I bought tickets for two shows in the opening days of the SCAD Savannah Film Festival, which continues with a full virtual lineup through Oct. 31.
Organizers are using the excellent platform CineSend, but no streaming service can replicate the immersive, communal experience of watching a film in a theater.
But I definitely enjoyed the ease of buying virtual tickets and watching from home. The pandemic has presented film festivals with a new model for sales and engagement. Audiences are no longer constrained by geography and mobility.
If you are thinking of buying tickets for any of the films in the SFF’s remaining days, you should first read the online FAQ about attendance, purchasing and viewing.
I discovered that I couldn’t watch films on my favorite old laptop because of the outdated operating system, and I experienced a couple of technical glitches during the stream of “Far From Home,” a collection of short films dealing with themes of immigration and displacement.
But I’ll likely buy tickets again before the festival ends, especially after such a great experience watching the remarkable documentary “Chuck Leavell: The Tree Man” on opening day.
Leavell, a sometime Savannah resident probably best known as the keyboardist for the Rolling Stones, has influenced and performed with so many seminal artists that I don’t know where to begin. The documentary includes excerpts from interviews with David Gilmour, Eric Clapton, John Mayer, Eric Church, Mike Mills, Julian Lennon, the four members of the Stones and many, many more.
Director Allen Farst weaves Leavell’s music industry stories with compelling segments about his relationship with wife Rose Lane and his extensive work in forestry and conservation.
But the movie is at its best when Leavell is at the piano.
I got chills seeing the 1992 clip of Leavell performing on “Old Love” near the end of Clapton’s classic “MTV Unplugged” appearance, and there is a bit of magic when Leavell and Eric Church are doing a pre-concert run-through of Jackson Browne’s “The Load Out.”
“Chuck Leavell: The Tree Man” was preceded by Laurence Topham’s short documentary “My Brother’s Keeper,” which somehow needed just 22 minutes to tell the story of the deep friendship between Guantanamo detainee Mohamedou Slahi from Mauritania and his guard Steve Wood.
The “Far From Home” compilation presented something of a mixed bag, but Apo W. Bazidi’s short doc “How Far Is Home,” which focused on one radiant teenager’s experiences at a Cleveland school for immigrants, would have by itself justified the $5 ticket.
The film fest concludes on Oct. 31 with “One Night in Miami,” a fictional account of a night in 1964 when Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown celebrated Ali’s victory over Sonny Liston.
“One Night in Miami,” which is directed by Regina King and based on the play by Kemp Powers, premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September.
But that high-profile finale is just one of dozens of films, panels and other events during the festival’s remaining days. Attendees will certainly find some unexpected gems.
Bill Dawers writes the City Talk column for the Savannah Morning News. He can be reached via email@example.com and @billdawers on Twitter.