With dozens of Hollywood film credits to her name as a film commissioner and producer, Sharon Pinkenson knows more than her share of cinematic how-to. She’s on a first-name basis with local director M. Night Shyamalan (she calls him “Night”), is a Philly native (she graduated from Girls’ High and Temple) and has rubbed her elbows with many stars of the screen.
Indeed, as the executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, Philadelphia Magazine said of her in 2012 that, “If you want to make a movie in Philadelphia, you have to go through this feisty blonde.” Who better than Pinkenson, then, to put together a film festival for the World Meeting of Families?
Thirteen films will be screened mostly at the Kimmel Center’s state-of-the-art Perelman Theater, the largest-capacity movie theater in the city of Philadelphia with a capacity of almost 600.
“It’s really the best possible technology, said Pinkenson. “Their projectors are incredibly crisp; and the largest possible venue that also maintains a great sense of intimacy.”
Films were selected for a number of reasons. “Once word got out that we were putting together a festival for the World Meeting, the suggestions just poured in,” said Pinkenson. “Initially, we had to pare things down from a list of over 50 movies.”
The World Meeting’s Film Festival will open today, Sept. 22, with a “film cutting” at the Kimmel Center at 3:30 p.m. immediately before the 4 p.m. screening of “Finding St. Anthony,” a 2013 documentary about the life of St. Anthony of Padua.
When asked how films were selected, Pinkenson listed a number of criteria: “First, because of the nature of the event, we wanted to go with a number of ‘Catholic’ films and films in Philadelphia, like ‘Diary of a City Priest’ –about a priest in North Philadelphia — or ‘Urban Trinity’ (or) ‘Finding St. Anthony,’ which feature more on the historical side. We’re also screening ‘Urban Trinity,’ more of a whole-picture documentary on Philadelphia’s Catholic history (which premieres on 6ABC on Tuesday night).
“But we also wanted films that were family-friendly, films that were humanity-affirming, like ‘The Way,’ the Martin Sheen movie about the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
“And of course, you can’t talk about Philly without getting into sports, and some sports dramas are the most humanity-affirming, struggle-against-the-odds films out there.”
Indeed, sports feature prominently in the film festival. In addition to “The Mighty Macs,” there is “Rudy” the 1993 film about the gutsiest member of Notre Dame’s football team, which screens at 3 p.m. Wednesday. And the festival wraps with “Invincible,” the against-all-odds 1970s triumph story of Vince Papale and his career with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Each film will be preceded by an introductory talk with members of the cast or crew. “The Mighty Macs,” Tuesday’s 6:30 p.m. offering about Immaculata University’s 1970s underdog women’s basketball team, will actually be introduced by the film’s writer/director Tim Chambers, the actual Coach Cathy Rush and members of the original team.
Several films will feature a red-carpet meet-and-greet beforehand with the director or those involved with production. Others, like “Urban Trinity” or “Wide Awake,” will have a reception afterwards.
For the more classically inclined, there is “A Man for All Seasons,” the 1966 biopic of the clash between King Henry VIII of England and St. Thomas More, to be shown Thursday, Sept. 24 at 1 p.m. “Wide Awake,” which is set in Merion Station’s Waldron Mercy Academy, will be shown later that day, with director M. Night Shyamalan introducing it.
Given the family-oriented nature of the World Meeting, the perennial favorite “The Wizard of Oz” will be shown Friday, Sept. 25 at the Kimmel Center at 1 p.m. Almost concurrent with the screening of “Invincible,” there is the rousing sing-along of “The Sound of Music,” complete with audience participation and prop-containing goody bags at 6 p.m. at the Pennsylvania Convention Center (not the Kimmel Center).
Other films strike a more somber note. Because Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, will be celebrated Sept. 23, the Film Office is privately showing the 1993 Steven Spielberg film “Schindler’s List” at the historic Congregation Rodeph Shalom on Broad Street (the oldest Ashkenazic synagogue in the Western Hemisphere) to students from local Philadelphia Catholic, charter and public schools.
The effort supports a Pennsylvania law signed by former Gov. Tom Corbett, HB 1424, which “strongly encourages school entities … to offer instruction in the Holocaust, genocide and other human rights violations.”
“We also chose ‘Schindler’s List’ because — and most people forget this — Oskar Schindler was, in fact, a Catholic,” Pinkenson said.
While most films are open to the general public, they have been priced affordably — tickets for all films (except “Schindler’s List,” which is a private screening) cost $10 for adults and $5 for children — as a means of covering costs. Concessions are available at the Kimmel Center’s stands in the lobby.
When asked what her favorite film of all time was, Pinkenson responded immediately: “Philadelphia,” the 1993 film starring Tom Hanks.
“With that movie, we showed how our city — and how filmmaking — can really change the world,” Pinkenson said.
For the full lineup and to purchase tickets, visit the Kimmel Center’s website.