It’s time for a local festival now that the spring festival season is coming to a close. The 2023 Florida Film Festival takes place yearly in Orlando, Florida, and is primed for another great run. It kicks off this weekend, on April 14th and runs until April 23rd. Below, we’ve gathered together 10 narrative features we cannot wait for, as well as five we’ve seen at previous festivals. Later this week, we will also drop a list of our most anticipated documentaries. Let’s kick it off with our narrative features.
Our Most Anticipated (New to Us) Films
Honorable Mention — YOU WERE MY FIRST BOYFRIEND – OPENING NIGHT
We only marked this as an “Honorable Mention” because of the unusual circumstances of the film. The definition of a hybrid documentary with high-end recreations, Directors Cecilia Aldarondo and Sarah Enid Hagey build a unique experience. Aldarondo reexamines their high school experience in Winter Park, Florida. Along the way, she remembers what it means to be a high school girl, longing for a romance worthy of the movies. The struggles are only made more complicated by high school politics, Aldarondo’s ethnic identity, and the power dynamics of relationships.
A Perfect Day for Caribou
A seemingly basic two-hander between a father and son features too much talent to be anything but interesting. Director Jeff Rutherford follows Jeb Berrier and Charlie Plummer as they spend the day together. Along the way, Berrier’s character examines his shortcomings as he nears the end of his life. Shot by Alfonso Herrera Salcedo – cinematographer of A Love Song from 2022 – A Perfect Day for Caribou is the most visually compelling feature of the 2023 Florida Film Festival .
The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster
What if you had the power to create life in your hands? The Frankenstein myth becomes the basis of one young woman’s attempt to re-animate her brother. Director Bomani J. Story assembles an excellent ensemble to push the boundaries of the story. We hope this helps kick off Laya DeLeon Hayes‘ career on the big screen. She’s excellent on The Equilizer, so this could be huge for her. She already has a BAFTA for voice work in God of War: Ragnarok.
Coming out of UCF, Did I? caught our attention with its intriguing premise. Mental health concepts on film can be very dangerous to tackle. However, if Did I? can portray this aspect well, it could be a sleeper indie drama. This is director Sarah Tice’s debut feature, so we could find a gem on the festival circuit.
The Duel looks to be one of the more madcap features of the 2023 Florida Film Festival. Having two men caught in a fight over a woman is no surprise. The lengths that The Duel looks to go, including an outlandish trip to Mexico, make this one exciting. Seeing Dylan Sprouse and Callan McAuliffe lead the project is even more exciting. Serving as the feature debut for Justin Matthews & Luke Spencer Roberts, this might be a way to get in early on an interesting filmmaking team early.
While Joyland will not feature into the 2023 awards season (it was eligible last year), it continues to pick up fans in the United States. Setting a story about sexual identity in Pakistan always made this a film worth visiting. With some gorgeous visuals radiating from the screen, and a Bollywood burlesque show factoring into the plot, we are very excited to catch this one.
A breakout from Sundance 2023, Kokomo City continues to tour the indie film circuit. Its story, which focuses on transgender sex workers of color, pushes the boundaries of visibility. Director D. Smith should be in high demand. Her vision and ability to create empathy with a camera will launch a prolific directorial career. The Grammy-nominated artist and producer is looking to conquer another medium.
MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH MARRIAGE
Another oddball feature at the 2023 Florida Film Festival, My Love Affair with Marriage will likely divide some audiences. However, independent animation rarely gets help from audiences in the mainstream. This is a chance to support one of these stories. My Love Affair with Marriage should get the benefit of the doubt. Based on its description, director Signe Baumane uses animation to its full effect. In this case, her protagonist’s “Biology” literally comes to life as its own character.
Actress Margaret Qualley continues her slow rise to superstardom. After excellent turns in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Maid, and Stars at Noon, she’s become one of Hollywood’s “It” girls. While Sanctuary looks to continue her rise, it’s likely going to be for niche audiences. The thriller stars Qualley as a dominatrix whose relationship with Christopher Abbott swerves out of control. A psychological thriller like this is a throwback to the erotic thrillers of the 1990s in the best ways.
Sisu has slowly built its reputation as one of the most batshit action films of the year. Jorma Tommila stars as a man hunting down Nazis in the waning days of World War II. A classic story of some bad dudes not realizing they’ve messed with someone far worse. Think John Wick meets Mad Max: Fury Road. The Finnish director Jalmari Helander has another cult hit on his hands (Rare Exports).
A local favorite in the 2015 shorts competition, Stay Awake brings the feature-length adaptation back to the 2023 Florida Film Festival. There’s considerable buzz around this story, partly because Chrissy Metz (This Is Us) keeps getting rave reviews. This is not Jamie Sisley’s debut, but Orlando is a perfect landing spot for his second feature.
The Best of Other Fests
The Artifice Girl
As the debate about the power of ChatGPT, BING, and Bard rages in the tech sector, The Artifice Girl lands on the big screen. The indie sci-fi flick shines as a chamber piece and asks big questions about our future. The line between “chatbots” and self-actualizing AI might be closer than we think. When that happens, the discussions in The Artifice Girl will matter. Read our SXSW 2023 review here.
The story of how a brand rose to prominence might be over-relied upon as a storytelling device. Yet Blackberry defies expectations at every turn. Thilariousnny but fast-paced experience draws the audience into the rat-a-tat dialogue. The real surprise is Glenn Howerton, who shines as a brash and angry businessman. One of our favorite films of SXSW should make for an incredible experience here.
Sometimes we look to the unexplainable to confront our greatest horrors. A story about five people suffering from the aftermath of war takes some unusual twists and turns. With light horror elements and very intense philosophical conversations, Brooklyn 45 is both scary and engaging. The entire cast comes to play, and director Ted Geoghegan paces it perfectly. Please read our review from SXSW here.
After a rollicking premiere at SXSW 2023, Flamin’ Hot has been hitting the festival circuit. The Eva Longoria-directed film is a perfect crowd-pleaser. With an exciting ensemble, entertaining storytelling, and a Latino-focused story, expect Flamin’ Hot to be the talk of the 2023 Florida Film Festival. There’s a reason Disney already expanded it to premiere on both Hulu and Disney+. Read our SXSW review here.
After stop-offs at Sundance 2023 and SXSW 2023, Polite Society lands at the 2023 Florida Film Festival. Director Nida Manzoor establishes herself as a must-watch director, especially after We Are Lady Parts took indie TV by storm. With a landing spot with Focus Features, Polite Society stands an excellent chance to break into the mainstream later this month.