Home » Blog » 2023 Initial Slate of Films Announced!

This Labor Day weekend, September 2-3, 2023, the Tallahassee Film Festival celebrates its 15th anniversary with two days packed with screenings of new independent features, documentaries and short films featuring bright, original filmmaking talents from around the globe – and our own backyard. 

Festival venues include the IMAX theater in the Challenger Learning Center downtown; as well as multiple sites in and around the Railroad Square Art District, including Cap City Video Lounge, 621 Gallery, Hyatt House and Residence Inn hotels, and the Warhorse Whiskey Bar. 

Environment in Focus

Of vital local note among an array of highlights is Unfiltered: The Truth About Oysters, a new documentary that examines the collapse of Apalachicola’s native oyster industry – produced by longtime Tallahassee filmmaker Chucha Barber and directed by Josh McLawhorn. The film explores the complex web of issues that ultimately led to the current shutdown of oyster harvesting in Apalachicola Bay. Read more about this film in the latest edition of Tallahassee Magazine.

The festival also is thrilled to welcome the Sunshine State Biodiversity Group as the sponsor of the inaugural Environment in Focus program. SSBG, a Tallahassee-based nonprofit founded by author Jeff VanderMeer (Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy) earlier this year, is devoted to the conservation of crucial Florida habitats and to education on the importance of biodiversity. The organization will host a suite of eight short films (and a multi-artist conversation) that touch on ecological themes in a mosaic of mind-expanding visions of the natural world. The collection is co-curated by SSBG vice-president and FSU assistant professor of English, Alison Sperling, and TFF artistic director Steve Dollar. 

Feature Focus – Portraits & More

Silvia Del Carmen Castaños & Estefanía “Beba” Contreras reflect for a moment at the U.S.-Mexican border in Hummingbirds.

The core of this year’s festival is a kaleidoscopic array of nonfiction portrait films, which capture their subjects amid urgent, pivotal phases of life in flux. They include the Slamdance favorite Starring Jerry As Himself, Lawrence Chen’s tragicomic true-crime saga of Florida retiree Jerry Hsu, who portrays himself in a hybrid documentary that reenacts his seduction into an outrageous plot engineered by Chinese scammers; Hummingbirds, a Berlinale prize-winner, whose young filmmakers – Silvia Del Carmen Castaños and Estefanía Contreras – capture the pleasures and anxieties of their lives as artists and activists in a Texas bordertown in the fading days of the Trump regime.

Elizabeth Mirzaei’s portrait of a young nun in Natalia.

Natalia, in which an irrepressible 28-year-old Star Trek fan prepares to become a Byzantine nun, from Academy Award nominee Elizabeth Mirzaei; Man on Earth, by Australian director Amiel Courtin Wilson, which witnesses the last week in the life of a dying man who decides to end his suffering under Washington State’s death with dignity law; and Confessions of a Good Samaritan, filmmaker Penny Lane’s first-person existential account of her decision to donate one of her kidneys.

Sunday Matinee! Hello Dankness

Cultural satire and digital subversion occupy the festival’s Sunday afternoon centerpiece slot in Hello Dankness, a dead-clever act of media reappropriation from the Australian filmmaking duo known as Soda Jerk. The found footage spectacle repurposes scenes from scores of Hollywood productions to create “a refreshingly anarchistic and multi-layered work that explores topics such as fake news, deepfakes and conspiracy narratives but also the politics of images …” (Berlinale). The cast of characters include Tom Hanks, Annette Bening, Bruce Dern, Ice Cube, Wayne and Garth, Maya and Ana, Rue and Jules, Seth Rogan and Reyn Doi. American politicians play themselves, with Jesse Eisenberg in the role of Mark Zuckerberg, and The Phantom of the Opera as Vladimir Putin.

The Soda Jerk filmmaking duo will be in attendance at the Festival, including a post-screening discussion that will give us a glimpse inside their collective mind!

Artist Talk – Leah Shore!

This year the festival also welcomes its inaugural artist-in-residence: New York-based animator and filmmaker Leah Shore. Shore, whose work is currently featured on the prestigious cinephile streamer the Criterion Channel, is much-lauded for the often boisterous blend of animation and live-action styles and unpredictable approach to raw and wild subject matter. Shore will present an artist’s talk about filmmaking and art and offer insights along with screening a selection of their short films. 

Leah Shore’s Hallway, 2015

More programming announcements are coming soon!

VIP passes, which include admission to the Filmmaker/VIP Lounge and Sept. 3 Filmmaker Brunch, are available at the early-bird rate of $75 for a limited time. All-access passes are $45. Purchase via our website using the button below!

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