Film Scouts Diaries

1996 Fort Lauderdale Film Festival Diaries
Day 1 (November 7)

by Liza Bear

Bonnet House, festival brunch site

Fort Lauderdale, November 6, 1996

For this Film Scout, Election Day just happened to fall on the eve of departure to Fort Lauderale, a military base turned resort turned city. With 80,000 yachts, this Venice of the West is possibly the world's largest yacht basin.

The best Election Day howler I heard so far was when Charlayne Hunter Gault, on Channel 13, called Bill Clinton Bill Crystal by mistake.


Day 1 - Wednesday, November 6

A crucifyingly early start. The Carnival Airlines flight leaves at 8:30am.

By 6am, the white bus to Newark airport is already crammed with a high-spirited New York contingent ready to shed winter clothes for sweltering, 85 degree heat and to jump into the ocean between screenings. Which they'll need to after getting on and off vehicles several times over the course of the day.

No one's had more than 2 hours' sleep, so the mood is festive, even carnivalesque. The election has quite slipped out of the collective mind, except to note that the Democrats finally took Florida by a slim margin. I'm in that state of blissful, pre-name tag anonymity , so the bus conversation is unusually carefree and brisk. Zinging repartees are being traded like shares on the floor of the stock exchange, if not the court of Louis XVI in "Ridicule."

I note how the tone of the chat changes from place to place. A long wait on line at the check-in counter and in the airport lounge freezes people in position and then the info mills start grinding. A seasoned actor from Nick Gomez' "Laws of Gravity" and "Illtown" takes a new actress, Meredith Snaider, under his wing. She has the lead in a film called "Habit", playing tonight. Also travelling from New York is Eve Annenberg, the director of "Dogs; the Rise and Fall of an All-Girl Bookie Joint," which I'll see later.

By the time the plane takes off, entire life stories are being rattled off between complete strangers. Sitting next to me is a retired English inventor, who made his fortune inventing the four-way rubber band . Now he's buying property in Fort Lauderdale. Just before we land he points to a speck on the coast. It's Bonnet House, which once belonged to a 109-year-old lady who held out against the developers. One of the few who did. A festival brunch will be held there on Sunday.

At the Fort Lauderdale Airport the sheep are separated from the goats: filmmakers go to the Sheraton Yankee Trader and press to Villas-by-the-Sea, a few miles north up the coast.

From the highway, alluring snips of ocean can be glimpsed intermittently through the solidly built-up shore line, along with dwarfed, stunted palm trees. Loudspeakers dispensing music on the beach are cleverly camouflaged in perforated white buckets just below the coconut gourds, either for esthetic reasons or so that they can't be stolen.

Some of us plunge into the ocean without unpacking, and others unload their luggage and immediately hop back on the shuttle bus which deposits them at the first screening of the day, an Italian film by the "Cinema Paradiso" team called "Gentle is the Night." At the press conference this afternoon, which was more like a mutual recitation of thanks by organizers and filmmakers, "Gentle's" director explained in Italian that the script grew out of an encounter he'd had on the road a few years ago with an 80-year-old woman hitchhiker.

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