T.L. Hanna High School football coach Harold Jones and James Robert "Radio" Kennedy, the men who inspired the film, Tucker said. Gary Smith of Sports Illustrated, credited with bringing the story of Jones and Kennedy to a national audience and inspiring the movie, also will attend, Tucker said.
Topics range from "Hamsters Want to be Free," a lighthearted animation about a sailing hamster by Hilton Head Island resident Carla Young; to short fiction "High Heels & Hoodoo," about a party girl going to a witch doctor; to "Death by China," by Peter Navarro, a University of California professor who frequently comments on Chinese-American relations for national media.