Topping the 2016 Sedona International Film Festival could have been challenging for its executive director Patrick Schweiss. After all, legendary rockers Chicago thrilled fans last year, and patrons embraced a screening of “American Graffiti.”
“People are still talking about last year,” he says. “The concerts in the very intimate Sedona Performing Arts Center on stage blew the doors off Sedona. Seeing the iconic ‘American Graffiti’ on the big screen and being able to interact with some of the actors was wonderful and memorable for so many of us who grew up with that film.”
But leave it to Schweiss, who has led the program for more than 10 years, to formulate an event beyond comparison.
Running Saturday, February 18, to Sunday, February 26, the Sedona International Film Festival takes that energy to the next level with an opening night performance from three-time Grammy Award winner Bruce Hornsby.
“Anytime we can bring an artist of Bruce Hornsby’s stature and incredible talent, the impact starts from the moment we make the announcement,” Schweiss says.
The 23rd iteration of the revered event also brings five-time Grammy nominee Michael Feinstein, and his Ira Gershwin Program and Great American Songbook to the brilliant red rocks of Sedona.
“Michael Feinstein is iconic,” Schweiss says. “It’s that simple. His Great American Songbook touches the deep history of Broadway and the legacy of radio’s golden era and his own performances have delighted audiences around the world. When you leave a Michael Feinstein concert, the music, the history and that voice stay with you for a very long time.”
And that’s just the music. The festival’s reputation and allure is about the movies, films and shorts that filmmakers and guests clamor for each year.
“The common thread throughout all we do is recognizing that our audiences love the entire filmmaking experience,” Schweiss says. “From independent films to classics and documentaries and beyond, we’re consistently reviewing what we do and how we do it. We’ve expanded the categories of films we screen to include different genres that reflect current issues as well as tastes.”
Patrons will experience 160 documentaries, features and short films, chosen from more than 1,200 entries, according to Schweiss.
“The selection process is never easy because the films we get are incredibly diverse in their subjects, genres, entertainment and production values and quality,” Schweiss says. “And each year the decision-making becomes even more difficult because of the reputation of our festival, both as a showcase center and an experience like none other in the industry for filmmakers and film lovers.”
As of mid-January, the committee had yet to choose this year’s showcase film.
“At this point, we’re still in the selection process, but you never know what surprises are in store in Sedona,” Schweiss says.
Patrons can look forward to a mid-week salute to Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Broadway and a cabaret-style performance by Emmy Award winner Peter Marshall, whose resume includes more than 50 TV, movie and Broadway credits and a 14-year stint as host of hit TV game show, The Hollywood Squares.
Schweiss expects more than 7,000 to 10,000 visitors over the nine days; a far cry from the early days of the festival, which was booked in Sedona because of the “community’s love of the arts.”
“Over the years, and after some early struggles, the festival has grown primarily, because we provide an overall experience that is second to none,” Schweiss says.
The concerts will be held at the Sedona Performing Arts Center at Sedona Red Rock High School, 995 Upper Red Rock Loop Road. Films will run all day beginning Saturday, February 18, on four screens at Sedona Harkins 6, 2081 W. Highway 89A; the Mary D. Fisher Theater, 2030 W. Highway 89A, and the Sedona Performing Arts Center.
“Every year is different at the Sedona International Film Festival and we truly believe that the residual impact from years past always carries over,” Schweiss says. “We know this place will be rockin’.”
For more information, visit sedonafilmfestival.org.